|Finally, I spotted a janitor. I approached him. "Sumimasen, Tookyoo onsen doko deska?" He looked up, smiled at me, took me by the arm and dragged me along. He took me halfway across the station and pointed down a flight of stairs. Above the stairs was a picture of the sky with steamy clouds floating by and some hirigana (Japanese) lettering. Without the janitorís help I would never have found the place. I bowed and said "Domo arigato." He smiled and turned back to his work.
I went down the steps and walked inside. What now? I walked up to the desk and right away a Japanese man jumped up gesturing wildly at my feet and saying something I could not understand. Then a light came on. Oh yeah, I have to take my shoes off first. He gave me a key to a locker and I put my shoes in there and locked them up. I walked to the counter. No one in the place spoke any English at all. So, it was up to me. I knew the two words I needed to say: "Onsen. Shiatsu." They worked like a magical incantation. The attendant didnít bat an eyelid. He pulled out his invoice pad and wrote a bill for 4500 yen ($35.00). I paid and he gave me a numbered key that I could use to lock up my wallet. I stood there. He pointed to a door so I went through it.
Inside I was in a locker room. Now, I should know what to do in a locker room, but I could not decide which locker to use. I stood there. A woman came up and led me by the arm to the locker that matched the number on my key.
|I realized I was getting the hang of Japan. It had nothing to do with being able to speak the language. In Japan everyone has to fit in. If you do not look like you fit in, someone will come along to help you find your spot. All you have to do is look like you are lost where you should clearly not be lost!
I got undressed and changed into some cute little shorts. I stood there and looked stupid again, so someone pointed me to stairs that led to the bath.
Now you have to understand that I had never been in a Japanese bathhouse before and I had only the roughest idea of what protocol and etiquette was involved. But there was one thing I certainly knew.
In Japan before you take a bath you must wash yourself. The bath is not for bathing, but for soaking. So, I joined some of the other Japanese men at the "washing sinks," scrubbed myself clean and headed to the bath. Now if you have been paying attention you might have already been thinking what I was asking myself at this point: "Do you wear the shorts into the tub or do without?" I opted for naked since it seemed foolish to me to wear shorts in a bathtub, communal or otherwise. Nobody seemed to notice so I thought I made the right decision.