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So, um, yes! The pack of wild tanuki finally released me...

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Jan. 14th, 2012 | 12:11 am

Okay, okay, so I wasn't actually adopted by a pack of tanuki. Although I was kinda adopted for a night by a roving pack of Japanese senior citizens a couple of weeks ago who bought me pocky and grape soda and made me come to karaoke with them, does that count? But yeah, apparently posting every week was excessively ambitious. Old habits die very hard. But I am going to try to do better.

So! My first post from Tokyo! What am I going to talk about tonight? Ueno zoo? The temples in Asakusa? Yoyogi park and the Meiji Jingu Shrine? Akibahara electric town?

All of them, eventually, I hope. But not tonight.

Tonight, I am going to write about public baths.

Good sweet merciful MURGATROYD do I love the public bath.

If there is a heaven, and I get to go there, there had better be a sentou. Seriously.

See, the thing is, my guest house, while it is a very nice guest house and the price is right, has only a shower stall, no bathtub. A minor disappointment, if that. More troublesome is the fact that the bathroom. Is. Not. Heated. This will not be a problem in the summer months, when I imagine we will all be sweltering and trying to peel out of our skin, but in the winter, it means every shower ends with a mad scramble to dive out of the shower stall and into my clothes quickly enough that I won't freeze to death en route.

Thankfully, across the street is a sentou, public bath house. And it is warm. Good God, glorious, glorious WARMTH. I can't afford to go every night, but I consider it more than worth it to treat myself once a week just for the chance to be wet and naked and WARM. One of the Japanese ladies there was asking me something about "poka poka" a few trips ago. I had no idea what that meant at the time. She was making vague gestures in the vicinity of her chest; I wondered if she was saying something about my boobs. Well, she still could have been, I guess, but it turns out "poka poka" means something like "a feeling of warmth throughout your body." So now that I've looked that up, yes, wholehearted agreement, ma'am. Poka poka. F*#^ing A.

A lot of Japanese people AND gaijin are surprised to find out I like the sentou. "Aren't you embarrassed? Most foreigners are too embarrassed to go." "Aren't you scared? I could never be naked in front of other people like that." I... don't see the trouble, honestly. It... well, it takes two people to be embarrassed, doesn't it? One person to do something embarrassing, and another person to witness it AS an embarrassing act. No one else in the sentou thinks being naked in the baths is weird or shameful, so why would I? Context is everything, right?

I was honestly much more worried and embarrassed about everything besides nudity. Being naked is easy. Anyone can take their clothes off. But figuring out the complicated protocol of who gets to sit next to the cool water tap so you don't boil, and for how long, THAT has taken me multiple trips to figure out. (As near as I can figure out, nobody's allowed to just ASK for a turn in the good spot, but if someone looks at all overheated, you should ask them if they are hot and immediately offer it to them, and if you're lucky enough to get that seat you have a duty to use your hands to swish the cooler water over to the other bathers. WEEKS it has taken me to parse this. Nobody details this kind of stuff in the travel guides.) I've been petrified of committing some horrible breach of manners. Fortunately, little old ladies keep popping over to correct me and show me the proper way to do things (though I still had to figure out stuff like the cool spot etiquette thing myself)

Mmm. A seated shower in a heated room. Hot water that never runs out. A jacuzzi that doesn't smell like chlorine. No clingy sticky bathing suit to get between you and the water. And today I did laundry, so I brought a fresh change of clothes. Nothing beats getting clean and warm and then putting on fresh clean clothes. I'm still all comfy and glowy. Poka poka. The folks who are too scared to strip don't know what they're missing.

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Comments {1}

Kat Reads Anything She Bloody Well Wants To

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from: bookblather
date: Jan. 13th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)

Roving pack of Japanese senior citizens is just as good, I suppose. Glad to hear you're enjoying Tokyo!

The baths sound SO GOOD but I'm so intensely body-shy, I dunno that I could enjoy them. You do it for me, mmkay?

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