A people person
The advice on ‘surviving’ a Japanese onsen [ March 2018, issue 184] came rather too late for us. Both my husband and I travel extensively and make an effort to observe local customs. To mark our silver anniversary, we visited Japan and Australia with our son and daughter. And while staying in a ryokan (inn) in Nikko, we were very careful to remove our outdoor shoes when in our room, to change into ‘toilet shoes’ when needed, and to remove our indoor shoes before stepping onto the tatami mat.
Each morning, four yukatas (casual kimonos) were brought to our room and ceremoniously placed on the floor in size order, their bows tied immaculately at the front. Our son took great pride in doing as the Japanese men did and wore his yukata outside in the evenings.
Then, it was time to try out the ryokan’s gender-segregated thermal baths. My husband and son were each given a large and a small towel, with the changingroom attendant indicating that only the latter should be taken to the baths. Assuming these were to cover their private parts, they confidently entered the baths clutching their towels firmly to keep them in place, only to find the Japanese men languishing in the hot water, towels on heads! Apparently, the Japanese soak them in cold water and place them on their heads to keep cool whereas the English prefer to protect their modesty! Vanessa Smith, Huddersfield