23.11.2011 - 23.12.2011
24th November 2011 - Japanese Onsen
It is late in the afternoon on the 24th November and Vicky and I have had a day in Kyoto seeing all of the western part of the city, where there are shed loads of things still left to do, we have covered the bamboo grove and some of the temples in this area and have surfed the crowds of tourists for too long now, it’s time for us to rest the only way that the Japanese know how.
We have made our way to the only natural spring in the area and we are amusing all of the staff at the reception with our shenanigans. We have read the rules and the instructions over and over again, we have studied the Lonely Planet and yet we are still stood in front of the receptionist looking a little hesitant, Victoria is looking very nervous. Up until this point it was a good idea to do the Onsen, to relax a little and soak away those aching muscles. I have prepared myself for this, and I thought that Victoria had as well. Only now, right at this point, with an amused Japanese audience the torrent of excuses are flooding out of her mouth like a projectile sea of Alpha Bites. I had been brushing aside the minor apprehensions with casual wafts of the hand and one of those ‘Pah, don’t worry about it, it’s gonna be fine’ type of responses. In the middle of our performance the the excuses have a greater sense of urgency.
‘I haven’t bought a hair clip’,
‘I don’t have a towel’,
’I’ll just wait for you here, I'm not feeling so good’; I can see the panic in her poor little face.
The show continues, I buy a bobble for her hair and hire a towel, I don’t have any Paracetamol but if I had, I would have shovelled them in her mouth (only kidding ;-)) Valium at this point would have helped. We creep towards the changing rooms and are still going through the details, to the Japanese audience, it must have looked like the beginning of a heist that was going to go completely wrong.
‘Right, you go in that door, get a locker, take all of your clothes off, go in the Onsen have a wash and then bathe, I will meet you out here in an hour.’
In an Onsen, you bathe naked, no trunks, no Speedos, nothing. They are like ze Germans when it comes to getting out the Birthday Suit. I don’t have any particular issues with getting naked in these circumstances, I am not particularly proud of my naked stature but I'm in Japan. In this pool of people I should be in the above average category, whereas in the UK, I might be lucky if I am in the ‘pity’ sub-category. The only other rule in this Onsen business is that Male and female also bathe separately, which is a basic fundamental flaw.
According to the Lonely Planet this is the No 3 of the top 25 experiences to be had in Japan, but at this point I am not yet in agreement with ‘The Bible’, having spent the initial part of the onsen experience performing our show.
Since Victoria has been in Japan we have been following her gruelling travel itinerary, an itinerary that would have Prince Andrew waving the white flag. This 3 page spreadsheet detailed when we were to eat sleep drink and how long we would stay in each place and when we would leave and how. Each day was broken down into morning, afternoon and evening. I think the real reason why she protested so much is that this was not in her itinerary, I had sabotaged this and decided I wanted a bath with loads of naked men.
We split and go our separate ways.
I swagger in, put on my birthday suit and then wash the entire surface area of my body. I stand out a mile. I slide into the water, hide in a corner and watch the behaviour of the sausage fest in front of me. I want to try and blend in, and to do this I need to watch how they act and in what order they do things.
I see a grey Japanese elder, a veteran if there ever was one, probably been coming here for a wash since the first Karate Kid was on the telly. He is stood over a pool of cold water and he has picked up a bowl, he scoops water from the pool and throws one scoop over his head, and one scoop over his anatomy that can only be described as an area of rather un-outstanding natural beauty, this overgrown bush of tangled grey wire was just as big and rounded as his pot belly. He scratched, sniffed and idled into the bathtub. Great, what a master….
Each and every one of these men were scratching, grunting and moving slowly from one pond of water to the other. Not much routine to all of this and nothing really to learn either, in fact I think there was something that I could perhaps teach these slow moving hunched backed men. Each and every one of them were carrying what looked like an huge elastic band ball above an area where their dicks should be, at least my bottom beard had been manicured sometime since the advent of the Pentium processor.
So I waded in with, what looked like in comparison, a serious case of pubic alopecia.
This Onsen had washing areas, different temperature spa’s, bath tubs, foot baths, a huge cinema sauna with a 55” flat screen TV, and an outside area where there were other spa’s and lay down areas. Shifting from one to the other I began to forget about the whole ‘being naked’.
The experience is pretty much over when you start going dizzy, so it was at about that point that I wandered to the changing rooms clinging to anything to keep me upright so I could get clothed.
Victoria was outside, her hair was dry already, and she had already drunk some beer, had called her mother and was ready to order dinner. I doubted that she had even been in, but when she described the mass of pubic brambles, all I could picture was a big ball of fur clinging to and blocking the entrance to Mother Shiptons Cave.
I forgave her for all her wrong doings and we drank lots of beer.