If you would have asked me yesterday evening, I would have told you I was in love with the entire world! Why? I had just spent an entire day at an onsen in Tokyo. This was not just any onsen, it was an onsen on steroids. It was Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari. An onsen is a spa. This was actually a spa theme park. If you are into bodily comfort as I am, there is an amenity to satisfy your every legal hedonistic whim.
Yoko and I took an hour and four trains to go there. Since it was a holiday, the trains were not nearly as packed. We were able to sit most of the way. It was a bright cloudless perfect day with no wind anywhere.
When we arrived, we took off our shoes and placed them in a locker and got a key. From there we proceeded to the counter where we got our yakatas. Those are robes I used to call kimonos but Yoko corrected me by saying kimonos are far fancier and thicker. I did have an obi to wear. That word is a favorite crossword puzzle word.
We went to the dressing area where we took off our outer clothes and donned our yakatas. From this point on we were barefoot the rest of the day.
We chose this particular spa because it is the only place in Tokyo that has the fish which give a fish pedicure. A FISH pedicure you say? Yup. Tiny little black fish that surround your feet the moment they are placed in the warm water.
The first sensation was almost unbearable. My feet have gotten more sensitive with age and extremely ticklish. Hundreds of tiny fish mouths surrounded my ankles, half-way up my calves, the bottoms of my feet, and in between my toes. After I became adjusted to the sensations I was feeling, it became a sensation of the tingling of electricity perhaps similar to the feeling of tingling when your hands or feet “fall asleep”. It was actually quite relaxing in its own way.
We followed that by sitting in the open air with our feet in the warm water. The water flowed through channels which were lined with small to medium sized rocks. In spite of the fact that I often go barefoot at home, the rocks were too much for me. They hurt! So I resigned myself to just sitting.
We had made appointments for massages but they weren’t for another hour.We headed towards the baths. The Japanese people have obviously never heard of the story of Adam and Eve and the shame associated with the naked human body as the Europeans had. Of course the sexes were separated. Women and young children were walking around all over in their natural God given state and no one was thinking anything about it. Some women carried the small towel in front of them while others just wore it wrapped around the head. We showered and washed our hair first then headed into the large pools. About 15 minutes later we decided to go to the outdoor wooden tubs. It seemed strange sitting out there in the water at the end of November and not really feeling cold. When we finished with the baths, we donned our yakatas again and headed towards the massage. There were several signs posted in the bath area about NO TATOOS. I have a yellow rose on my backside that is under the back pocket area. Nathan had told me to cover it with a band aid so that’s what I did. Thankfully, no one said anything.
The next step to heaven was one of the best massages I have ever felt. Since I, myself, was a massage therapist for a while, I think I’m a pretty good critic of what a good massage should feel like. This one was off the pleasure scale. She had the hands of an angel. For the most part I was able to keep my mind in the now and just enjoying the moment. I refused to think of anything else. In the meanwhile, my body was slipping past me towards oblivion. It was the most fantastic 50 minutes I have experienced in a long time. I could hardly think or speak when she finished. I could barely say arrigato go zie mas Or whatever that phrase is which means thank you for things you did in the past “tense” politely. It was time for lunch. I whimped out and ordered Ramen noodles. I’m familiar with those. We sat in the eating area and calmly enjoyed the surroundings. After lunch it was time for the sand baths. Off with the yakatas and on with a similair yakata.
For the sand bath you enter a very warm room and lay down on towels on the sand. Attendants then cover you up with mounds of sand until you are completely buried from the neck down. If I had assumed a fetal position I imagine I would have experienced a feeling close to being back in the womb…or possibly being mummified.
I made a snap decison at that point to go all out. I got a foot massage or as come call it reflexology. Yoko headed back towards the baths while I walked up the stairs. I was escorted to my seat immediately. The worker covered my head and eyes blocking out the light so there was less sensory information flowing into my brain. She began working on my feet. The first thing she did was wash them with a warm wet towel. Then she began working on the accupressure points not only in my feet but also up to my knees. The first time was painful but tolerable. The second time the pain had subsided and the third time was bliss. The body has a system for dealing with pain. It releases endorphins. If you can imagine the high on opiates, that in general is what a flood of endophins will do.
By the time she was finished, I was beyond a limp noodle phase. I was melting gelatin. No form no function, just bliss. It reminded me of an elderly client I once had. I had finished with her and told her to just come back gradually. I would be in again in about five minutes to help her off the table. After two minutes I heard a thud. Then a pause. I rushed back in to find her on the floor. I asked her what had happened. She replied, “I melted.” as she sat there giggling like a ten year old. Yup. A good therapist who knows massage and reflexology can do that to a client. It was my turn to melt. I was in heaven all the way back home. Namaste. Attic Annie