Naked Japan — Getting naked in public is not something I typically indulge in , but in the right situation i. When we travel in foreign countries, we can find ourselves in situations which test our comfort zones and its better just to get on with it, and get over it. I mean, we travel to experience something different and challenge our idea of how the world works right so why fight it? This was especially obvious when I was leading tours in Japan and stayed at traditional Japanese Inns called Ryokans, where the communal bathing pool was called an Onsen. The first step off the bathing experience in Japan is to get clean in a wet room — so far so good. Around the wet room are a series of hot and cold taps at waist height, tiny chairs underneath the tap so short even a dwarf would laugh at, and a bucket to wash off the soapy water. The idea is to scrub thoroughly and remove every morsel of dirt off before entering the communal pool. It only appears to be westerners unused to nudity, and faced with the prospect of dropping the towel who are breaking a sweat.
2. They May Not Let You in With Tattoos
Fudo no Yu was a community bath, meaning anyone was free to use it, and until last year it was left unsupervised. It was also one of a dwindling number of onsen in the Kanto region that allow traditional mixed bathing, known in Japanese as konyoku. Although Fudo no Yu ended up reopening a couple of months later, any opportunity for licentiousness has been strictly curtailed. The problems seen in Shiobara fit in with a wider trend that has seen a precipitous decline in the number of konyoku around Japan. In , the inaugural issue of Onsen Hihyo Hot-spring Critique dedicated its cover feature to the plight of mixed bathing. There are no official statistics on the number of mixed baths in Japan, so Ninomiya turned to Keita Oguro, a veteran onsen photographer with an encyclopedic knowledge of konyoku. When Oguro first totted up all such onsen 23 years ago, the total came to more than 1, By , that figure had fallen to less than There are fewer than now.
Japan is proud of its bathing traditions. For many Westerners, though, the fact that these traditions involve being naked with strangers is awkward at best, even though men and women bathe separately. On my first trip I tried to wriggle out of a friend's offer to take me to an onsen, or hot springs resort. I suggested a different town that had an attraction I wanted to see, and thought I was off the hook. I should have done my research better: That town was famous for its onsen as well.
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