Modern Sento in Takayama in Japan (C) Sanmai
The man and the boy were naked, like the rest of the boys in the room, including myself. Courtesy, which sometimes does not understand cultural differences, prevented me from observing him directly for more than a fraction of a second. If he had kept his eyes on what had caught my attention and he would have noticed it through the mirror, maybe I would have been involved in a small misunderstanding: a public toilet in Japan is not the right place to look at other people's tattoos, even if they cover the arms and back and are associated with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
I had read that this association between criminals and tattoos, however small or peaceful the drawings or shapes might seem, generally vetoed their wearer's entry into the bathrooms, whether Onsen (温泉) or Sat down (銭 湯). The first are built in areas where there are hot springs (Japan is of volcanic origin) and the latter obtain the hot water necessary for its operation by artificial means (that is, they heat it).
I was not in either of them, but in the sat down existing in the hotel where I was staying in Osaka and available only to its customers. It is not that in my room there was no bathroom (that there was not, because it was the cheapest) but that in Japan the bathroom is considered a social act and of fraternization rather than dedicated to hygiene (which also, because it was not until the 1960s that most of the floors had a bathroom).
Clothes at the box office of an onsen (C) OnsenTo access the bathroom, we first stop in a small room where we deposit our clothes in any of the baskets that, distributed on the shelves of a shelf, act as lockers. To the next room, where the bathroom is, we will enter with a towel but completely naked, without even a swimsuit, and barefoot.
The Onsen Y Sat down are separated by gender, as a rule mixed nudism does not exist. In the case of my hotel, where there was only one Sat down, at the entrance of the same were the schedules in which its use was exclusive of men and when women.
The room usually has the bathtub, furo, in the far corner of the entrance. It is not a bathtub like the one that any western comes to mind but, by using a comparison, of dimensions similar to a small pool or jacuzzi.
When you get into the bathtub, you do it to relax and the act is so important that you have to clean thoroughly before accessing it. For this, we will use the area next to the wall where a row of plastic stools are located in front of their respective mirrors. They are accompanied by containers with soap and shampoo, as well as individual showers, and small buckets (for Indian style washing).
I wash, lather from head to toe and clear up always sitting on the stool, never stand up. And I do it by defeating the Western modesty to do something so intimate in the presence of strangers that, like me, they give themselves with fruition to strip all impurity of their body.
Only when I have made sure that i'm perfectly clean I get up and approach the furo, where at that time there is no one. That loneliness is great for me because there is no worthy way to get into it when you are completely naked.
It almost gives me a downturn. It was like entering in a pot set on fire and with the water about to boil. Maybe I exaggerate a little but the water temperature was close to 45 degrees Celsius (while the normal temperature of the human body ranges between 35 and 37 ° C and in Spain the hydromassage pools are between 34 ° C and 36 ° C).
Once I got used to the heat, I breathed more calmly and greeted with a smile and a slight movement from top to bottom with my head to other hotel guests that also got into the furo.
For this one Gaijin ((外人) or Gaikokujin ((外国人) (foreigner, with derogatory connotations in the first term, educated the case of the second), that was one of the experiences (like sleeping in a westernized capsule or attending a sumo match) to live in Japan. For the Nihon-jin (Japanese), who live in a society of normative and social rigidity, body nudity equals bosses and employees, to rich and poor. At furo, in the bathtub of Sat down Everyone can relax and feel the same.