April 9th, 2010

Day 81.  The Shinkansen bullet train can transport you instantly to any destination in Japan, well not quite, but its still pretty quick at over 300km per hour.  Getting on the train should have its own instruction manual as the whole process is filled with idiosyncracies from the parade of little pink cleaning ladies with white gloves who rush on and polish the carriages before you’re allowed to get on, to lining yourself up neatly at a designated spot where your carriage will be.  Once on the train, the conductors are so courteous that they bow each time they enter or exit the carriage.  Everybody buys their own perfectly packaged bento box before boarding the train and has lunch at their seat.  This is one of the few times (outside a restaurant) where the Japanese are comfortable eating in public.  The other notable exception is picnics under a cherry blossom.

The fast train

Pink ladies line up to board the train and give it a spring clean

Bento on the train

On arriving in Kyoto, we checked into a Japanese Style room at our Ryokan, a Japanese style inn.  We were each given Japanese yukata robes, a bath towel and small flannel.  We were then advised on the use of the public bathing facilities.

Fetching yukata robes

Bathing in hot water is a popular and serious pastime in Japan.  The aim is not to clean oneself (this is done before entering the bath) rather it is for relaxation, much like a sauna.  The correct bathing procedure is as follows:

  1. Arrive at the changing area of the single sex bathing facility in the robe provided with one towel and one flannel.
  2. Fully undress, make a vague attempt to cover your private parts with the small flannel and enter the bathing area.
  3. Choose one of the washing stations which line the walls and rinse the body well.
  4. Enter the hot bath, nodding to others already in the bath, and relax.
  5. As soon as you’re ready, return to the washing station to soap yourself and have a good scrub with the flannel.
  6. Fully rinse off the soap and return to the bath to soak once again.
  7. Leave the bath and rinse at the washing station.
  8. Wring out the flannel as much as possible then make an attempt to dry yourself with it.
  9. Return to the changing area, dry yourself with the proper towel, dress then leave.

Note 1: Vaguely attempt to cover private parts with small flannel while entering and exiting the water.

Note 2: Never put the flannel in the water.  Either leave it at the side of the bath or put it on your head.

The public bath is open until 1am and we get the impression that the right time to have a bath is sometime after a good meal with a good deal of sake.  We happily obliged.

Goodnight wishes with origami

2 Responses to “Kyoto”

  1. aseema misra says:

    how did you enjoy the hot baths??
    i quite enjoyed it – Tony chickened out !!

    • Annie & Safe says:

      Really enjoyed the baths.. We even took the outside communal naked bathing option..!

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