Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Bath ( 5 )

Before coming to Japan, I lived in London with a Dutch guy, a Spanish Guy, a Kiwi guy, an Aussie girl and an Irish couple. There were two bathrooms but, nevertheless, mornings were quite hostile. After seeing an open bathroom one minute, during the next minute while I grabbed my towel and headed for the bathroom door, someone else would sneak in and lock the door pushing my shower back 10 or so minutes. Then, to ensure a shower and getting to work on time, I would have to stand guard so that nobody else would dive in.
The general idea is to freshen up (for some of us it is to wake up) and go off to work feeling clean. Showers are faster than baths so baths are very special nights or Sunday afternoons.

For my first year in Japan, I lived with 5 other people. There was only one bathroom so I expected it to be a rat-race. To the contrary, mornings were peaceful. The 2 Japanese girls never entered the bathroom. They did their make-up in their bedrooms and didn’t need a shower or a bath in the morning.
Traditionally, every evening, Japanese people have washed themselves with soap in the shower then sat in a hot bath to relax. The water was as clean when they got out as when they got in, so all family members could use the same water starting with the father, mother, then the children, from eldest to youngest.

After asking people from different cultures why they do things the way they do, I usually hear firm, uncompromising reasons. I believe children learn the ways to do things as they grow up, then, think of reasons why the other ways aren’t as good. Do you think so?

The idea of the water changing color by body grime or soap disgusts many Japanese so they wash themselves before entering a bath. The idea of going to bed without washing also disgusts many Japanese so they bathe in the evening. Also, the idea that bathing cleans not only the body, but also the spirit, means people can sleep well after bathing.
But things are changing. After talking to teenagers and University students, I realized that the young generation nowadays is totally different. Although, they still hold some of the beliefs and values of their parents and grandparents, they take showers in mornings for the same reasons people in other countries do.

Anyway, thanks to this tradition, my morning routine for my first year in Japan was a very relaxed and enjoyable experience.

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