Bathing in Japan: The naked truth

When travelling and staying in hostels you accept that you probably won’t be seeing a bath on your journey, but after hours of trekking around a city, town or village the one thing you want is a hot soak in the tub.

Luckily, Japan can offer you a place to rest those weary muscles. One catch: you may have to share your bathing experience with others. Naked.

We stayed in a ryokan in Osaka. This traditional Japanese inn had two communal baths, one for men and one for women. We were both apprehensive at the idea of bathing in the nude, potentially surrounded by other people, but we didn’t come all the way to Japan to shy away from indulging in tradition.

Before you enter the bathing area there is a changing room with little baskets for *all* your clothes, and a pile of modesty towels. So, this is where you strip down to your birthday suit and prepare yourself for what may lay beyond the sliding door. Before you go diving in to the water though there are strict rules when it comes to using the baths:

  1. Rinse your entire body (there are buckets you fill with water and little stools to sit on whilst you do this)
  2. Climb in to water for a short while
  3. Get out of the bath and scrub your body with the soaps provided. You also need to wash your hair. You have to make sure you rinse all the soap and shampoo off as you can’t enter the water before you do
  4. Get back in to the bath and relax

(The process is the same for both men and women. At our hotel though there was one difference: at this particular baths, the men got a sauna. Sorry, Laura!)

The whole process can seem rather daunting, especially when you are having to sit in the bathing area with other people scrubbing away with it all hanging out. However, once you get in to the water for the final time it is all very calming. After over a week of carrying bags, travelling on trains, trekking through the streets and climbing an infinite number of steps, it felt like heaven to just sit back and relax for a while.

Alex and Laura

p.s there are no photos in this post, for obvious reasons…

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