A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being able to try out a Japanese onsen or bath house. It was my first time to go and the experience itself was great! It was relaxing and purify. Everyone came together for the same purpose, to bathe and relax. Honesty no one gave a hoot that people were naked and bathing together. There was no body shaming, no gross looks, and no one was shy about walking about in the nude.
Freedom is the best way to describe it. I felt as though I was back in ancient Greece bathing in a large heated bath house with my pears. Okay, so maybe it wasn`t ancient Greece and I for sure wasn`t bathing with friends or anything, but the older ladies there had been cheerful and inspiring. There was a group of five older lady friends chatting away while soaking in the spa`s pools of hot water. No shame in the fact that they had been in the nude, it was as though they had been chatting over a cup of tea.
I would love to go again someday. I am not sure how my friends would feel, but I don`t mind bathing in the nude one bit! It would have to be there choice to join me.
Never been to a onsen or bath house before? Here are some helpful tips!
Everyone will be naked, no need to fear.
While it is not common to openly bath with people in the United States, it seems as though it is an everyday occurrence here. When in the states spas often say that patrons will need to wear a bathing suit or something of that nature. With onsens, I am sorry but your going to need to wear your birthday suit.
Fear not! No one will be gawking at you, but know that you will stand out in the crowd. Especially if you not of Asian decent. Some might glance your way, but don`t be alarmed. The whole atmosphere of the place is calm and trust me, no one cares what your body type is. Being nervous is totally normal, but go in with an open mind.
Scrub everything down with soap.
You often can save money by bringing your own towel and body care suplies, but most places you can rent a towel. They more often than not also have shampoo and body soap for people to use. Be sure that before you try to enter into any water pools or saunas to wash yourself first. Be sure to scrub anywhere and everywhere. If you are worried about it do it twice. Just be sure to rinse yourself clean of any soap that you might have missed.
Everyone likes a clean space.
Everyone is going to be using the shower area and pools. Be sure to rinse the shower space off after you are finished bathing. When you use one pool and would like change pools be sure to rinse off as well. You wont need to go into the shower area again, most places have a deep sink filled with water and a handled bucket for you to use. Dip the bucket in and pour it over yourself.
Don`t panic, you can do it!
On my first visit I happened to go alone. I wasn`t to sure what I was getting into but I knew that even with my limited Japanese I could ask someone. Many people are to nervous to ask so playing `monkey see, monkey do` is also a safe choice. I watched what others where doing out of the corner of my eye to keep myself from doing anything disrespectful. It kept me safe. No I was not opening staring them down either. I don`t doubt that they had been doing the same.
“Who is this white girl?” Often came to mind when I thought about it, but in all reality I only got smiles and polite eyes. In the end just try to relax and enjoy the freedom that is a Japanese onsen. It is not something that a person does everyday, but it is still a great thing to experience. Don`t knock it till you try it!