Kicked Out

As I reported on Sunday, I went to Takeda, in the south of Kyoto, for a purification ceremony at Jonan-gu shrine. Afterwards, I visited a sento nearby because a friend had given me a discount ticket for it. A sento is a traditional public bath, and the difference to an onsen is that the latter usually gets its water from a natural spring nearby, while the former just uses tap water. I like going to either public bath, it always promises an hour or two of total relaxation, and, the best thing about them: somebody else is cleaning the tubs…

Kinosaki onsen in 1910So, I went to that particular sento, called Chikara-no-yu, “Strenght bath”; I stripped and scrubbed myself thoroughly and then dipped into the hot water. There were seven hot tubs, one with cold water, a sauna, a massage room, and a steam room. I had been at the sento for maybe an hour already, and I just made my way to the steam room, when an attendant came up to me and told me to leave. She said they didn’t allow tattooed people in their establishment, and that I should leave immediately. This rule is old and widespread, and the reason for it is that people want to avoid the yakuza gangsters, many of whom are still wearing quite heavy and elaborate tattoos.

So yes, I do have a tattoo of the size of a 2 EURO coin on my upper arm. It is usually covered by any sleeves, but clearly visible when running around in the nude, of course. I have been to many different sento and onsen all over Japan, but this was the first time I got kicked out because of my tattoo. To be fair to the attendant, I think somebody complained – she had passed me a few times before without saying anything, but once she was told by somebody else, she had to act of course. Also, that part of town is not the very best; on my way to the sento, I passed a whole block with nothing but love hotels…

Anyway, I was pretty much done by that time and ready to go home. And Takeda station is so far away from where I live that going there just for the sento doesn’t make much sense. However, it is probably a good idea to put a large plaster into my sento bag, just in case there are other people intimidated or offended by my tattoo ever again.

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