Cycling to Osaka Castle
“Ooh-Meh-Gu-Loo”, said the Japanese man.
Carmen and I repeat, “Ooh-Meh-Gu-Loo”. We are told that there is only one bike left for rental and that would not be enough for the 2 of us. He gives us the big X gesture with his two arms, like this:
And advises to go to another bike hub called Ooh-Meh-Gu-Loo.
Carmen, whom I know from Vancouver, is staying in Japan for an extra day due to a flight interruption. We met the night before, had curry, and decided that this morning, we shall go for a bike ride around town.
We eventually find “Ooh-Meh-Gu-Loo”, which turns out to be “Umegle”. Yes, the Japanese pronunciation baffles me. Our destination is Osaka Castle. It takes us loosely an hour from Osaka Station in the blazing hot weather, but alas, we make it.
Afterwards, I suggest we go to a public bath. It’s on my list of TO-DO in Japan. We pass by Kuromon Market as we head to the public bath.
When we reach the public bath, the lady at reception, speaking only Japanese, asks us where we’re from and frantically gives us the X gesture, denying our entrance.
So, unwillingly, we leave. Carmen explains that some family-owned public baths do not allow foreigners. Maybe this is one of them.
We find an information centre, which is really a guesthouse, and ask the staff where we can find an onsen. He tells us there aren’t any around but that there are sento’s we could go to. So we go one that he advises.
Note: Sento is a public bath with heated tap water. Onsen is one that uses hot spring water.
Getting Naked at a Sento
At a Japanese public bath, you will be entirely nude in the presence of strangers (same sex). Since this is not the norm back home, I am very self-conscious. Here’s the process:
- Buy your ticket, take off your shoes, put it in the shoe locker, take the key.
- Give your ticket to the reception, get your towels, shampoo, conditioner, etc.
- Go to the women’s changing room (or men’s if you’re male).
- In the changing area, strip and put your clothes and belongings in the locker with the shoe key, leaving the small towel and your showering toiletries. Take the second key out.
- Proceed to the open room with showers and baths. There are buckets, plastic stools, shower heads, and mirrors.
- Once clean, wrap the small towel on your head or bring it with you and place it on top of your head.
- Go in the hot tubs. Sit and relax. Rotate between the different baths (of different temperatures).
When you’ve had enough, rinse, get dressed and that’s it.
Though I am self-conscious, it didn’t turn out too bad. In fact, it was refreshing. I think in large part, going with Carmen, made it less intimidating because she has a carefree spirit.