When it comes to mixed bathing in public, it is an experience that perhaps most of us are unfamiliar with. In many respects the aspect of unfamiliarity is only just the beginning; acting naturally around not only strangers, but those of the opposite-sex — whilst baring all, no less — is undeniably something that requires great courage! It is with such bravery that our female reporter, Tomoe, entered into a Japanese “konyoku” to experience what all the fuss was about first hand!
“Admittedly, the male bathers’ glances were something that played on my mind a little, however this in itself had its own element of fascination,” admits Tomoe.
The hot spring region that our reporter visited goes by the name of “Okuhidaonsengou”. In this region, there are numerous hot spring buildings, called ‘kan’ in Japanese. Our reporter visited the “suimeikan” which is located in the Gifu prefecture. This is reported to be the largest open-air hot spring, in which up to 250 people can enter at once!
With such open-air enormity, it is fair to say that any fears of not having a place to bathe can be dispelled!
Don’t forget your ‘wrap towel’! If you do, it may prove a little embarrassing!
When first entering the hot spring, you need to go to the check in. Here you pay an 800 yen (US$9.40) admission fee. At this point, particularly worth noting is that for all the female bathers out there, forgetting the rental of a ‘wrap towel’ can prove fatal! This may seem like a trivial matter but when entering the hot spring, renting a towel designed to cover the fundamental parts will save the embarrassment of bearing absolutely everything to members of the opposite sex! If you forget to rent a towel, you will have to use your own towel, which, if you failed to bring, could lead to potential awkwardness. On the other hand, for the men out there, a single hand towel seems to do an adequate job. For those of you who have heard this and thought “so what about bringing a bathing costume?”, the sad news is that only towels are permitted into this establishment.
“Most of the bathers are either dating or married couples”
Next, after finalizing the details at check in, it’s off to the “konyoku” hotspring! Our reporter got naked and, after securing the ‘wrap towel’ around herself, proceeded to the open air bath, otherwise known as “rotenburo”. So just what were her initial impressions? Moreover, just what type of people actually frequent such a place?
As Tomoe looked around restlessly, it was apparent that most of the bathers were couples; perhaps a reassuring sign. The occasional single man could also be seen bathing alone, which in the company of what is mostly couples, leaves little to the imagination as to why he would stand out. Our reporter reflects that such a feeling of conspicuity may raise an element of anxiety among the single male bathers as well. In this sense, perhaps both parties can’t help but feel a little awkward. If you want to save unwanted embarrassment, it sounds like going as a couple is the best bet!
Hold on, what was the point of the towel?!
If you thought that the ‘wrap towel’ was sufficient in completely covering the female figure, think again! Likewise, although the men conceal themselves with a hand towel, strictly speaking most of the men are completely naked! Tomoe, on first entering, tried her attempts at not to notice the men by her completely in the buff, but admits that in such circumstances, “your line of sight naturally drifts in that direction.” Whilst the women are not completely naked, after bathing in the ‘wrap towel’, the women’s body lines become transparent. Our reporter admits that this creates a sense of sexiness. She adds that the body line can be distinctly seen and the figure from the rear is particularly striking. It seems that although the ‘wrap towel’ goes some way in hiding the essential parts, it is not by all means full proof!
Foreign couple, maybe a little too frank?
Whilst bathing in the “konyoku”, our reporter was startled by one particular scene; although Japanese bathers carried their towels with them, the surrounding couples from abroad were completely naked, and seemed not in the least bit ashamed to bear all. It is often thought that visitors to Japan are a little hesitant about entering completely starkers into such a public place, and in this vain, for a moment, Tomoe found herself losing sight of the true foreigner.
The men bear all!
It would seem that for anyone bathing in the outdoor baths, the men’s changing room is completely on show. Of course, taking a peep would be a breach of public etiquette…
The reporter of this article asked a male visitor his views on “konyoku”.
Reporter: “What do you think about mixed bathing?”
Male visitor: “This is my first time to come to such a place and to be honest it’s made me realize what a novice I am. A hot spring is a place to heal and relax the body, a place to reduce unwanted fatigue, but coming here has only made me nervous and fidgety. I feel like I’m unable to enjoy the basic fundamentals of the hot spring experience. Wicked thoughts come into my mind; I feel like a despicable, deplorable man. I think I need to start over again!”
After this comment, the interviewee fled into the distance never to be seen again!!!!
So what do you guys think? Has our reporter’s experience made you feel even just a little bit inclined to venture into the realms of “konyoku”? On a concluding note, we have one very important piece of advice; it is probably safer not to come here on a double date. I think you all know the reason behind that!