11 December 2015
"Public baths? You mean where I bathe with other people? Oh no, no, no. No thank you but that’s definitely not for me. Really, by all means, I do not mind passing on that while in Japan."
Believe it or not, these initial thoughts were temporary and actually short-lived for me. I’m sure you’re reading this right now and are thinking, “short-lived? Wait, a minute, so you did publically bathe... like... with people!?” Well I would like to answer that with a confident and excited ‘YES! And it is the best thing ever!”
Let me explain.
The first thing that caught my attention even before considering ever to try the public baths was that it was strictly prohibited to enter the baths with any sort of clothing or towel or covering (and I mean what-so-ever). In fact, flip-flops or any type of shower shoes are not even allowed. After hearing this, I knew there was no way I was trying out the public bath.
It actually took me a couple weeks (and by a couple I mean maybe 1.5) to be convinced to try out the baths. Of course, the idea of bathing with others seems like the largest breach of privacy ever to be conceived, however, even upon entering the baths for the first time, it felt like a more social environment. Also, it was cool to know that no one really cared that everyone is naked, it’s just the way it is.
The first time is always the hardest and most nerve-racking. However, after that first time, it really gets a million times easier. It turns out that public bathing is a really nice experience. You are with friends, there is a lot of space, and the best part of all is the spa (or bath).
After you clean yourself, you can use the bath. The bath is a large sitting pool of hot water (around 40C/104F) that you just relax in after a long day and let the pool work its magic on your skin. Some benefits include soft and smooth skin and pure relaxation. When you are finished, you exit the bath and go on with your life.
Of course there is the initial hesitation to bathe publicly with others, especially if you are not used to it. Still, public bathing in Japan (especially at a nice onsen) is an absolute MUST! Trust me, the experience is worth it!