Friday, January 12, 2007

Gymnophobia

Onsen. Sento. Public bathing. Nude.
Onsen is a natural hot spring with various types of minerals in the naturally hot water from the ground pumped into a large pool. They range in colors, murkiness, and smells. In Hakuba, I sat in a brownish muddy pool that smelled like egg. And upon exiting, felt like a peice of warmed jello ready for a beer then bed.

Sento is like a prettier version of the jacuzzi style pools you see in fitness clubs. Ever notice the old asian ladies chatting away for what may seem like hours?
The sento I visited tonight was quite fancy. It had several types of baths of varying temperatures and mineral combinations. The common temperature was 41.5C or about 106F.

My favorite tub was the "teacup" as I called it. It is like a 1 person bath that's circular and colorful that come in a line. So you sit in the teacup and let yr legs hang out of the other side, and you feel like that mouse at the mad tea party. The coolest part is that you have two teacups besides you where your friends can boil. And you just chill and chat.

My second favorite was the rock waterfall. Now, these particular tubs were outside where the temperature is about 4C. But after simmering in your cup, you can go lean against these warm rocks while warm water flows over you. The combination of the water and the cold air is truly fantastic.

After rinsing and dressing, I felt that kind of tired that I often compare to as Disneyland in the mid-eighties. You know, when you have spent the entire day walking around the park, standing in line through the heat, and excitement of youth. Once it hits your bedtime of about 9pm, you suddenly become so tired that you can no longer walk. You become irritable and cry, and finally pass out in your dad's arms as your waiting for the tram to take you back to the car. After arriving home, it becomes incomprehensible to awake and walk to your bed, and again must be carried.

This was how I felt.

But I came home, grew very awake from the chill of my apartment, and decided to tell you about onsen.

Gymnophobia is the fear of nudity. In Japan, one showers sitting on a small stool, publicly. Then enters the baths nude. Everyone walks around naked like it's no big deal. I really admire this sense of freedom, but on the other hand, cannot ignore my western sense of naked shame. True, after every onsen experience i've had so far, I quickly get over my embarrassment at walking around naked, but the first 10 minutes is quite difficult indeed.

Another thing, is tattoos are not very welcome in onsen. But I think that since my tattoo is of a very talented, and wise bird, maybe they overlook it. It's a very cute owl, I must say. Oh, ya, and I'm yakuza.* So you best be checkin' in yr attitude at the door, yo.


*Yakusa-Japanese mafia

1 comment:

  1. mummy8:13 AM

    what no pics... i wanna see pics

    ReplyDelete