Do you know that feeling in the morning, standing under your shower and you are just not yet ready for the day. You want to prolong it, just that tiny little moment, until you can finally face the reality.
Welcome to the club.
Now, if there is one thing I truthfully miss when not being in Japan it is the culture of taking a bath. You do not only take a bath as we do, you relish it and even the smallest apartment has a bathroom to accommodate this useful habit.
Well, nearly every apartment. When I moved to Japan for good, or at least that was what I thought, I rented a minuscule house with two rooms upstairs, no air con, a kitchen situation downstairs (though the cockroaches were not amused having to share) and no toilet (outside and shared) and definitely no bathroom.
It was incredibly cheap: 30.000 Yen is about 240 Euros these days.
The apartment was situated close to the kamo River and was extremely convenient for my daily commute to Osaka. So no questions asked. I was happy someone wanted to rent out to a gaijin without any bureaucracy and key money. And as it turned out, there was a sento ♨️, a public bath just around the corner.
One of my fellow students at Tübingen University, Dirk-Boris Rödel, has been extensively studying tattoos, published a book and was the editor of the German “Tattoo Magazine”for quite a while, and is now dabbling in all kinds of things. He once mentioned something interesting: „If at a public bath there is no sign that tattoos are not allowed, you can be quite sure that it is run or at least frequented by Yakuza.”
Needless to say, that „my“ public bath around the corner was missing above mentioned sign….Nevertheless, it was a wonderful place and many stories could be told, but that might be something for another time.
So what is so special about taking a bath in Japan?
You celebrate it!
In public baths and Onsen (hot springs) male and female take their bath separate. You undress and put your worn cloths in a basket as well as the fresh ones you brought. Then you enter the bath itself or better said the room where the huge bathtub is (sometimes even two). Stop, do not just dive in. You first get yourself one of the little stools to sit on, find yourself a place in front of a tap and a shower head and start cleaning yourself thoroughly.
The more foam the better. And when I say thoroughly I mean it. From the earlobes to the space between your toes. It is time well spend as you can wash away the day and if needed your sorrows.
Once you are satisfied and assured you are ready to relax, shower off all that soap, give the stool a little shower, too and try to stand the heat.
The bath tubes are freaking hot! Very likely you will look like a 🦞 and might not be able to stand it for long the first couple of times. But bit by bit you get used to it and it finishes off that daily routine to let everything go and have a good nights sleep.
But you know what I have been rambling… back to my question. Have you?
Well, I had one, today. For about six hours I was hiking in the rain, a warm, gentle and soothing rain. Washing was not necessary today, as my cloths probably have seen more water than the two weeks before. And you know what, I am not sure what is better, being wet all over because of the rain or because of the sweat?