We are currently moored right next to an onsen, which is a Japanese public bath. To give you a little history, the Japanese have always been plagued by a shortage of space and for hundreds of years have lived in very small houses. They therefore often dispense with bathrooms - well, the ones with actual baths in them. As an exceptionally clean society and with a climate that is very humid for several months the problem of keeping fresh has been solved by public baths. Until about 50 years ago in the country, many of these were mixed, but today they are single sex only. The price of progress I suppose!
The onsen are also a part of the culture here, and it is not considered polite to get a 12-pack of Budweiser inside you, tear your cloths off and do a canon ball/honeypot while shouting "Whee Hee!"
We went to this onsen this morning and firstly broke the rules by putting our shoes in the same locker. The young and pretty girl talked a lot of Japanese to us. Quite a long time later as we were wallowing, we figured out that she was probably saying that she could only give us a key each if we used a shoe locker each - they are very rule oriented after all. We needed a different key to put our valuables in upstairs. But as all we were doing was grinning and nodding our heads like loonies, she gave up the task and gave us two keys. We then had to pass our second hurdle which was to decide which doorway to go through. There were no signs and they just had squiggly writing on them. Do we take a chance and choose correctly, or do we risk arrest by charging into the women's bath? Michael went back to the pretty girl. She was still recovering from her first run in with gaijin but managed to convey the information to us.
|Not an onsen but a shrine to cleanse the soul|
Anyway we are given our two micro towels and wander into the washing room along with several naked men of all ages. It was here that the other gentlemen customers of the establishment recognized that we might not be playing the game according to the long laid out traditions of polite society. The preferred method of the pre-wash is to sit on a small upturned bucket and use the hand shower at knee level to soap and and rinse the entire body. Now this is no problem if you're 5 feet tall and weigh only about 90 pounds. If you're 6 feet 2 and weigh around 220 pounds and with creaky knees our preferred method is to stand up and spray the damned stuff all over the place. Ha ha! "Damned poor show," was no doubt the general direction of the conversation. But of course, we couldn't understand it.
I have to say that having lowered our putrid, although to our noses clean, hairy naked gaijin bodies into their water I noticed a number of gentlemen quietly exiting the water to take advantage of the rotenburo, which is the bath outside on an open air balcony. Also when we went out there ourselves they trooped back inside. I considered it to be rude, as they didn't realize that it might have been a damned sight worse, and we might have brought a twelve-pack each into the bath along with our vile barbarian bodies. Ah me! Prejudice is so unpleasant, but we'll carry on regardless. At least we have our pride and our now spotless bodies.