So, you have done it. You are in Japan! Hooray! You have come to Japan post-Covid19 and you are ready to dive right in. Just, don’t dive into the onsen bath. It’s not good manners. But why not? Why does Japan have all these rules that restrict my fun? Why are they oppressing me?
First of all, give yourself a zen moment and relax. No one is oppressing you. But after a long day of hiking around you may want to wash up, and Japan has bathing down to an art form. Now it is time for you to face your deepest fears, through caution and clothing to the wind, and put more than just your big toe in the edge of the water.
I’m going to share with you here a really excellent video that is helpful about Japanese onsen bathing procedures. For North Americans in particular, getting into a bath naked with other totally naked strangers in all your nakedness will make you feel very naked. That’s a bit of a mental hurdle to get over but I want to help you make this “leap” with the following:
- If you have a great body, you should enjoy it. Show it off. Shake your tail feather. Well, don’t shake too much in front of new friends in the onsen. We all need to be mindful of first impressions.
- If you don’t have a great body, you should enjoy it anyways. You don’t have to show it off because no one really cares. As in most of life, most people think primarily about themselves. I’ve never seen anyone with their “googly-eyes” scanning the onsen patrons to check them out.
- If you have scars or are lumpy or wrinkly remember that all those scars and lumps and wrinkles are well-deserved and signs of you living your life.
- You will have a completely surreal experience, a deep Japan experience, that you will remember forever. Shyness is okay, but don’t hold back too much either. It’s a “carpe diem” moment. No regrets.
- Everyone thinks that their own private parts are weird. We can all be strange together in the same space, and not even talk about it. In fact, you will soon learn that the only one who is worried, will be you. Again. Let’s take a brief zen moment before opening that foggy door and stepping into bathing Xanadu.
- The water feels really great. You’ll be glad you did it. Honest.
If you don’t want to go into a packed onsen, that is understandable, but I hope you do make some time to get into one during your stay in Japan. I’ve been in Japan for over 25 years and I get into the sauna and onsen at my gym every week. It’s how I come to terms with my own scars, lumps, and wrinkles. Life is short, sometimes you just got to have a quiet soak.
I think I have done some of my best “thinking/planning” for my work in the onsen. There’s something about it that takes out your toxic stuff – mental, physical, emotional, and gives you some time to soften the brain so it can think smoothly again.