Saturday, June 6, 2009

The naked gaijin

I had a very Japanese experience last night - it involved sushi, toll roads, semipublic nudity, and lots of staring. I, at long last, have been to a nude public bath.

I didn't bring the camera this time.

But Internet, it was so fantastic. I was a little nervous going in, especially since we went with our friends Kelsey and Mack (Kelsey of the fantastic sleepover) and it has been a long time since I up and got nekkid with a friend. Turns out, though, once everybody around you is naked - and once you've washed ALL your bits and pieces in front of each other, which is the first thing you do at these places - it's just not that weird. We did refrain from bathing each other, which the Japanese ladies do - U.S. culture is pretty darn repressed in some ways, compared to here. The men, of course, were on the men's side.

The onsen (well, not technically - these were hot tubs/spas, not natural hot springs) was amazing. There were massaging jet tubs inside, and stone seats with hot water running over them for relaxation and cooling off a bit. And a tub of ice-cold water! ICE COLD. These women are TOUGH, I tell you, and many sat right down in the ice water to, I don't know, invigorate themselves?!

The real draw was outside. High walls and trees surrounded the grounds and separated the men from women. There were seven or eight tubs outdoors under a light sprinkle of cool rain - hot spas made of stone with waterfalls pouring slowly in, small round tubs for one person, like sitting in a big bowl of water. A scented steam sauna, hotter than any I've seen in the U.S., and a popular spa full of cloudy water with some skin-softening mineral or something. My dry arms feel like babies' bottoms this morning. And best of all, long, wide stone tablets, constantly washed in hot water, under a little roof, where you can lay and relax, even fall asleep while the breeze keeps you cool.

It was so nice. Kelsey and I had a great talk, and we both liked to move around a lot. We were glad to see that everybody looks funny naked, including the beautiful, thin Japanese women who populate this land. As the only non-Japanese there, though we did get some stares - neither cellulite nor freckles seem to be a Japanese affliction. The little kids were especially unabashed, and I suggested we should charge extra admission for the Naked Gaijin Show.

OH, speaking of the kids? Parents are allowed to bring their kids of opposite gender into the onsen - up to AGE THIRTEEN. We didn't see any adolescent boys, thank goodness, but thirteen?! That's a sexual being, a thirteen year old boy. I'd rather not lean over to get a drink from the fountain, or sit in a spa with any teenage fellas, thanks.

By the time we got home, Josh and I just piled into bed and slept for about ten hours. Kelsey and I made a pact to go back there more often, and I want more girlfriends to come! What a treat.


Bethanyivy said...

So, for the stone tables...You just lay there int he open on a stone table with water flowing on it naked, for all to see? You are brave. Sounds like you had a great time. I wouldn't be able to relax enough to enjoy it at all.

Andi said...

"The Naked Gaijin Show" AAAAHAHAHA!!!! You can count me OUT for you next trip. Were you even allowed to wrap up in a towel from station to station? Geez Louise!

EmilySullins said...

LADIES! You have got to come with me next time. On the tables, you have a little towel to cover yourself so your bits and pieces aren't on display. And you are allowed to cover up with a towel while walking around, but I was never tempted to, not even once, even though I have as many body issues as the next woman.

Seriously, I would never have believed it'd be fun and not horrifying and embarrassing. But it really, really was. Come with me!

Kendall said...

That is so awesome! Why don't Japanese women have cellulite? Is it because they eat more sushi? Are there any hot springs near you? That sounds cool too.