Originally I had little interest in going to an onsen when I was in Japan. I can’t imagine many people blaming me for not wanting to get butt ass naked, and bathe with strangers, after having spent the last several months shoveling food in my face like a squirrel getting ready for hibernation. Still, I put my big girl panties on… or should I say took off, and headed to the bathhouse.
A Sesame Street game might seem irrelevant to my experience at a bathhouse in Japan, but it gives a great visual representation of my life at that time. In this game, they place several items down. One of which is clearly out of place. For example, an apple, an orange, and a squirrel. Then, they begin to sing “One of these things don’t belong with the other.” and the child has to guess which it is. You see where I’m going with this? When I was in the onsen in Japan, I was the squirrel.
It’s safe to say I’m not your typical petite Asian chick. Yeah, I’m 5 foot nothing, but that doesn’t mean my love handles and thic thighs instantly vanish like my self esteem did in middle school. Granted, I have no problem with the way my legs are, minus chafing on a hot summer day, but again, I was the squirrel.
At first my mind raced faster than my heart after I think someone might have accidentally seen a risqué photo in my camera roll. My thoughts consisted of… They’ll all stare. There is no way they’ll miss my cellulite and that upper back roll that I see slightly beginning to appear. Will they think I’m a greedy fat ass who has no self control?
Then, I entered the locker room. Crystal chandeliers adorned the ceilings. The relaxing spa music and cleanliness instantly gave me a sense of tranquility. All fear vanished and I was filled with curiosity and joy. Whether I felt that way simply because of the ambiance, or more so because I was on a high from feeling bougie af, is still yet to be determined.
I certainly compared the women’s naked bodies around me and saw the many differences. Obviously not in like a creepy sexual way. I felt more and more at ease as I saw the beauty in all of our differences and especially when I noticed people were not staring at me like I was the squirrel.
The baths themselves were so relaxing and beyond what I had imagined. From hot baths and cold baths, to lying down baths and silk baths, I tried them all with peace and fulfillment. It was hands down one of the highlights of my trip.
That’s not to say insecurities didn’t arise. I’m sure there was a moment I wish I hadn’t had that Pad Thái binging spree in Thailand. At the end of the day, that’s insignificant compared to the happiness, acceptance, and triumph I felt when it was all said and done.
To think I almost let that experience slip away makes me more determined to go beyond my fears and insecurities in the future. If there is one take away from this that trumps the rest, it’s don’t let the fact you feel like a squirrel stop you from an experience you’ll grow from. Also, if your ever near a bathhouse, just get your ass naked and have fun with it.