Causing no Trouble ...
I suppose it was inevitable, given the circumstances, that many of these stories will end up being about our recent experiences in Asakusa. This is no time for episodes from years ago; let's hear about these events while they are fresh!
We can set the scene for this one quite easily - you already know that my son-in-law Ioan is here for a few weeks, helping every day with the construction of our new shop. You also know that he and I have been prowling the back streets of Asakusa every evening, looking for good places to eat dinner. But there is one step in-between those two activities that has turned out to be one of the high points of our day ...
Our renovation work involves making quite a mess. And when you are dealing with such things as tearing out old plastered walls, there is a lot of mess! There is no way that we can simply head out to dinner in such a state - we need to get cleaned up first. And that means a trip to the nearby public bath!
After one false start at a place that looked old and funky but turned out to be a dud, we soon found 'our' bath, and have returned there regularly. It's tucked away in a hidden corner of a backstreet, and I'm sure that none of the thousands of people who pass by on the main street every day have any idea that it is there.
You first buy a ticket from the machine at the front door - we select the 'te-bura' (empty-handed) course, because we are not bringing our own towels or soaps, etc. - and then make your way into the change room. Everybody gets a locker, and after stuffing your clothes into it, you take your 'modesty' towel and head into the bathing area.
I don't want to poke fun at Ioan - at least not too much - but he will have to admit that he was a bit apprehensive about this on his first time. Bathing with other people is not common in his culture, so it was a bit difficult for him to strip off in front of strangers, and then stroll casually into the bath. It was especially disconcerting to him to find that the staff - including ladies - come and go nonchalantly through the changeroom, passing among all the customers no matter what state of undress they may be in.
But I also have to report that his apprehension lasted no longer than a few minutes. Once into the bath itself - not an easy task for him the first time, as he felt that it just wasn't going to be possible to immerse himself in scalding water - any discomfort he may have felt simply dissolved away together with the day's dirt.
We might have had a little bit of trouble coaxing him into the bath, but we had a lot more trouble getting him out! He now loves it, and I am certain that he will become one of those foreigners who will be dissatisfied with his boring bath back home!
We are still 'newcomers' at this place, which has obviously been here for a great many years, so none of the other customers pay any particular attention to us. The fact that we are foreigners is of no particular interest to anybody here; it's no longer the old days, when the sight of a foreigner at the door of such an establishment was the cause for general consternation. What if he soaps up while sitting in the bath!?! They now know that people like us will cause no trouble.
And 'causing trouble' is the last thing on our minds. This bathhouse is located in an old district, and an entertainment district at that, and it follows its own rules and customs. The other night, I sat on one of the stools cooling off, and right next to me was a guy with a total full-body tattoo. He had a couple of his proteges with him, young men whose tattoos covered as yet only a part of one arm and torso.
Cause trouble? Nope. Not me ... not here!
Story #456, September 21, 2014