My first Onsen 2012年7月17日

Kalpana Karkee

I came to Japan 6 months after my husband. Initially, I seemed to encounter a couple of culture shocks. Because I did not know any Japanese, it was a big challenge to communicate with people. It was especially difficult on the phone because it was not use gestures to help me communicate. Sometimes when the phone rang, I was so scared to pick it up because whoever was on the other side starts with Moshi—Moshi.
Oh My God, komatta, komatta.
I remember putting chilli powder in miso siru because, I found food so bland. I am sure I was doing many other things that must have been unusual in Japanese customs.

After few days, I met another Nepali friend who had come to Japan about three months before me. She told me about Onsen. She had heard about the Japanese hot springs from her friends but did not have a chance to experience it yet. I was not aware of Onsen culture of Japan. She explained everything she knew about hot spring and finally told me “ I heard cloths are not allowed inside the tub. We have to take off all our cloths”

I was shocked. “What? What do you mean can’t wear anything? We can wear under garments right?”
“I don’t think so”, She replied.
“Do you mean we have to be naked?” I could not believe her and I did not believe what she said. Uso desyo….
“Well that’s what I heard” she tried to explain. She was also not sure. How can you be naked in a public bath on front of so many people. Arienai….
In my culture – it is totally impossible. Hazukashii yo..
No way. Too embarrassing.

So, we decided to go to the Onsen and see for ourselves how it worked. Ettai doyate . .. .
The Venue or Butai was the famous Akiu Onsen. We took bath towels in case we decide to enter the tub. We are not going to be naked there, at any rate.
We paid the entrance fee and entered the ladies side. As we entered the room we froze by the scenario of the room.
We stood there speechless, frozen and embarrassed.
OH MY GOD!!! My jaws dropped, it was a huge shock of my life.
What is this? I did not want to believe my friend, but she was right.
Yaap! Everyone is walking naked, talking to each other. I had never seen any scenario like this in my entire life. Finally, I came back to the reality and looked at my friend’s face. She was still in a shock mode.
“ What do we do now?”
Well, we were at the hot spring already so decided to join the crowd. Somehow, we went to the bathroom to take off our cloths and wrapped the huge bath towels very tight around. I think we took a shower and slowly entered in the hot tub. We noticed that people are looking at us, which made us very uncomfortable. Still people are looking at us. .. Ziro—Ziro .We thought may be because we are the only gaijins here so they are staring at us.
Finally, an elderly lady told something to us in Japanese which I did not understand and looked at my friend. She looked at me and whispered “the lady said we can’t use towels inside the tub’,
I whispered back to her “ in that case, ignore her, pretended as if we don’t know Japanese. Siranfuri….siranfuri simasyo.
We turned our back to those ladies and did not look at them at all.
We were so conscious of our surrounding and people, we had no idea whether our first experience of the Onsen was fun or not.
But, now I love this amazing Onsen culture. Always enjoy hot springs. No need of the big bath towel, small is fine. My husband and I have visited most of the Onsens in Akita and Yamagata prefecture.
Aaaa- America ni mo onsen ga attara yokatta desu ne.

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