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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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« ryokan feast | Main | kyoto arrival »

japanese bath

(continuation of a multi-part Blathering, begin here)

Wednesday, September 5th (cont'd)

We were greeted at the ryokan by two older women. One was obviously a manager-type; the other was a maid. We took our shoes off and were each given a pair of slippers to wear inside the ryokan, then the maid took the luggage Jeff had been carrying and led us to our room. Jeff later said he felt very strange letting a small elderly woman in a kimono lug our suitcase down the hallway and up the stairs. Neither of us were confident enough to wrest the suitcase away from her, however...she didn't speak any English, and was clearly used to doing this.

Upon entering our room, we were instructed to take off our slippers before stepping on the tatami mats (Alison had also warned us to do this before we left). There was a small bathroom with a tub (VERY deep tub, yay!), shower, sink, and one of the über-toilets I had seen in Tokyo's Akihabera (see photo later on this page). The maid also showed us a small closet which also contained yukata (light cotton summer kimonos) and obi, socks (the kind with two toes, not sure of the proper name), toiletries set, towel. The main space was divided into two areas: a larger one that was obviously meant as the main room, and a smaller one divided from the former by a shoji (sliding rice paper screen).

The main room had a low black table as the main piece of furniture. Two zabuton (cushions) were provided on zaisu (legless chairs) beside the table. In one corner of the room were two woven chairs (either chairs or low tables; Jeff and I never figured out which), and in another corner was a vase containing artificial flowers. There was also a television and a rotary dial phone, neither of which we used during our stay (well, we did try out the tv out of curiosity, but could only find a few snowy stations).

The smaller room had a small, legless vanity table (see photo; there was a cushion in front for kneeling) with a mirror, two small drawers, and a number of containers of lotions I couldn't identify except for a moisturizer. Two were Shiseido products, one with the English words "Hair Tonic" and the other "Hair Liquid". If any of you know what these are, I'd love to know. :-) My guess is that the Shiseido products are for men, perhaps for before and after shaving.

At the other end of the room hung a piece of Japanese artwork, and a low bench with a single empty vase on it. I had read in several "Ryokan Tips For Foreigners" that this was NOT for storage of any kind.

After turning on the air conditioning, the maid poured us two cups of green tea and also gave us each a Japanese sweet cookie of some kind. She left a laquered container beside the table with a thermos of hot water and more tea leaves.

After getting changed, we decided to take a bath. Alison had told us to try the public bath rather than the one in our room, so we asked the front desk. They told us it would be ready in about ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, we were downstairs in the public bath room. It was a small area separated into two rooms. The first contained a sink and a number of storage bins for our clothes and other belongings. After getting undressed (we were wearing our yukatas, since we had been told it was okay to wear them around the ryokan even outside our room), we went into the other room, which contained the tub.

I assume the wooden tub was traditional Japanese style. The maid had filled it to the brim with hot water, with the hot water tap left on to just a trickle. As warned by the guidebooks and others, we washed ourselves before getting into the tub. Sounds weird to Westerners, I know, having to wash before taking a bath, but it's the norm in traditional Japanese households. Everyone uses the same bathwater, so after finishing our bath, we knew NOT to drain it. There was a sign with these instructions in English in the outer room as well.

It took some fiddling with the faucet controls before Jeff figured out how to turn them on (the instructions were all in Japanese). I had left my glasses in the other room, so was useless in helping out. He did figure it out, however, and we washed up, making sure every bit of soap was off before getting it the tub.

The bath was WONDERFUL. Very hot water (guidebooks warned about this as well)...the trick is to get in slowly and then not move around very much. The tub is much deeper than it looks in the picture at the top...part of it is embedded in the floor. Jeff and I could both fit, with some minor maneouvering.

By the time we got out, put on our yukatas, and went back up to our rooms, we were both feeling incredibly relaxed. And a little hungry. :-)

Next: ryokan feast!

Today's Blatherpics:

- Me and a Japanese-style tub.

- Small room that was separated from the main room with a shoji.

- Controls for the toilet (!). Yes, I felt compelled to try all of them. :-)

- Our slippers in the ryokan. Jeff kept cursing his because they slipped off his feet a lot. Personally, I'm amazed that they fit him at all!

- The other half of the room with the Japanese tub. The faucets are for washing before taking a bath. Shampoo and body soap in the corner. The wooden benches and pails are also for washing.

- Main area of our ryokan room.

Today's Poll: (courtesy Alison George)

Have you checked the batteries in your fire alarm recently?

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