But first, Jaynie’s in Japan for a few days. Yeah, I know we said we’d be starting our trip in Vietnam but due to a constellation of factors I got to spend 5 days in Tokyo before heading to Saigon.
A few tidbits about Tokyo- 1) its super weird, 2) everything people say about the toilets is true, and 3) you could easily spend the entire trip here never talking to another human, which I guess is okay since I don’t speak Japanese.
I stayed in a really friendly ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) called Andon Ryokan, located in the Minowa area of Tokyo. The ryokan is a 20 minute walk from Sensō-ji, the oldest Buddhist shrine in Tokyo, and the Asakusa neighborhood, one of Tokyo’s geisha districts during the Edo period. I did all of the normal touristy stuff in Tokyo, which was fun to do, but boring to read about so I won’t enumerate. Here’s some pretty pictures of the fun touristy stuff.
I do feel, however, that as a public service I need to tell you about a very upsetting phenomena I discovered in the Asakusa district: electrified baths. If you have a pace maker, an electric bath could kill you. If you don’t have a pacemaker, an electric bath will merely terrify you into thinking that you’re dying. In either case, you should be aware that this exists.
I am a connoisseur of fancy things, and the Japanese tradition of onsen, or hot spring baths, seemed like just my type of fancy thing. Since I was in Asakusa, I decided to check out the nearby Jakotsuyu Sento, a public bathhouse fed by a natural hot spring. (sidebar: it was centrally located but hard to find, so just show people this: 蛇骨湯)
I get to this sento, navigate buying a ticket from the vending machine, and start my requisite pre-bath scrub down. Things are good, and I’m enjoying the steamy, relaxed environs after a cold Tokyo day. I head toward the bathing pool, and find a nice empty space at the far end of the pool. How lucky for me! I hop right in. Immediately, my muscles seize up. I’ve had a long day, so I convince myself it’s just my weary muscle relaxing. This is normal, right?
The sensation increases, and eventually focuses in my chest. After about 30 seconds in the pool, I’m convinced it’s a heart attack. Luckily the old Japanese ladies nearby look strong, and I wait for them to pull me to safety. After about 45 seconds, one of them notices me. She says, “Electric, electric!!” and waves me over to her end of the pool. I managed to float toward her, and the pins and needles stopped. Imminent death was averted, and the rest of my time at the bath was actually quite lovely. In fact, I went back two more times, avoiding the ‘electric’ of course.
I’ve since googled ‘electric bath japan’, and evidently this is a thing. It is called denkiburo, and according to one manufacturer it “delivers less than 2 volts and 1 ampere, for moderate numbness”. My definition of moderate and numbness must differ. I have no idea why or even how this exists, but I don’t want anyone else to be caught unawares. So, now you know.
Next up…. Vietnam. For real this time.