Jan 15, 2014

The Japanese and the Art of going Dip Dip Dip !

In many ways, Japan still remains a mystery to the rest of the world.
For here, the ancient and the modern not only coexist but seem to do so in great harmony. The land of the rising Sun is as comfortable with its bullet trains and cutting edge technology as it is with Zen and Geishas.
Japan has a unique culture, with its own peculiarities and quirks that seem natural to the Japanese but intrigue and surprise all foreigners.
Through my 'Japan and I' series, I attempt to talk about the Japan I saw and experienced!

Previous posts on the series can be read Here. 

Today we talk about the Japanese and the Art of Going Dip Dip Dip. But is it really about what you think? Read on to find out ! 

If you have come here looking for a post about Japan and the art of making Tea you are in for a disappointment. This post is about another dip dip dip that the Japanese like to indulge in. The Hot water bath! 

The Japanese take their baths very very seriously. I am sure so does the majority of the human population who wants to maintain a certain level of hygiene, but the Japanese make soaking in the humble bath tub almost an art form.

The first time I stayed in a Japanese home was during my university trip to Japan. The orientation that was given to us about the Homestay had one whole hour dedicated to Bathroom etiquettes.

The Japanese don’t shower in the mornings but most of their evenings are devoted to spending time in the tub where they unwind and try to get into a Zen like state of Nirvana. Japanese homes usually have just one bathroom so the whole family shares the same bath tub. The tub is filled with piping hot water and then one by one the family members go in to have their bath. Now if you are a bumbling foreigner, this is where you need to be careful. Instead of plonking yourself straight into the Bath Tub, you have to get under the shower first, scrub the grime of the day off you and only then get in the tub. 

The catch here that once you are out of the tub, you are not supposed to let the water out. Most foreigners are fooled into thinking that their host has solicitously filled the tub only for them without realizing that the same water will be used by all family members. The Japanese bath tub is not used for bathing but strictly for soaking oneself, so using soap while you are in the tub is also a No No. 

There is no dearth of water in Japan but the logic is since a person has already cleaned himself under the shower the water is not contaminated by the germs of his body so the same water can be used by the next person.

Also, the Japanese like their water really hot. I have known people to get in a Japanese Bath humming to themselves and then jump out like a scalded cat the next moment.

For someone like me who doesn’t even swim because I can’t stand being in the same water as so many people, the mere thought of getting into bath water used by others was petrifying. Luckily, the guest is always offered the chance to use the Bath first and needless to say I never refused!

Japan also has a large number of natural hot water springs or “Onsen” as they are called in Japanese. Most of the onsens are in the mountains or in areas with spectacular natural beauty and this is where majority of the ‘Onsen Ryokan’ or ‘Japanese style Hot spring Inns are located. The Onsen Ryokan is a marvellous concept where the Japanese have combined their love for nature and a hot water bath. They are considered as peaceful and tranquil getaways where one goes to indulge oneself in the greatest form of relaxation known to the Japanese –Soaking in Hot Water.

The hot water springs also have strict Bathing etiquettes. The first and the most stringent rule is that one is not allowed inside the hot spring with any clothes on. Yes, you read that right! Though the hot spring is open to public you need to be totally au naturel before you get in. There are even notice boards reminding you to take off your swim suit or bathing trunks.

Most of the hot springs have separate sections for men and women but the Japanese are a race without much inhibitions and they don’t think twice before stripping in front of a whole lot of strangers. For foreigners though, this can be painfully embarrassing. But once you get over your initial modesty the Onsen experience is one not to be missed in Japan. The water has natural minerals with restorative powers and since the hot water spring is in beautiful natural surroundings, you literally are nestled in the lap of nature while you soak in the bubbling hot water.

The Japanese use their time in the water for quiet contemplation so there is hardly any conversation around. It’s like being in a library sans any books and of course with nudity! 

A Japanese Hot Spring

44 comments:

  1. Just the perfect post for the winters :P Such a lovely pic that!

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    1. Yes, hot water springs are just perfect in winters. I am glad you liked the post Swaram.

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  2. That was a great post! The perfect blend of information and humour, while also being absolutely respectful of another people's customs and traditions.
    The only thing sorely missed were the pictures of nude people!

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    1. Haa Ha Rickie ! Now we wouldn't want this space to be classified as Adult would we !

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  3. Well, well, well, pause for indrawn breath, well well well. This I did not know

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    1. Ritu :-P Would be worth a visit No ?

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  4. Well well, what do you know ? You learn something new everyday. And this was delightful :) I mean, as someone who likes travelling and learning about new custom and people, this is as good as it gets! Lovely post

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    1. Thank you. i am glad you enjoyed the post.

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  5. I love your Japanese series. Enjoyed this one immensely. Now a lot of Manga and TV series make sense, thank you Ruchira :-)

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    1. I am so happy that you enjoy the series. Makes me feel motivated to write more about Japan. Manga coming up soon !

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  6. Well,well, well well! You don't say! I am not getting into that bath tub unless I am guest numero uno if I am ever in Japan. :D :D
    And the hot springs actually sound divine. Nature, and natural.

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    1. The hot springs are divine ! Its a fabulous experience ! And as for the bath at home, I always ensured I was the first person in !

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  7. Some how when you mentioned Dip Dip Dip...it was the bath I thought of. But, this is unique, for me at least. I have had a dip in the hot water spring and I know it can be quite rejuvenating.

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    1. Yes, Janu it is very rejuvenating.

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  8. On one of the coldest days here yet, you remind me of taking a bath! :P

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    1. A hot water bath takes away the cold Aks :-)

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  9. Hey! Your "Japan & I" series is getting more and more interesting! Enjoying it thoroughly! Keep continuing till all the information that you have on Japan, is exhausted! ;)

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    1. I am glad you are enjoying the series Bhavika. Motivates me to write more.

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  10. the thought of a dip in this weather and I had a scorn on my face... which went away by the end of the post! :D

    the one hot water spring I have had a dip in Manali was wonderful though only the water felt wonderful, otherwise its too crowded and kinda not so appealing crowds! :P :P and I am not sure in which century will India be as uninhibited as Japan! :) *evil*

    This is first hand info about Japan and a wonderful post! :D

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    1. I am sure the hot water springs in Manali are nothing like the ones in Japan !

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  11. While I read this, all I could think of was a dear friend who visited Japan and the ONSEN! This just got the details a whole lot clearer. But, I am NOT getting into that bath tub. First or not................*Shudders*

    Nice to have you back, Ruch. Don't get lost now!

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  12. I heard abt ONSEN but may never be able to enter in to it. Ya I Will use it if am the only person using it :D and that library sans any books and of course with nudity! == made me smile :)
    Good to know about this dip;)
    Good to have u bakc

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    1. Thanks Afshan. Its good to be back.

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  13. Ruchira, I. SIMPLY. LOVED. THIS.

    You surpass yourself with each Japan and I post. This one was wondrously woven to let the light of a graceful people shine through. Lyrical in thought and execution. Such a pleasure to read!

    Bless you!

    Dagny

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    1. I am so glad you enjoy the series Dagny. This motivates to write more about Japan. I really love the place and I guess it shows through my posts !

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  14. I had seen a TV travel show where they talked about Onsen, but the home dip thing, wow , the japanese sure take perfection & art into everything!!!

    nice write up!!

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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    1. Yes everything for them is art. Even the humble Bath !

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  15. Oh I found my love for hot baths from anime :D So many of them have wonderful scenes of just being there in hot steaming water, with all your cares simmering away with the steam vapors

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  16. What a lovely post, Ruch! Very interesting and almost all the details I didn't know. But yuck, clean or not all the people using the same bath tub water is weird. The hot water springs sound so wonderful but come with the catch of going buck naked. I think it will be very hard for me if I travel to Japan :). Look forward to the next one in this series.

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    1. Thank you Rachna. So happy you enjoy the series. One gets used to the Hot water springs after a while :-P

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  17. I had heard several amusing tales about common bathing cubicles in Tokyo, where nudity is not really an issue. And yet this post had several interesting nuggets to dip in. :)

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  18. Thanks Alka. Glad you liked it !

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  19. Japs are ver easy going humans.
    Well,hot water springs?Nudity?
    YEH KYA Ho RAHA Hai

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  20. I've read about onsens, but never knew about all using the same bath tub. Hmm..but this one is much hygienic than using the same swimming pool, considering one showers before getting into the Japanese bath tub! Japanese people sure know how to live well, and live right!

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    1. I still wldnt find it hygienic enough Anu :-P

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  21. Something tells me that an uninhibited dip into lovely warm water after a whole day's work is done will be so full of pleasure that it will make you forget that someone else before you sought a similar Nirvana. And put in natural settings, will even make the trees shed all their fig leaves.
    I must try this.
    In the mean time, very wonderfully, you have skirted telling us how the 'guest-goes-first' dip was? :D

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  22. will even make the trees shed all their fig leaves.
    well said Sakshi !

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  23. Wow! Who would have thunk?!! Never knew about either custom and it's a delight to read your description about both!
    One of our friends, who is a Caucasian with a Japanese wife, did tell us about this 'unfortunate-to-him' requirement of bathing at night. He was used to a shower in the morning but had to change the habit because she would otherwise not let him in bed! :)

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  24. This is so weirdly interesting!! :P I'll have to make sure that I am the first one to go for this dip dip in a Japanese home!! :D

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