Public Baths

January 1st, 2015, 8am

It was 3°C with few clouds. The breeze was gentle.

The guesthouse keeper told how to work the gas stove, showed how to lock the door and where the toilet was but there was no shower or bath. We were told we had to use the public bath only a 10 to 15 minute walk away. The cost of the room was high and it was assumed there would be a shower or bath but there were none. After getting settled, we gathered our things and made the walk to the public bath.

Washing in public is nothing new in Asia. It is common in Korea, Japan, Taiwan and some places in northern China to go to the spa where people can bath in different pools of water each at a different temperature or with added ingredients like green tea, ginseng, plum, and different herbs thought to cure and sooth tired bones and muscles. The spas are a day out with the family and a chance to bond. Where we are staying, the public bath is the only place we could wash ourselves.

The bath pointed out to us was a 15 minute walk. On a normal spring day or summer night, is nothing. With the winds and the cold down to -5, it was a challenge. We had spent the entire day wandering around Kyoto, tired, and a bit stinky. I found the traditional symbol for the bath which is ( ♨️). The exterior of the bath was the same as anywhere else; looking more like a store front than a bath house. There were two curtains - one pink and one blue. We assumed to determine the different sides for men and women.

After taking off our shoes outside, an older man took our 300 Yen ($2.50US) for each inside. The interior was clean but old. The white tiles were faded. The benches were well worn. The place was not too crowded. There were the light fragrances of cologne and after shave. There were 10 people with a mixed age of 5 to 65.

We got undressed and started to clean and wash ourselves on the plastic stools in front of taps, sprays. A bucket to put our cleaning supplies was there along with another bucket to fill and drench ourselves with. We continued this process until we were clean then went to dip in the various pools.

Like the spas, there are cold pools of water (15C/59F), mild pools (25C/77F) and two hot ones (40C/104C). There was also a green tea one for healing. The green tea is supposed to heal sore joints and muscles. The hot ones were nice after a long day walking on the hard stone floors of castles and wooden floors of temples. After our dips we washed again.

We had to rent a towel for 30 Yen ($0.25US). Our bodies felt good and relaxed. We got dressed, put on our shoes outside then walked off in to the darkness. On the way to the baths, we had to wear gloves. On the way back to the bed and breakfast, we didn’t.

Jo, David Wade, Shu and Christine said thanks.

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Dallas Sanders

I wander too much

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