After a long day sightseeing we’re sure enjoying a bath in the evening. Our hotel has men’s and women’s baths on the top floor looking out over the city. It sounds like mixed communal baths are no longer common, but separate communal baths are common in some hotels.
Our first experience with the communal bath was at the ryoken in Hakone and the instructions seem to be standard. The hotel provides us with a cotton yukata (kimono style robe), a sash and slippers. Ladies tie the sash higher – waist level, gentlemen tie it lower, around their hips. We have to remember left side of the robe over the right, which feels opposite to the usual. There is also a short hapi coat to wear if it is cold out. In our bathroom there are small plastic drawstring bags into which we put a small towel, shower cap if needed. We also take a large towel with us. Here I am in Hakone all ready to head out:
At this hotel the bath was in a small separate building across from where our room was. It really wasn’t cold enough for the hapi coat and I only used it the once. Here in Kyoto we just ride the elevator up, so no coat needed.
There is a rack at the entrance where the slippers are left, then into the dressing room. There are lockers there, with baskets in them, into which everything but the small towel go. From there it is into the bathing room proper. There seem to be less men around in the early evening, so Wilf took the camera up and managed a few pictures when there was no one else around.
First order of business is to go to the left where the little seats and taps are. Sit down on the seat, fill the basin with water, turn on the hand held shower and start soaping and scrubbing and rinsing. There are bottles of soap, shampoo and conditioner provided. After much cleaning and rinsing it is time to get into the bath proper:
The little towel (a little bigger and thinner than a standard hand towel) is used as a washcloth, to preserve one’s modesty (sort of) when moving about, to wrap up one’s hair. It doesn’t go into the bath. Some people just fold it up and put it on top of their head, or wrap up their hair. The water is very hot – I have to ease in by degrees. When all the way in and sitting on the bottom the water is just about to my chin.
Once suitably parboiled it is time for another rinse, then out to dry off and get back into the yukata. It is a great way to end the day. The bath is open from about 6:oo am to mid morning. It opens again at 5:30 pm and stays open until about 1:00 am.