We visited Japan last December, in winter and it was freezing cold. The temperature would usually range between -3 to +3 C with some very chilly winds. I am writing today about an experience I had in Nozawa Onsen and to understand this post completely, you need to know some Onsen Etiquette’s (a community bath). Basically there is a dress code – you can only wear your birthday suit and carry a small wash towel. The water in the onsen is hot, I mean seriously hot like 45-46 C, these baths are open to public, before you get carried away, there are different areas for men and women. The ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) where we stayed had an onsen which ran on natural spring water. “WOW! Snow outside, hot water in the bath, steam rising – awesome setting, this would be so relaxing – almost spiritual” is what I thought when I saw the brochure… “Let’s do it, its gonna be surreal pleasure” I had convinced Ashu.
I was super-excited about the onsen experience just until the time to go through the experience arrived, the single most embarrassing bit started pricking me – other women sitting naked and me walking in – what would that be like, eeewww maybe this is a bad idea… but I was the one who had insisted on this experience, I could not back out, and anyway barring that one thing its going to be such an awesome experience, I remembered the brochure again. I tried to think smartly and scheduled our visit at lunch time when we had the highest chance of finding the place empty.
At 12:30pm, collecting every bit of courage possible, when I entered the ladies dressing room I saw this oldish woman in the correct dress-code casually applying moisturizer – can’t say I was very comfortable with the sight, so I decided if there are more women here I am running away. I peeped in the bath from the tiny glass window, exactly like in the brochure I thought, there was no one there. I waited for the lady to finish her business – I walked around, flipped through a magazine, checked my weight (which I realized wasn’t the best idea) she gave me a look clearly saying “another dumb tourist, huh!” and finally she left. Then I was the queen… I got appropriately dressed and walked out of the dressing room, which I later realized was equipped with the best heating system ever, as soon as I stepped out I did not know what hit me (actually I knew what hit me, it was the freezing chilly cold breeze) I started the shower but there was no warm water, after showering in the coldest water I’ve ever touched (except while drinking) every inch of my body went numb, the hot water was exactly what I needed then – or did I? When I set foot in the bath, it was like my foot was boiling – what did I do to deserve this hell on earth to get boiled alive! I ran back to the dressing room took a warm shower.
When I walked out I saw Ashu lazing happily on a couch… did he even go in – I really doubt, I will never know, he claims he did! We went out for dinner, hogged on awesome sushi and sashimi drank some good ol’ sake and life was bliss again. Later that evening I thought, things that look like surreal pleasures – like sleeping on the beach, bathing in a waterfall, walking bare-feet in a lawn – are not as much pleasures in experiencing as they are in anticipation. Will I ever indulge in any ‘surreal pleasure’ again or will i just derive pleasure thinking about them? Hell yeah I’ll indulge! that’s what life is all about – experiences! Its so easy to just do the ordinary and be happy… What say you?