What happens behind the curtain, stays behind the curtain?
I am not the first couchsurfing guest to get naked with their host. In fact, I doubt I am the first married couchsurfer to take a bath with their same sex host. Even so, here is my story about how I found myself hanging out in the buff with two of my male, Japanese, couchsurfing hosts.
Most of the trip planning is left up to LOCAVORista, leaving me to worry about the larger problems of the world, you know…curing disease, deflecting stray asteroids, watching CSI, etc. This can occasionally lead me to situations and places I don’t want to be. Like that time I traveled a day into Laos to see the “Jars” which were no more than large rocks with holes in them. Or, like when she suggested we go to a Japanese bath. Sure, why not? On this trip I’m perpetually in need of a bath.
We were able to couchsurf in Japan which provided a great break for the budget as well as a local host to help be our guide. Couchsurfing is where a stranger you meet over a website lets you stay in their home, for free. We have hosted many couchsurfers ourselves and think it is a great way to meet new people and see new parts of our own city. In Japan, having a local be able to translate for you is more than fun or nice, it really made the trip.
When LOCAVORista mentioned that she wanted to go to a Japansese bath, or “onsen”, our Kyoto couchsurfing host said he would join us. As we were preparing to head out I asked what I needed and he said, “bring a towel or they charge you to rent them.” Hmm, a towel was all I needed? Wearing the trendy boxer briefs I bought on my last trip to Singapore, I figured if I needed a swimsuit I would be covered. Compared to what a lot of Europeans wear to the beach, boxer briefs are conservative. Then I was fed a little more information, we were bathing together, naked.
Well then, why not? Hoping for a little scenery I asked if it was co-ed. “No” was the response. OK, off to bath with naked Japanese men then…
When we entered I reviewed the “rules” of the onsen.
Knowing the rules is important in Asia, with that knowledge I headed in with a rush of others that were arriving at opening time. Clearly the onsen was a happening place, people were in a hurry to get in, get undressed, and start bathing. Following the rules I sat on a stool and bathed before getting into a bath, which is really a hot tub.
One of the outdoor baths near Mt. Fuji.
There are all sorts of different tubs, hot one, very hot ones, carrot medicated tubs, cold tubs, and the strangest, the electric tub. The electric tub is a hot tub that has electricity feeding into to, lightly electrocuting you…for health…I was told. Have you ever seen the infomercials for the belts that send tiny electric pulses into your stomach that will result in six-pack abs without working out? Remember how the people’s belly jiggles with each pulse? That was how I felt all over, and I didn’t really like it. It reminded me of my “investigations” as a child where I took apart electronics, not knowing I should unplug them, then shocked myself. I am pretty sure I am the way I am due to one too many screwdriver meets electrified circuit board incidents. Back to the bath though, it was pretty nice.
Sure I was naked with a bunch of strangers and my couchsurfing host, but it was rather relaxing. It was so relaxing that we did it again, with our other couchsurfing host from Tokyo. We took a day trip to Mt. Fuji and decided to end the day with a short trip to the onsen. This location was more picturesque and the tubs weren’t as unbearably hot, rather pleasant really. The baths overlooked the hills surrounding Mt. Fuji and the onsen was very quiet. I could get used to this life.
I would go to an onsen again. They are especially suitable for people that love hot tubs and don’t mind locker rooms. Actually, they are a lot more tranquil than male locker rooms in the US. If you are in Japan, with or without a couchsurfing host, I recommend you give it a try.
WHEN YOU GO:
- Wash yourself thoroughly before entering the tub. This is a big deal, people do not just get into a hot tub, they scrub themselves like they haven’t bathed in years.
- Try more than one. Each onsen is different, try a couple to get a good understanding of what they are like.
- Locate the cold tub quickly. Some of the tubs are really hot and can leave you lightheaded, at those moments you will need the cold bath.