Outside and Starkers for the First Time
We missed our Bangkok connection in Tokyo because of a 7 hour delay in San Francisco, which left us with a 18 hour layover to find some trouble to get into.
We found a little Ryokan to stay for the night, experienced the earth shake for a minute with a 7.4 quake and went to sleep. The next day we ate a delicious meal at a bakery (I think all food in Japan is amazing) and visited an onsen, a public bath that includes a natural hot spring.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the onsen, with only Turkish baths as my reference. But public baths are a great equalizer and community corner stone for the cultures that use them. I couldn’t wait to go.
There are rules. Which I read up on before going out of fear of offending the masses while being completely starkers. And, of course, I promptly broke one. Hair is meant to be tied up and out of the water and locks were swirling around my shoulders in the bubbly heat making everything dirty! A few looked at me, but I thought it was because I was the only foreigner in the place, but a lady nicely gestured for me to tie it up.
Like turkish baths, cleaning happens first. Took a deep breath, kept my eyes in check and sat one one of the Lilliputian stools with nothing to arm or cover myself with except for soap and cleaned up. Next up, the baths, which are all communal. There were three inside, one natural spring water that was scalding hot, one that was warm and one ice cold plunge pool.
The great thing about the pool is that they have high powered jets with pictures showing where on the body they target. I sat in every jet position pressing the button to activate them. I wanted more, but was about to pass-out from the heat. Then I discovered outside…
First, I’ve never been outside in my birthday suit before and now I know what I’ve been missing. I might just do it more often. There were several more mineral pools, jet pools and dunking stations outside not to mention a drying rack. Who needs towels?! I spent a half-hour in a mineral pool with TV. I watched a Today Show style program on tsunami victims with a couple other women. There was a weird segment with B list celebrities giving out tangerines and then singing the one line “power to the people” and “Johnny be good” over and over again. And one tear jerking segment where tsunami victims were being reunited with their pets. And no, I didn’t understand a word!
While the onsen was amazing and super high tech, even for this neighborhood joint, I did miss the community feel of Turkish baths. There were lots of Japanese women there, but everything was so silent and respectful. Josh, who was in the men’s section, seemed to think this was much better. But there’s something about Turkish women forcing you to talk to them completely oblivious that you’re feeling sheepish at being in your birthday suit. With the Turks, you’re not sure you actually want it, but the interaction makes the experience even better. But they don’t have jets, outside areas and TVs in their baths. Maybe they should get them.
Caveat: No pictures in this post for obvious reasons.