We recently visited Matsuyama, home to the Dogo-Onsen, the oldest bath house in Japan with a 3000 year old history. Many of you will be familar with Hayao Miyazaki’s anime – Spirited Away, which is based on this very bath house. The bustling busy-ness of this historic bath house was also brought to life in the animation. Staff were constantly running around and yelling out ‘welcome’, ‘thank you’, ‘please’ to guests, or instructions to each other. People were constantly afoot, and there was none of the serenity one usually associates with a contemporary spa. Bathing is a communal activity in the Japanese culture, and many groups of women and men visit the baths together, scrubbing themselves in the public bath while chatting away un-self-consciously. It was an amazing experience to a foreigner like me. 🙂
Doesn’t this image remind you of one of the scenes from Spirited Away? 🙂
Men and women alike seem to enjoy dressing in uniform type yukatas, carrying littel bamboo baskets for their towels, and visiting the baths together! Bathing together (yes, in the nude) is a community activity.
Poking our heads out of some windows, we noticed some services of the building… enough to convey the utilitarian nature of this old building, and somehow reminded us of how Chiro the child protagonist ran through the back of house stairways and pipes in Spirited Away…