I Got Naked in Front of a Room Full of People

Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about my Japanese Sento experience!

Sauna No Umeyu in Kyoto, Japan
In a sento, men and women bathe separately.

I told myself, “This is your body. Own it. Be proud of it. Those scars? Those stretch marks? They are yours and they have a wonderful story. You CAN do this!”

And then, we walked in…

Shoes must be removed before entering a sento. This is also the case for entering a Japanese home and many Japanese restaurants.
  1. Once going to the designated space (men on one side and women on the other) you must be completely naked, hair tied back (not a problem for me! #shorthairdontcare), and make up removed before entering the communal bath.
  2. Once you enter, grab a plastic stool and a small bucket. Here’s where I started to panic. You sit on the stool (standing is not allowed) and wash yourself; as in you take a shower (nether regions included) and wash your hair (if so desired) while sitting on the stool. Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel are provided. There’s a faucet/shower drain immediately above you for rinsing off. Thoughts going through my head during this process: “If I’m sitting here naked, how many other booties sat here naked? When was the last time these stools were washed/sanitized? I’m sitting spread eagle on a stool. Yep. This is one for the record books. Who washes the towels? Are the towels washed in hot water? Does the bathing beforehand really help with cleanliness? Are sentos like hot tubs and ripe with the opportunity for infection? Will a UTI await me 48 hours from now? Am I going to get Legionella pneumonia?” Yeah. Your girl was in full freak out mode. My many years in medicine preaching hygiene and cleanliness had my stream of consciousness and worry in full effect!
  3. After washing and rinsing, you enter the bath. There can be no traces of soap or shampoo on your body or in your hair when you enter the bath. Likewise, as you can imagine, you cannot enter the bath if you are menstruating.
Photo by Soyoung Han on Unsplash

World Traveler. Peds Rheumie doc. Lover of life & its lessons. I write to inspire, entertain, and educate! Follow on IG: @docwash11

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