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Saturday August 18, 2018

Lim: Naked in Nagoya

I WENT to Nagoya last week to get naked with strangers. Now if you find this gross, stop now. Put the paper down. Close the window on your screen. But if you think this could be interesting, read on.

We were ten in the group and we had a huge discussion about this before we even got on the plane to Nagoya. Can I wear a swimsuit? Can I wear a rash guard? You have to be naked for this one. I told them.

I did my homework. At our hotel, there were two, indoors--one for males and another for females. And there were three, outdoors— one for males, one for females and another for mixed gender. If you can’t dare to bare then you can opt to go to the open air mixed gender because there, they provide you with a wrap towel.

Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded onsen—the popular hot spring bathing facilities all over Japan that requires all bathers to bathe in the buff.

I was determined to go—and not because I’m an exhibitionist. As a matter of fact, when the onsen was first introduced to me exactly a year ago in Hokkaido, I was horrified by the idea of going naked in public.

At that time, however, I was determined NOT to go. It was one week to surgery and I didn’t want to risk catching anything at the onsen. Looking back, however, I realize my fears were unfounded. The Japanese scrub themselves in so much—it almost seems like they are preparing to enter a sterile field instead of hot spring waters.

But I had a year to think about going naked. And slowly, the idea grew on me.

I did all that I could to convince everyone to join me at the open air mixed gender onsen. But after we learned that only the women, in fact, could wear a wrap while the guys would have to go butt naked, the guys completely flipped.

When I put my mind on something, however, no one can stop me.

When we got to the hotel, it was pitch black outside, freezing and everyone had chickened out. I wasn’t exactly in love with the idea of going down the slope through a cable car to the open air onsen alone under these conditions so I decided to just go to the indoor onsen. At the eleventh hour, someone decided to join me.

In a nutshell, all my apprehensions at the onsen were unwarranted. You get over the nudity in less than 30 seconds. Truth to tell, no one stares and no one cares—at least at the females only onsen.

The scrubbing takes longer than the actual dip into the therapeutic waters. It’s not possible to stay long in 42 degree Celsius waters. Delightfully, there was an outdoor portion at the indoor onsen. It was magical to dip in hot spring waters with snow in the background.

So now it can be told—I didn’t go to Nagoya to see the world-famous historic villages of Shirakagwa-go. I went for the naked experience.


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