Nar3: Japan

The Hirasuna Ofuro Adventure
Posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2003 at 7:24am by Brett.
(Sunday, December 7th, 2003 at 9:24pm Japanese Standard Time)

Every other Sunday, the showers in my dorm are closed. On these days, the options are a sink bath, or going to the nearby Hirasuna showers. Tonight, as I normally do, I opted for going to Hirasuna.

Going to the Hirasuna showers is always a gamble. The individual showers aren't always unlocked, and if they are, there is usually a wait. Last time, I waited over half an hour just for the private showers. I decided that was a stupid thing to do, and that I would be a man about it and use the (overly crowded) public Japanese style Ofuro this time if there was a wait for the private showers. If you're counting, this makes the second time I've used the ofuro here at Tsukuba. I used them also when I went to Kyoto, but then I didn't have a choice...

So I got into the dreaded Changing Room of Nakedness and as suspected the private showers were full. Sundays are always horrible a day to shower because it's just so crowded...more so than normal. I moseyed on over to find an empty basket to hold my clothes while I'm doing the showering thing. After dodging many nakies, my clothes found a home in a nice basket in the corner. I gathered up my shower gear and started to head toward the entrance to the baths.

I stood on the threshold of the door for an instant, trying to mentally prepare myself for what was ahead. Summoning all of my courage, I opened the door to the showers. Like a bad dream sequence from an indie film, steam came wafting out, swirling and lapping at my feet until it dissapeared. From the inside of the baths, I could hear the mixture of voices merrily chatting away, forgetting that they're completely naked.

I gritted my teeth and took a step into the steaming shower. I reached behind me with my left hand to shut the sliding door. It wouldn't move, so I reached with my right hand to grab than handle to pull it shut. Right hand out...groping...groping...finding something that is most definitely not a door handle.

As I had stepped into the shower, another guy entering had come in behind me. He was holding the door open for himself. When I reached back with my right hand to close the door, I had mistakeningly attempted to...urm...close him. I turned around spitting out every Japanese apology I could muster under the circumstances. The heat being produced by my face and body in general only added to the steam. Instead of, say, punching me, or doing ANYTHING, the guy just stood there looking mildly amused that I was trying to speak Japanese. With a single wave of his hand, I understood him to be saying to me "No worries, mate. Happens all the time. You see, in a culture that endears public bathing and nudity, being violated by another bloke is commonplace. Don't worry about."

"Oh," my flustered bowing and shaking hands replied, "I was so worried. Thanks for the enlightenment. Japan is fun!"

Having parted ways with my new friend, I stepped deeper into the heart of the steaming shower and quickly scanned for an open wash area. If you aren't familiar with Japanese Ofuro, you first sit on a little, tiny, short stool outside of the main bathtub and wash youself before getting in the main tub with everyone else to sit and "relax".

Not seeing any stools in the front area, I went to the right side. (Thank goodness, Friend went to the left...) I spotted a vacant stool in a comfortable-look and empty corner in the far back. The layout of this section was so that there were two columns of washing stools going straight back. I walked to the stool I had mentally branded "safe"...far in the back.

I sat down on the tiny stool and turned on the water. I noticed that the stool took a bit of effort to keep from sliding around on the wet tile floor, but I wasn't bothered by it. The closest person was a good 4 stools away. No violations this time! Life was good.

I adjusted the water to be exactly the right tempurature and started to wash my hair. For some reason, the floodgates opened and people started coming in like it was...well...a Sunday night at the Hirasuna baths. Pretty soon my safe, 4-stool-padded washing area was stuffed full of (naked!) guys sitting on tiny blue stools washing themselves.

I took a deep, not-so-relaxing breath and continued to wash my hair. As a foreigner in a Japanese bath, you generally get a lot of stares. This is a common and well-established fact. I don't know about anyone else, but being naked and stared at tends to make me jittery.

"No one is looking at you," I outright lied to myself. "Just wash off and leave!"

So I bent forward a bit to rinse the shampoo from my hair. Taking a page from a friend's book, and because life hates me, when I bent forward, it gave the stool the little nudge that it needed to go flying from under my wet, naked butt and hit the wall on the other side, making a loud "THWACK!" as it went.

It was, again, like a scene from a movie. I was sitting in the back of a column of washing areas looking out toward the main bath. Every head on the right wing was turned looking at me. Hands were stopped mid-wash, shower nozzles were suspended in air by their head-turned owners, mouths were stuck open, mid-word.

For about 3 seconds the scene was frozen. The guy next to me turned to me-on-the-floor and asked if I was OK. I said "Yes...I actually like it this way...easier..." He laughed. The rest of the guys laughed. Washing was resumed.

I (quickly, quietly, and without incident) finished washing and went back to the chaning room. I grabbed all of my clothes and RAN FROM THERE like it was for my life.

I hate public bathing.

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3 Comments for this post.
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brave by Pete [2003/07/12 12:43 ET]
Well, all I can say is you're a braver man than me...
Just curious... by ted [2003/07/12 10:19 ET]
Do your other friends over there have stories like this too, or is someone really out to get you? lol... maybe sunday ought to be a day of liberating filth...
And so it goes by dalecam [2003/07/12 08:50 ET]
Well, if you keep this up, or down on the floor and also trying to close a guy, hmmm that was funny, you will have ALL the Japanese men and maybe boys too wanting to bathe when you ARE there, just for the entertainment.

I love your stories and being in Japan my self, but never in a bath like that, I can appreciate what goes on. I do hope your computer cord will come soon too.

You will have lots of memories and stories for years to come. If you want, I could tell you about a phone in the bathroom story too, that was really funny.