Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Nudity, Equality and Bushes of the Female Kind at the Onsen

I'm a strong believer that we should buy experiences over possessions. It was because of this belief that I made it a point to visit an onsen during my visit to Japan in June.

I wanted the experience of being completely naked in public together with other naked people. Call it public nudity if you will, albeit amongst the same gender.

After doing some research about onsens. I decided on the Maenohara Onsen - Saya-no-Yudokoro in Tokyo.

This is the facade of the building:

Main entrance:

At the entrance of the building is the shoe locker:

Reminds me of traditional Chinese medicine shops.

I chose locker Number 026 because I was born on 26 January (easy to remember in case I get overwhelmed by too many naked bodies in the onsen):

After you've placed your footwear into the locker, insert JPY100 into the coin slot and you'll be able to remove the key. 

When I entered the building, I saw a common area at one corner with tatami mats where customers were lying down and chilling in their yukata. Some were sitting on massage chairs getting a good massage. I suppose they must be cooling off after soaking in the hot onsen.

(Note: I didn't take any photos from here onwards because I felt the customers may not like it. The other obvious reason is because the nakedness soon began).

The receptionist explained to me the rates, asked me whether I had a towel and needed to rent one, etc. At that point the only thing I could remember was her telling me to "go to the room with the red curtain".

The red curtain looked like the ones hanging from the doorway of traditional Japanese restaurants. The blue curtain was entrance to the male onsen and red curtain was to the female onsen (Question: What if a particular customer is colour blind? Muahahaha).

My heart was beating fast, curious to see what's behind the red curtain.

When I entered the room there were naked women everywhere - young, middle aged, old, fat, thin, obese and anaeroxic - they were all there.

The area was divided into two main areas, i.e. lockers on one side and dressing tables on the other side. Both the areas were covered in tatami mat.

There was a massage room where you can get a massage (book in advance) and toilets too (remember ... you're not supposed to pee while soaking in the onsen).

Everyone was doing their own thing - drying their hair, putting on clothes, applying makeup, etc.

I chose a locker and placed my items into it while observing what the other ladies were doing.

The girl beside me removed all her clothes, placed them into the locker, locked it, strapped the key on her wrist and walked to the onsen with only a face towel in her hand. It was as if getting naked was second nature to her.

It was then that I realised I had brought a bath towel which was too big for an onsen. The correct size is a face towel. So I decided to go in without any towel at all, which I thought was a brave thing to do because even some of the regulars use a face towel to cover their bits.

After removing my clothes and placing it in the locker, I walked to the pool area and met a local lady who could speak English. I asked her what I needed to do before entering the onsen. She was happy that it was my first time and explained that I needed to rinse myself first before soaking in.

After splashing myself with water from a giant tempayan, I went to survey the pools.

The indoor pools were actually jacuzzi hot tubs complete with water jets and all. There was also a sauna which was too hot that I came out after just a couple of minutes.

The outdoor pools were from the hotsprings. The water was yellow-ish in colour which means it contains minerals that's good for the body. The two unique pools that I liked were:

a) A pool with ankle high water which allowed you to lie down in the water.
b) An area with a few giant tempayan which you can climb in and squat till the water reaches your neck.

The outdoor pools were my favourite because I felt serene lying in a nice warm water amidst the trees and breeze. I came out and sat under the sun occasionally to avoid getting prunes on my fingers and toes.

After spending a good 1.5 hours soaking myself, I went to the communal bathing area to wash up. There was a stool to sit while you wash using a hose. Cleaning liquid like body soap, shampoo and conditioner were also provided. Some regulars brought their own bath kit.

After getting dressed, I went to reception to pay.

My receipt:

Costs JPY 870 for unlimited session at the onsen.

They gave me a card where I can collect stamps each time I visit:

I left the onsen feeling light headed and went to Tully's at the AEON mall opposite for a latte:

Caffe latte, JPY360. Taste was not great.

My observations/thoughts about the onsen:

1) Initially I though only senior citizens go to the onsen. But I saw people of all ages there.

2) An onsen is usually a place where elderly women gather to gossip. So I was surprised to see men in their 20s and 30s there too. No, I didn't go into the men's onsen. I saw those fellas at the reception area.

3) Not everyone has the guts to go full monty in public, due to one reason or another. My travel partner chickened out at the last minute and decided to go shopping instead. Maybe she didn't want to see me naked.

4) Bushes of the female kind - Some of the women didn't bother to shave. Their bushes were long and thick like wire. I was amazed to see one who had it so unkempt that it looked like a crows nest, no kidding. Me? I had a Brazillian before going to Japan knowing that I'll be visiting the onsen. I was perhaps the only one who was as clean as a baby :-)

5) Equality - Whether we're aneroxic, obese, rich, poor or anything in between, we're all equal in an onsen.


Julia Tarmidi said...

Salam singgah sini dan follow :)

Jipp Jippsy said...

I wish I did go to one when I went to Japan but I didn't get a chance. Probably on my second visit. For now I can only imagine :_D

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