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  Making New Friends    

During our trip to Nikko we stayed at a ryokan.  A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn featuring tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and mingle with the other guests.  Breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the room and the meals are wonderfully delicious.  I had never stayed at a ryokan before nor had I ever visited a Japanese communal bath.  This was to be a weekend of firsts and learning.

We were told when we checked into our room that it is perfectly acceptable to wear the yukata and slippers provided in our room to the hotel's public bath. At first it felt as though we going out in public in our bath robes, but we had noticed other guest wearing their yukata around the hotel, even to breakfast.  So we headed off to the baths.    

So here are some “don’ts” when visiting the public baths:

  • Don’t go into the wrong bath.  Learn the Japanese for men () and for women ().  The women’s, in this case, had pink curtains and the men’s had blue curtains.
  • Once the yukata is off don’t head directly for the pool of steaming hot water, regardless of how tempting. One must wash first.  Showers, soap and shampoo are provided.  Sometimes there may be a fee for the soaps and towels.
  • Don’t forget to rinse the stool.  Showers are taken while seated.
Our Futons
  • While showering, don’t allow the water to run excessively.  Instead fill the bucket provided and pour it over your head.
  • Don’t skip anything when washing.  Just be quick and discreet with some areas.  
  • While towels are provided at the bath don’t forget and leave the little wash cloth that was provided in the room.  It serves a double purpose.  Not only do you wash with it but it also is used to modestly cover yourself.
  • Don’t be surprised if a young father brings his young daughter into the men’s bath.  Just use the little wash cloth to cover yourself, unless of course it was left in the room.
  • When you exit the bath don’t look too much at the young lady leaving her bath, no matter how attractive she looks in her yukata.  If you do she will not get on the elevator with you but instead opt for the stairs.

While I have been in Japan sometimes I have been in situations were I didn’t know what to do or how to do it.  So I would just watch other people.  So for the next don’t:

  • Don’t watch other people while in the bath.  While in the bath my first time I sort of watched this other man.  Not overtly mind you.  But he must have noticed.  For the rest of the weekend I repeatedly ran into this individual.  Every time we would meet he would smile broadly, wave energetically and make washing motions on his arms with his hands. 

I guess I made a new friend.