Friday, September 14, 2012

The Onsen as Social Lubricant

Kitagawa Village Onsen in Kochi 
   Getting naked could well be called Japan`s national pastime. Across the country in any one day, there must be many thousands of people who disrobe, bathe and casually chat with their fellow onsen-users as they soak away the day`s stress and sweat.
   The thought of talking to complete strangers while naked is an alien concept to many non-Japanese people, but here it is completely normal. They even have a saying, `Hadaka no tsukiai` which basically translates as `getting to know each other while naked`.
   The idea is that when you are naked it’s easier to talk to one another, as you are stripped of your social status and rank. In an onsen, the company president and the newest member of the company can soak together and forget ceremony. It’s as if the hot waters dissolve the normally strict regime of superior-inferior relationships, leaving behind human beings who can relate solely as individuals.
   So next time you go to an onsen, look around you and try to pick out who is the farmer and who is the school teacher. Who is the lawyer and who is the shop assistant? I bet you will find you can’t tell. Being naked really is a great leveler.

Taken from vol.15 PDF


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