This post is a bit old, but I just proofed it. The second part has an update as of today 4/30/2019.
Today Andy and I got naked with a whole bunch of strangers and it was great fun. In a prior blog post, I’ve blogged about the hot springs culture in Japan and about how there are incredible hot springs all throughout Japan. The Japanese really know how to enjoy a good bath. They consider communal bathing with their children and friends a prime social activity. It’s not considered weird at all. It’s a social, relaxing thing to do. And communal baths are often open until 2 AM or 3 AM.
Fukuoka has many outdoor hot springs called onsens and indoor baths called sentos where people can go to relax and chill. I found an onsen a 30 minute walk from our apartment so we decided to check it out.
When we got there around 2:30 PM, we were surprised at how nice it was. Last week, while on vacation, we went to a basic onsen with no bells or whistles and this place was a lot nicer. And it was packed! In the lobby area, we noticed people eating snacks (the place had a small restaurant) and other people were lying around in the lobby on tatami mats taking naps and reading the paper. Other people were enjoying the massage chairs.
Score! Because we came so early it was dirt cheap. We paid $4.50 plus a little extra for the towel and washcloth and we then went to our gender segregated areas. Me on the second floor, Andy on the first floor. I’ve been to many onsens in Japan. It’s quite intimidating at first, but the internet and various onsen videos helped me learn what to do and what not to do. Remember, Japan is a society of a LOT of rules, and it’s important to follow them, especially while taking onsen. So even though I entered this onsen fairly confident, I was a bit nervous just the same. There were not any other foreign visitors, just me.
After putting my clothes into a locker, I went to the wash area. You MUST, MUST, MUST wash really well before entering the hot springs. There were 20 communal washing stalls with tiny stools to soap up. There was shampoo and body wash provided. I asked a Japanese lady to help me understand which one was body wash and which one was shampoo and conditioner. Andy said it was indicated on the bottle in English, but I can’t seen anything without my glasses so I needed a bit of help. I had a good cleaning (sitting on a small stool) and then I tossed several buckets of water on my head to rinse off. Then I entered the indoor hot tub area. It was a big area with individual baths for everyone to enjoy. Perfect temperature! Ah… After enjoying some bubbles, I went outside and tried the outside baths which were lovely and scenic. There were three outdoor baths. One huge bath built into a rock with a rock bottom, which easily sat 15-20 happy bathers, a very large foot onsen (long and shallow for feet soaking only) and another smaller outdoor bath also set in rocks. There was also a wet steam room and a place outside where a lot of women were lying down on tatami mats just resting. They looked pretty damn comfortable so I lied down too. I covered up just a little bit out of respect. My top was exposed but my bottom was partially hidden. Public nudity is not a big deal in Japan at all. People were not flaunting their nakedness, but they were not prude about it either. It just seemed really, really chill and very natural.
After about 90 minutes, Andy and I met up in the restaurant and we enjoyed some beverages. Then we used the massage chairs to end our day. The massage chairs were about $1 for 15 minutes. A real steal!
We’re going to check out more onsen/sentos in Fukuoka for sure, especially since it’s so cheap. This particular onses is also open until 3 AM (although the price goes up in the evening) so maybe we will pay a late night visit one night.
BEST BUY ON STEROIDS x 10
Yesterday we went to Yodobashi Camera which is a chain store in Japan. We’ve been to Yodobashi Camera before in Osaka and it was great fun so we went again. I don’t think I can possibly describe it except to say it’s Best Buy on steroids x 10 combined with the largest Target you’ve ever seen in your life, combined with the a gigantic Sporting Goods Store, combined with a gigantic Walmart. It was five, or maybe even six gigantic floors of fun. It had everything one would need (with the exception of clothes and food staples). In the market for a telescope? Washing machine? Fridge? Need a new Iphone or Android? Camping gear? Rice cooker? Robot floor sweeper? Day planner? Wireless speaker or perhaps a new watch? Luggage? It was mind-boggling to see just what they had there. Furthermore, they didn’t have a small selection of anything. They had a huge, enormous selections of everything. Take rice cookers for example, they must have had 75 models of rice cookers ranging in price from $25 to $1,500.
We went to Yodbashi Camera to eat lunch at a sushi restaurant on floor five and it did not disappoint. The fifth floor featured maybe seven or eight high-quality restaurants serving many different types of food.
The sushi restaurant was super fun. We sat in front of IPADS with a touchscreen and ordered sushi in English. Remember the Jetsons cartoon? That’s what eating sushi at Yodbashi Camera was like. After we ordered, the sushi was delivered to us on a huge track (jetted out from the kitchen) and an electronic sensor made the tray of sushi stop exactly in front of us. Once we took the sushi off the tray, we pressed a flashing button in the Ipad and the sensor moved and jetted the tray back to the kitchen.
If you want to watch a video of the sushi delivery process, you can find it here. Stick with it, it gets off to a slow start.
It came out on a track from the kitchen and an electronic sensor was used to deliver our order right to us. We were stuffed when we left an it only cost about $23. After we finished lunch, we went to the first floor and found the high-end massage chairs (average price $5,000) and we both had a nice long lie down. There were about 10 chairs and most of them were empty. We stayed for about 20 minutes. If I were rich, I would immediately go out and buy one of these chairs. I got quite a good massage and my back and shoulders feel great.
Onsen part 3
Andy and I visited this very, very cool art onsen last week! It was probably the most interesting onsen we’ve ever visited. It wasn’t fancy and it didn’t have any bells and whistles, but we really loved the artwork and the fact that it was decorated in such a cool style. This bath didn’t have any outdoor space but I enjoyed my soak anyway.
Onsen part 4
Today we visited another onsen, but first we went to a festival celebrating tamago, a type of Japanese egg. It was a small festival and it wasn’t anything to write home about. After the festival, we walked across the street to try a new onsen and it was really, really nice. It was very crowded because of the Japanese holiday but people were relaxed and the onsen temperature was nice. Plus, it was raining out so we enjoyed the outdoor hot tubs in the rain. There were a lot of parents who brought their children with them today and it was super cool to see everyone enjoying spending time together in the baths. Everything was segregated by sex, but there was one 4 year old boy with his mom running around.
This onsen had a nice restaurant inside it and a pretty large store where you could buy drinks, snacks and a lot of Japanese gifts. After our onsen, Andy enjoyed some chocolate milk and I ate some strawberries. It was very relaxing.
Let me end this post by telling you about two rules Andy and I broke today at the onsen. They were small rules, so it wasn’t a big deal, but Andy and I both chuckled about them when we met up again to enjoy a beverage after our bath.
- I entered the onsen lobby and removed my shoes and put them in a shoe locker. This is typical lobby behavior. Then I put on a pair of sandals/slippers to walk around the onsen lobby. 5 seconds later, a staff member came running after me telling me to take them off. I’m not exactly sure why, but I surmise they belonged to the staff to either wear outdoors or to wear while cleaning the entry way. Big mistake on my part. The whole shoe off and shoe changing culture is very difficult to get a handle on if you are not used to it. If you didn’t grow up in Japan or in another Asian country with these practices, it’s hard to comprehend. You are bound to break the shoe rule. The Japanese are used to foreigners making tons of shoe errors, but I really don’t like making them.
The worst shoe error I ever made was in Japan on my second trip here. I was staying at a traditional Japanese hotel and I wore my gym shoes back to my room and walked on a tatami mat (I forgot I even had shoes on) and the staff member at the hotel looked like she was going to pass out when she saw me. She started staring at my feet and she turned all red. I quickly looked down and then I felt awful. I immediately removed my shoes and bowed like a crazy person to show her how sorry I was.
2. Error two. Before entering the baths and while soaping up, Andy took off his onsen wristband which is basically an electronic bracelet you can use to pay for drinks, food, and other sundries. It’s waterproof, but he decided to take it off anyway. He left it in the shower area and while in the outdoor bath he remembered it wasn’t on him. He raced back to the area and the man who was showering next to him, had put it aside for him and happily gave it back.
We’ve got about 3.5 weeks left in our Asian adventure. I will write again soon.