August 9, 2006

This morning my friend, Xan and I had massages in a fancy Japanese hotel overlooking the ocean. This was my first Japanese massage and there were some "interesting" moments. To start with we were each given a robe and a pair of disposable panties (the only other time I have ever been given a pair of those was after giving birth) . The massage was pretty relaxing except for a few painful pressure points and the shiatsu style hammering. Luckily a friend had warned me about the fact that the massage would be a "full" body massage, but it was still pretty suprising to have my front massaged as thoroughly as my back. And just after I was recovering from that experience, the massage therapist announced that the massage was over and started to run a shower in the corner of the room. She then escorted my naked and uncomfortable self over to the shower. I stood in the shower wondering if she would be waiting there when I got out and was relieved when she wasn't. I felt so exposed in front of her.

I realized while I was standing in the shower that I have returned to my American standards of modesty and discomfort with nudity. My first real experience with being totally naked with strangers was in a Turkish bath house in Istanbul. I imagined a Turkish bath house would be a place with soaking pools, but it wasn't. Instead it was a beautiful old stone room with a large raised marble platroom in the middle of a very hot and steamy room. I was led into the room completely naked except for a small towel. Not sure what to do next and immediatedly feeling a little faint with the intense heat and steam I joined the other naked women lying on the platform. After what seemed an eternity and when I was feeling very sweaty and light headed, a door opened on the other side of the room and several large women in underwear came into the room with buckets and sponges. They then proceeded to wash, exfoliate, and massage each of us. Now when I say large women...imagine female sumo wrestlers...only Turkish instead of Japanese. I think I was so delirious from the heat that being bathed and massaged by a large naked woman in a room full of other naked strangers didn't send me bolting from the room. It was one of the most surreal, but relaxing experiences I have ever had.

Later that year I moved to Japan where I was introduced to the wonderful world of Japanese onsens (hot spring bathing) . After my Turkish bath experience, I wasn't quite as shocked to enter a room of naked strangers (women, except for one time when a friend and I accidentally wandered into a men's soaking area) but this time there really were soaking pools. I loved visiting the Japanese onsens and started going to the one in my small town on a weekly basis. I loved soaking in the hot water and leaving the bath house feeling clean, relaxed, and rejuvenated. Another thing I liked about the onsens was the realization that when everyone is naked they all have flaws. It is a strangely equalizing and freeing experience.
Ann said...

So I don't know if I could do that. I guess if that's the custom you get used to it. But I'd feel like everyone was staring at me...

The Solley Five said...

oh! i went to that bathhouse in turkey too!!! only i had the totally nude woman with a huge purple scar through her belly and we used facial expressions to discuss having babies..before i'd had any. laying on the heated stone is the best bit!

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