Naked – amongst a sea of naked women of all ages and ethnicities, but mainly Japanese women. Little spoken English can be heard except in the conversations between me and my friend. Being naked amidst all of these other naked strangers is not sexual or awkward; it is healing, spiritual and understood. This is a Japanese onsen, a place of relaxation and liberation.
“An onsen (温泉) is a term for hot springs in the Japanese language, though the term is often used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered along its length and breadth. Onsen were traditionally used as public bathing places and today play a central role in directing Japanese domestic tourism.” – Wikipedia
We love to sexualise nudity and judge ourselves harshly through impossible and superficial standards. “Are my breasts big enough? Are my hips too wide? Are my pubic hairs groomed correctly?” These are a few of the insecurities that spring to mind when unclothed.
As I walk between baths, steam rooms and showers with only a tiny napkin size towel to hide under I am unmasked and unable to deny that I am completely exposed.
I see bodies of all shapes and sizes all beautiful and perfect in their own way. I have never felt more connected to my own body than I do now in this onsen.
To begin, we have a shower, washing away that which is impure before entering the spiritual space. Then we walk and share our presence with strangers. Here, we cannot hide ourselves or create an illusion through material means.
My body is beautiful because it gives me so much in this life. I appreciate every inch; every imperfection creates the uniqueness of me.
If I could take one lesson from this experience, it would be that my body is just that: unique. It is perfect because it exists, it feels, it moves, it can hold and give life. We are one, regardless of language, social class or origin. We are one because we are human. What a special gift that is to celebrate.
“I honour that place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honour that place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.”