My trip to Japan this time round was really a stopover before heading home to Australia. It’s an excuse for me to test how far my Japanese have progressed (which failed spectacularly.. enough said), and perhaps to also refresh my own memory just how much I was in love with this place. Yes, I was completely impervious to advice against going to Tokyo due to the recent quake and radiation scares. Frankly I could not tell the difference in the city life here, other than a ton of signs like this:
And plenty of energy consumption statistics encouraging the citizens to use less power to conserve the limited resource:
Apart from that, it’s business as usual. You really do have to admire just how strong the Japanese are, given how often these disasters occur!
This year though, I probably came at the wrong time, because I arrived exactly when rainy season started. Can you imagine that? A season just for raining!? Back in Australia, if it rains, you can get away with hanging around under a shade for a little while, and maybe you can find that window of time when the rain stops long enough for you to proceed wherever you want to go. In Japan, when the rainy season starts, you can bet it will not stop for days at a time! And what’s even more annoying, is that the rain sometimes doesn’t seem big enough to justify an umbrella. Yet if you walk around long enough without one, you will be drenched!
This is where an umbrella is a necessary investment over here. You can go out there and get yourself a 300 yen (~AUD$3.50) umbrella, or you can get a deluxe automatic fashion umbrella that cost 8000 yen (~AUD$100)! In a crowded place like Harajuku, you definitely want to make sure you get yourself a good umbrella. As if there isn’t enough people already, you’ll just have to learn how to dodge umbrellas at the same time, or your 300 yen umbrella ain’t gonna last very long!
For girls, you can absolutely go wild with ‘rainy season’ fashion as well! Check this ad out that seems to appear everywhere in Tokyo at the moment, where Tomomi Itano advertises for a company selling fashionable outfits including matching dress, umbrella, boots etc etc, looking good even in the rain!
I am sure there’s something similar for guys, but didn’t bother to notice. Besides, I don’t exactly fall in the ‘fashionable’ category. So what’s an unfashionable guy to do during rainy season? Well.. the easiest way, is to just go NAKED!
Of course, I don’t mean walking around the streets with no clothes on! There’s a perfectly legal way to do it, at any one of hundreds of Onsen (Hot spring) and Sentou (public bath) littered all over Tokyo! And that’s exactly what I did for a week! Unlike any public bath and hot springs elsewhere in the world, clothes are completely banned in these facilities. It does take a bit of getting used to if it’s your first go. But once you’re used to it, there’s no turning back…
You can go all out and visit one that emulates the Edo period (historic Japan) for about 2000 yen (~AUD$25), e.g. Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, featuring a full onsen (natural hot spring) along with indoor shared area with shops in historic style:
Or you can go simple, in a simple sentou (public bath) for about 400 yen (~AUD$5) where you supply your own soap, shampoo and whatever cleaning tools you desire. Either way, you spend a good 10-20 minutes cleaning yourself before and after the actual bathing experience. You can spend up to 1-3 hours dipping your completely naked body in one of the pools at temperatures you’re comfortable with. I can tell you right now, back home, I spend at max 10 minutes in the shower. But here in Tokyo, the entire experience takes 1-2 hours! And guess what?! I actually love spending 2 hours in one!
AND.. you know what? If you follow all of the ‘processes’ required for a Japanese bath, you really do feel a whole new level of cleanliness, at least for me. You know why I know I am so clean? Well.. try rubbing your body after one these sessions. My body SQUEAKS when I rub it!! Just like those dish washing liquid advertisements on TV, when you rub your finger on those shiny dishes, it literally squeaks! THAT is how clean I am!Suddenly, an ordinary shower feels sooo inadequate.
So the one thing I got out of this one week trip in Tokyo? Spending 2 hours in a bath is worth it.. and that is not something I imagined myself ever to say!!