Kyla and Nick Around the World travel blog

Downtown Osaka - famous section where parts of Blade Runner was filmed

Pedestrian shopping mall, intersected without warning at random points by roads with...

A famous Osaka restaurant serving some sort of crustacean... can't remember which...

Loud, brash, bright, vibrant, confusing downtown Osaka.

Look closely, and you can see an ancient shinto temple tucked up...

Out for Okonomyaki, the now famous and highly prized cabbage pancakes

We just arrived back in Osaka after a great 4 days in Sapporo - not nearly enough time with the Langford family, Ultraman, and the Butt-Biting Bug (Oshiri Kajiri Mushi - we promise to explain more soon!). We had a chance to check out Spa World with Tanja and Akihiko - a great way to spend a day. More thoughts...

Spa World (Nick writing)

The Japanese love bathing. And most importantly to a man who takes bathing seriously, the Japanese know what they are doing. We visited two different onsen while in Japan. The first was a fairly traditional onsen in Sapporo, with a number of indoor and outdoor hot pools, heated by thermal activity deep beneath the soil (note: this could be the same thermal activity that keeps creating the nasty humanoid-like monsters which continually threaten Japan, and keep necessitating all-out wrestling matches with heroes like Ultraman and the Power Rangers). We went with Marty and his son Kaito, and had a great time relaxing. Our entrance fee allowed us to stay all day, and I could have, napping in the napping room, sweating in the six hot tubs, shaving at the personal shower/cleaning'shaving area, and gazing out over the snowy beach and imagining the shores of distant Russia across the grey sea. It was a perfect day.

Except that someone stole my deodorant.

Here we are in the stereotypically uncrime ridden country of Japan, on the farthest north island, in an oasis of relaxation. This is a country where people walk around confidently with millions of yen in cash in their pockets, where full wallets are returned by mail. Why would someone have taken my barely used stick of Gillette?

This would normally not be a huge crisis, except that they don't sell western-style deodorant in Japan. We found out that the Japanese deodorant and anti-persperant are set up for different body chemistries, and don't work well for us from the West. Both Marty and Tanja take advantage of trips home and the internet to stock up, not just on deodorant, but on lots of other things they just can't get in Japan.

So I was cut down from two sticks of deodorant to one - my sweat-free time in Asia cruelly reduced by half. I'm just hoping that my other stick lasts until Boots drugstore in Thailand...

The other onsen we went to was in Osaka, and was called Spa World, possibly the largest bathing facility in the world (not including the oceans). Four floors of spa-y goodness. One floor for mixed sexes, with slides, pools both indoor and outdoor, water games, and a huge lazy river that circled it all. The floor for men was themed with Asian-style pools, while the floor for women was themed with European-style pools. We got free robes, free toothbrushes, all the towels we wanted, and unlimited bathing and soaking priviledges.

I loved it, except that I could only let myself relax 99% of the way to full relaxation - 1% of my brain was always thinking about my impending expulsion from Spa World. Spa World was very clear on their rules: no tattoos. At all. And I (for those that don't know me) have a fairly large tattoo of a prism on my back left shoulder. According to Spa World policy my business was not wanted. I was lumped in with the Japanese mafia, or yakuza, who traditionally are the only Japanese with tattoos.

We carefully covered my tattoo with a bandage, and then some waterproofing material (hint - remove the blue plastic backing after applying the waterproof stuff, otherwise it looks silly and doesn't really work). It seems to have worked, since I was never approached by any Spa World staff. However, I did leave my swim suit somewhere in the men's changeroom of Spa World, and wasn't never able to track it down once I realized it was missing.

So we had great times immersing ourselves (pun!) in the bathing culture of Japan, but not so great times learning about the onsen crime culture. I just hope that whoever has my swim suit and deodorant treats them with the respect they deserve.

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