They say there’s always a first time for everything and mine just happen last weekend. I was scared at first and having hesitation if I should do it or not, but what the heck everyone here is doing it anyways. So I bravely removed my Yukuta and walk into the room with every inch of my nakedness. Don’t get me wrong. I have never been naked in the public. Even the mere thought of wearing a swimsuit brings out all the insecurities in my bone. But this is how its done in this country, this is how they bask a steaming bath to relax all those weary muscles and I must oblige for the promise of pleasure.
I have never seen so many naked women in my life. Women of different shapes, sizes and ages- mother with their babies, work colleagues, teenagers and grandmothers are all bathing with their nakedness. Forget about your anxieties on that birthmark on your stomach, the appendix surgical scar that you have, pregnancy stretch marks on your bum and those saggy boobs, no one will mock you for it and definitely no one will waste their time comparing how sexier they are than you. Onsen is just a place to bathe, relax and nothing else. The only difference than your usual spa is it’s done in public and you have to go au naturel.
Onsen is a term for hot springs in Japanese. It is mostly popular at countryside and mostly crowded when the weather is freezing cold. There are some cities like Tokyo (Ooedo Onsen walking distance from Telecom Center, Odaiba) who developed leisure parks like a traditional Onsen to attract domestic tourist. For a price of 2,900 Yen (2,120 yen promotional and further markdown after 6pm), you will be able to use all the facilities such as indoor and outdoor tubs, foot bath, steam/sauna, shower/locker rooms, and access to the restaurant/souvenir area (extra services like body scrubs are additional charge). You will be given a Yukuta (summer kimono) to wear and you have the freedom to choose from the variety of designs and colors they have (I choose the less popular design, red one with Geisha drawing at the back). Wearing the Yukuta is a bit of a challenge for a newbie like me, even there is an instruction to follow. Luckily there was a helpful Japanese staff who expertly tight and wrap the cotton kimono on my body as if dressing a child. Leave all your belongings, only bring the locker keys with you and start your onsen experience. You can either go directly to the hot tubs or maybe a foot bath will be good start. Opposite sex are allowed to mingle in the foot bath, you don’t need to be naked obviously and you can take pictures if you like. Separate hot tub facility are available for men and women, of course camera are not allowed.
There is an etiquette that one must observed when entering the hot bath area. Aside from going commando, you have to take a shower first (proceed to shower room, there are free body soaps) before submerging yourself into the 42 deg. Celsius of natural, mineral-filled spring water. You can only bring the small towel they provide and the bigger one shall be left on your locker room. Tone down your conversations and splashing are only acceptable for kids. Strict rules against those with tattoos are implied and they are not allowed in the facility.
There is something poetic about seeing generation of women on their naked glory. It’s like an exhibition of human body as it progress with time. It is a dream-like scenario where we are all Nymphs who are allowed to play and be at peace with our wholeness as an individual. Truly, a liberating experience.