26 June 2012

Japan IX - Creature Comforts

If you haven't gathered the fact by now, Japan is a strange place...or rather it could appear to be strange if you let it bother you.  Accept it for what it is and the whole place is rather fascinating.  Most things  seem to be done with far more care, consideration and thought than anything we do and a good case in point is the Japanese Bath.

In the West, the traditional 'bath' (which I have to admit I had once a week as a lad....yuuuk!) appears to have been long superseded by the far more hygienic shower.  We tend to run a tub full of moderately hot water, jump in, wash all our bits and pieces...and then lie down in all that dirty, scummy water for a bit of soak.  Then we get out, towel dry and think we're clean but if you care to ponder a second about what you've just been lying in, you're anything but!

The 'Japanese Bath' is a completely different experience.  Firstly, once you've got completely starkers, you go into the washing area and perch on a little stool, where you wash and shower yourself completely clean.  In the West, that would normally suffice,  but in Japan...

...you then go into a hot tub, where a constant temp of about 44deg C is maintained.  The one above was in Takayama and was naturally heated.  The idea is that the hot tub is clean water (and thus other people have been in it) used just for soaking up to your neck and it's absolutely 100%, 24 carat gold plated....wonderful!  You can stay there as long as you like...30mins, an hour, whatever.  I lost track of the time on a couple of occasions so that I was cooked like an overdone lobster when I came out.  The only thing that was missing is a colder 'plunge' pool afterwards, but at Takayama all that was provided was another cast iron bath outside that was equally as hot...

...so I had to have a dip in both!

The traditional Temple lodgings at Nagano, delightful as they were, meant that we had to sleep using futons on the floor and our...

... room in the wonderful Ryokan Yoshimuzu in Kyoto, although smaller, meant that the futons were stored in the sliding cupboards on the right and had to be set out every evening. Now as a bit of a woodworker, I can vouch that although the Japanese use many different timbers, their floor boards are equally bloody hard!  No matter which way I moved, all the sticky-out bony bits eventually seem to make close contact with the floor and it didn't matter which way I turned,  after around thirty minutes or so I was wishing for a nice, soft comfy bed!  The only way that we could get a passable nights sleep was to fold each futon in two lengthwise to form a very narrow, but relatively thick mattress.

Fortunately, I didn't roll off.

Mention must also be made of the 'facilities' or 'Japanese Toilets'.  There are so many hilarious UTube clips that go into great detail, it isn't worth regaling them here, suffice to say that they're all true and that you need a PhD in toilet-savvy science to operate them. Perhaps one of the funniest is the 'Princess' loo...just don't fall off your seat (unheated, bidet-less, toilet variety) laughing!

No comments: