We had talked about spending the day in Nara seeing the Dai Butsu, the huge statue of Buddha, as well as the Deer Park which surrounds it, but Brennan had wanted to sleep in at least one day this week and Trudy woke up not feeling like walking for long distances. Since the family wasn’t all awake and ready to do something until 10 am or so, and since getting to Nara involved a 90 minute train ride, as well as lots of walking, we opted for a different plan. We tried to think of something fun and unique that Trudy wouldn’t mind if she missed. We came up with a perfect idea- the three of us (Justin, Brennan, and me) decided to head to the public bath! But first Justin and I walked to Kohnan to get a few household items for Trudy so she would be set for the day, since she was planning to do laundry. We ate a quick lunch of manju and pizza and then the three of us headed to Ishibashi Station. Once we got to Umeda, we switched to the subway and headed to the closest stop to Spa World. All the information I had from my guidebook of Japan, however, was the name of the subway stop as well as a note that it was near the “Festival Gate”. Getting off the subway, we found that we were able to find the Festival Gate without a problem, we then looked at a map on a kiosk until we had located Spa World.
I paid the1000 yen a piece to get into the bath house (a special price they happened to be running for the day) and then received an arm band as well as a piece of paper with English instructions on it. The armband ended up being for charging items within the building to our tab (since we would no longer be carrying cash on us). First, we took off our shoes and put them in a locker on the ground floor. Then, we put our valuables in a different locker that we could only get into by correctly giving my name and telephone number. Finally, we headed to the 6th floor to the Asian continent. Spa World had two floors with public baths on them, one themed for Asia, the other themed for Europe. The floors were alternated between men and women each month. For the month of July, men could use the Asia rooms. Inside the men’s locker room, we picked up small orange towels and got our third locker for the day, in which we put our clothes. Each room on the Asia floor was designed to represent a different country; the first (Turkey, I think) had a large pool in the middle of the room with lion heads along the wall that had water pouring from their mouths.
Brennan was a little weirded out by the whole thing, and kept his towel wrapped securely around himself, but Justin and I didn’t really give it a second thought. Brennan became more comfortable as time went on but would have really preferred being clothed in front of the hundreds of naked Japanese men (as well as girls up to age 7 or so) who were bathing in the facility. The Japanese don’t have quite the same hang ups that Americans do about nudity. It was not unusual for families to take baths together at home, a practice that is not considered weird or dirty like it is in America. Young children of either sex were allowed in both sets of baths on both the men’s and women’s floor. The other rooms had a variety of other baths: India had massage baths and a sauna where one rubbed salt on one’s skin, China had a medicinal bath, there was also a steam room and an outdoor area (surrounded by a wall) with stone hot tubs.
After a couple of hours, we were in need of refreshment, so we headed to the communal 3rd floor. As we exited the men’s locker room, we donned yukata, cloth garments which resembled pajamas, to walk throughout the rest of the building. On the third floor, we sat on tatami mats at traditional Japanese tables and ate sushi as well as chicken katsu. Women were all wearing pink yukata, while men all had on blue ones. We charged our meal to my armband so I could pay for it on the way out. After a short break, we were ready to hit the pool. Back in the men’s locker room, we rented swimming suits to go to the communal 8th floor where they had water slides, a lazy river, more hot tubs, and a water squirting contraption like what we have seen in America, where a big bucket of water that fills up and then dumps its contents on the people below. All of this was on the enclosed top floor of the building, with large windows that looked out onto Osaka. We spent a couple more hours in the pool area and then were ready to move on.
We stopped at Mos Burger for dinner, it doesn’t sound really good but was one of the better fast food chains. Brennan had Indian chicken on naan (Indian bread), Justin had a teriyaki burger, and I had a kinpira rice burger (sautéed vegetables between two rice patties). Afterwards, we went next door to get ice cream. Justin had two scoops of cheese cake ice cream (of course), but Brennan was eyeing a flavor called azuki. We asked if he could taste it, but the lady behind the counter didn’t understand- so he just ordered it, along with a scoop of chocolate chip on top. Azuki is apparently the red bean paste that finds its way into many Japanese desserts- Brennan thought it was quite good, but Justin was slightly disgusted by the thought.
I needed to put the original H4 DNA into bacteria for use the following day, so the boys and I next took the train to the Kita-Senri Station and walked to my office. We called Trudy from there to assure her we were ok, since by now it was 9 pm. I finished with my work within an hour and we rode the monorail home, arriving at Shibahara Station about 10:30. It started to rain as we walked home from the station, but we didn’t mind- we had already bathed together once that day, a little extra shower couldn’t hurt at that point.