January 5th, 2006


Sento percento

Hisae and I spent a couple of hours last night at Spaworld, a supersento near Osaka zoo. It's a kind of theme park of bathing, a succession of themed rooms in various national styles. Imagine the British Museum filled with water and naked people dangling small orange "modesty towels" in front of their genitals as they wade from exhibit to exhibit, room to room, water gadget to water gimmick. I thought I'd try to add an objective element to the subjective impression of the bliss of a visit to Spaworld by breaking it down to you in percentages.

1. Percentage of the day this spa is open: 100% (it's 24/7).

2. Percentage the 1000 yen entrance fee ($8.60 or €7.10) goes up by if you bathe after midnight: 100%.

3. Percentage of bathers on the men's floor who were gaijin while I was bathing: 3%.

4. Percentage of bathers on the men's floor who were little girls while I was bathing: 10%.

5. Little girls (aged 5-8, bathing with their fathers) are 50% sexy with their clothes on, but only 20% sexy naked, when they exactly resemble little boys without penises.

6. Percentage of time I spent in each bath: 12% in steam room and sauna, 21% outside in rotenburo area, enjoying the cool rain, 6% in a wooden barrel, 15% in a traditional Japanese cedar bath, 18% in the Arabic room, 19% in Indian jacuzzi room, 7% in Balinese flower bath, 2% in Egyptian sunbed room.

7. Percentage of bathers on women's floor who had navel piercings, according to Hisae: 15%.

8. Percentage of bathers on women's floor who were Gothic Lolitas, according to Hisae: 1%.

9. Percentage of bathers on women's floor who were Chinese or Koreans: 16%.

10. Percentage of "red wine bath" which was red in colour: 0% (it was, in fact, green).

11. Percentage I used to feel anxious about appearing naked in public: 87%. Percentage I now feel anxious about it: 5%.

12. Percentage of the time I found myself checking men's penises before their faces as they approached: 85%.

13. Percentage you feel clean after an hour in the baths at Spaworld: 110%.

14. Percentage of alcohol in the nama biru you sip with your fried isakaya meal at the base of the Osaka Tower afterwards: 5%.

15. Percentage of bodily well-being you experience at this point: 99.9%.