My last blogpost told you how Japan messed up my head within the first two hours of my arrival. I swore I will not be caught unprepared again. But then, you see, I had to take a bath.
The booking website said that onsen facilities were available in my capsule hotel. It did not mention that it only had onsen facilities in the entirety of the building. I just wanted to wash the grime off my face, and maybe refresh my sweaty armpits. I did not expect to open an automatic door and find a dozen naked nymphs doting on their already flawless pale faces, brushing jet-black, well-oiled tresses and walking around holding a towel when my every instinct would have been to wear the towel and cover my bits. I wish I can say I walked bravely into that unknown without a moment’s hesitation. But I let the doors close again, and stood there for a full 2 minutes deciding if maybe sleeping dirty is not such a big issue after all.
No, I decided I will not back down. But I retreated back to my capsule and waited for another full hour before going back. I desperately wanted a bath so I went back up to the onsen hoping that the nymphs are all asleep and the place will be empty by now. My plan was to swagger in there like I knew what I was doing.
The door opened and there were 4 girls inside. I was disappointed but also half-asleep at this point, so I decided I did not care if 4 strangers on God’s good earth will see me naked tonight. They will not care, right? But here’s the thing. I am obviously a Gaijin, an outsider, and also, twice their size. I know Japanese people are the superior race when it comes to being polite, but I saw one of the girls look at me in astonishment when I executed my plan of undressing. I was different. I was the only fat girl in the onsen. But this naked fat girl needed a bath and not even deep-rooted embarrassment can get in the way of that!
It was a blessing that all of them were finished bathing. When I entered the bathing area, the last woman was on her way out. I found myself alone in the huge room and a wave of relief came over me. I proceeded to take a bath, but following the scientific process of observation, hypothesis, experiment and analysis. It was amusing how taking a bath in a foreign land can be so cerebral. I researched enough to know that you have to wash your body first before dipping in the hot water. To the right, there were 8 open cubicles (no doors) each with a shower head, a stool a bucket and a dipper. On the left was the onsen, beautiful warm water gurgling invitingly. Truth is, I wasn’t even planning on taking a hot water dip. I just wanted to shower. So I sat on that low stool and gave myself a moment to get over the disgust of imagining somebody else’s naked butt touching the same stool. When that was dealt with, I opened the hot water and allowed myself to enjoy the bliss of a solo shower. Nobody came in. I am not sure if it was my luck (luck my ass, it was almost 2am in the morning so I’d say that’s to be expected), but nobody came in after me. When I finished my shower, I raised my eyebrow at the onsen. I mean, I’m here already, and I am alone. So why not give it a little dip? I went for it.
I am very glad I did. Maybe this is the idea why Westerners like the bath tub. Maybe this is the feeling they wanted to evoke. I have taken baths in tubs in my travels, but always felt weird about it. It’s like marinating yourself in your own dirt. Besides, tubs are so small and I am big and standing up is so hard. But this ----- It felt gorgeous. All that gurgling and bubbling and warmth caresses your skin directly everywhere. It was truly very relaxing. I remember thinking I can fall asleep here --- which of course woke me up because I was literally falling asleep there. I felt a little sad leaving the bath, but I had a full day of adventuring ahead and I would like to try to get at least 5 hours of sleep.
I stepped out to find just 2 girls remaining in the drying room. I didn’t care. I was all blissed out. I even clapped my hands when I saw there were free hairbrushes, hair ties, lotion, toner, toothbrushes and a special pajama you can wear. I am impressed. I mean, I paid barely Php 1,500 pesos for my stay and I felt like it was already worth it. And everything was so clean that I suddenly felt sorry for being disgusted sitting upon that stool. It’s probably cleaner than my bed at home. I went back to my capsule with a smile on my face.
Hey that wasn't so bad, was it? This is the point of travel anyway. You throw yourself to the weird and come out wiser at the other side. I wonder if boy kids (thinking of my son now) are allowed in female onsens? I'm sure he will not care one fig about all the naked women in there. At home, I try to raise him without hang-ups about the naked body. Why do we put such taboos on nakedness anyway? I'm not saying I will be turning into a nudist now, but it was a good time to wonder why we hide our bodies in shame. I thought I have lost all my inhibitions about nakedness when I went through Cesarean section --- there were at least half a dozen people inside the surgery room both male and female, prepping me and shaving me down there and opening me up to see me not just naked but with my internal organs hanging out. But this experience has pushed me even further because it was not a matter of life and death to get naked. So it was harder to find the motivation to bare myself in front of strangers who can (and probably did) judge me. But did I die when judged? No. I'm glad I grew a spine now that I'm older. With that final thought, I climbed into my tiny capsule unit, pulled down the paper partition and slept the sleep of babes.
Bathed and refreshed now,