Public Bath Debacle
"Out of everyone I thought you would go in Lloyd, you are British, you are brave", Ria's words echoed in my ears, I knew I had to go in now, half out of pride and half out of respect. Ria had been such an amazing host and she clearly wanted us to experience this Japanese custom and who was I to refuse, after all she had done for us. I picked up my handkerchief sized towel and timidly walked through the grubby curtains. I knew that Japan was dangerous; I knew that the islands of Japan are located on a volcanic zone on the pacific ring of fire. I knew that it has 108 active destructive volcanoes that often result in tsunami or devastating earthquakes, but I didn't know that it was this dangerous; I didn't know I could end up in place like this.
I put my clothes in one of the poorly constructed lockers, there were hundreds of them, I wondered how many people come in here at once. Too many was the only answer that came to mind, but to the locals it probably wasn't enough. Japan is one of the most densely populated places on earth, personal space doesn't exist there, but it doesn't seem to bother its inhabitants. It bothered me here, in this place, I almost walked out at the thought, but it was too late now, there was no going back. I peered through the frosted glass doors, they reminded me of the smoke that lingered in the clubs and restaurants I had eaten and drank in over the past 10 days. I couldn't see anything through the glass, just odd shapes moving around, I knew what lied beyond and I knew I wasn't ready for it.
I took a deep breath and pushed open the doors, the room was filled with bright unflattering fluorescent light, my eyes adjusted and I took in the scene around me. Along each wall there were 30 waist height showers, in the middle, a pool full of green medicine water, smaller pools in each corner and a Jacuzzi pool on the far wall. The pools were occupied by many naked Japanese men of all ages, I chose the small pool to my right, purely because it was the only pool with no one in it. I dipped my toes and almost fell over, the water was ice cold, too cold for me, but not cold enough for an elderly gentleman in the corner opposite who seemed to be enjoying his freezing cold bath. He smiled at me knowingly and reclined a few more inches so the water was up to his chin. I forfeited the empty pool and turned bashfully to the large pool in the middle which seemed to be the most popular but it was closest and with any luck the green medicine water would cover my modesty. I dipped my toe, as I did the room erupted with distaste, one of the Japanese men jumped out and walked up to me. So now I was standing face to face and bollock to bollock with another man, this is exactly what I didn't want to happen, I didn't know what to do. I turned to leave the room in embarrassment, the man touched me on the shoulder and handed me a bowl. He knelt down with his legs spread eagled, scooped up some water with his own bowl, splashed it on his John Thomas and looked up at me expectantly. I understood, you have to wash your nuts before you share the pool with other people(fair enough). That done, I hurriedly submerged myself in the eerie green water. I was sat among a bunch of naked men, I felt awkward and extremely uncomfortable, through the masses of bald patches and back hair I spotted Tony, he had bitten the bullet and ventured in to, he was sat neck deep in the Jacuzzi pool, our eyes met and I could see the same embarrassment in him. My embarrassment grew as I realised only 20 feet and a few inches of bath water separated me from my naked friend, this didn't seem to bother any of the locals, they were all chatting and laughing and looking incredibly at ease with the situation. I tried to look casual and peered around the room, but as I looked to my right I discovered the reason for the waist high showers. An elderly man with his back to me had one of the many showers on full blast washing just his twig and two berries'. I'd never seen anyone wash anything so vigorously; his arms were a blur, a mountain of soap suds were protruding out from his body, no one was going to complain about him entering the bath. I noticed Tony trying to stifle his laughter, he`d clearly spotted the same thing I had, id been struggling not to laugh up to then but Tony pushed me over the edge. I let out a quick burst of childish laughter that seemed to echo forever in the tiled room, after many sharp looks from the various naked men around me I decided it was time to leave; I hastily got up and darted out before I offended them anymore.
As I dried myself with the miniature towel provided by the bath house, I reflected on my time in japan, I thought about all the people id met, how kind, giving and just generally nice everyone had been, it had been a pleasure to visit, Id never felt more welcome in a foreign country. By the time id put my socks on id come to the conclusion that japan is an incredibly modest nation, with no big egos or things to prove, they have their ways and just get on with them, whether its eating a plate of squid, dressing up as an anime character as your go about your daily business or just heading down the bath house to bear all and talk about your week. I think its an amazingly odd place and I can't wait to go back.