Gaijin At Japanese Baths: One Woman’s Story

This isn’t a story of mine; rather, now that the Hiragana Times is following me on Twitter, I looked at the site (I vaguely recalled the publication) and saw this story about a Western woman’s outbreak of shyness and reluctance when confronted with getting naked at a Japanese public bath.

While hot baths in general are onsen, a public bath is a sentou. (Usually, when I hear “sentou,” it is a word for combat, but that’s completely different kanji! One of the many reasons Japanese people use kanji in their writing: to separate similar or identical sounding words.)

One reason I’m pointing to this post and announcing that it is one woman’s story is that an unfortunate quirk of the headline and the lack of author attribution until the end of the article made me ask myself: was this a man in a woman’s bath?… A quick scroll confirmed that it was indeed not the case. Yes, the graphic shown sort of kind of suggests it’s a Western woman, but it’s not spelled out initially, which makes for an awkward situation mid-story. But no matter.

Having put my ear to the ground to understand all I can about Japanese culture, I don’t think that remarks about a Western woman’s superior breast size is meant as some sort of mean put-down. In my (very much Western and rural) community, there are a lot of adult “mean girls,” and they can and will be cruel. In the example cited in the story (as happening to someone else, not the author), at most, I’d call it mild jealousy and awe. Nothing to be worked up about, if you know where it’s coming from… but of course, therein lies the cultural barrier.

Anyway, the issue gets talked about, so there you go: one woman’s experiences. – J

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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