Bare and beautiful

Tray of disposable panties at a spa

AT a sports club, I had gone to the rest room and was shocked to see some Asian women standing in front of open lockers, stark naked.

As it was impolite to stare, I dashed immediately into a toilet cubicle. I had not realised that the restrooms and locker room shared the same entrance.

I am sure the women must be Japanese because Japan has a long history of communal bathing and it is absolutely normal for them to be naked in public bath houses.

“Sento” or public baths, are a way of life in Japan as many homes are not equipped with bathtubs. Sento literally means “money hot water” and it’s where people pay a fee to wash themselves, soak in a tub, scrub each other’s backs and socialise.

I thought no more about it until one day in a hotel spa where, after selecting my treatment, the therapist led me to the therapy room and pointed me to the attached bathroom where I was to strip and wear a pair of disposable panties and a terrycloth bathrobe.

As I surrendered myself to her professional ministrations, I chatted with her to learn more about the spa and her training. This is one of the many ways I use to uncover juicy snippets. One of my favourite questions is “what’s the most memorable experience in your job?”.

Like most therapists, she had her share of woes, especially in handling lascivious advances from male clients. Then she went on to tell me about the most hilarious experience she ever had.

An elderly couple from a Japanese tour group had come in for what was probably their first spa experience. They were brought to a room with two treatment beds and since the bathroom was large enough for two, they went in together to undress.

When they emerged, they were dressed in the bathrobes provided and they were also wearing the disposable panties... on their heads! They probably thought these were shower caps. I could understand though that the couple was so comfortable with nudity that they didn’t feel disposable panties were necessary to cover their modesty!

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 23 February 2009

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