Archive for the ‘spa world’ Tag

Spa World again: Another month, another spa

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the girl of the okonomiyaki and takoyaki 🙂

Random Observation/Comment #37: Even the white guy speaks better Japanese than me. Excuse me while I hide my head in shame.

After the gruesome experience of walking the bicycle home for two hours, I felt it impossible to do my original goal of bike riding from Ishibashi Station to Umeda Station. The bike ride to school would be a cake walk (never really understood this phrase, but whatever) compared to the distance from my dorm to the river. I hear there are large hills and a lack of bicycle friendly main roads heading towards the city. Not to mention the fact that I had a flat tire (and a warrant for my arrest, which should be cleared shortly). I considered Nara, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nagoya for possible choices of travel for this Sunday, but it was just one of those days where all I wanted to do was nothing.

Of course, I couldn’t just do nothing – I had to do something. The challenge would be doing something that required little attention, and yielded the most replenishment, while also being productive and utilizing the pure foreign experience (and curing cancer). This is when I remembered that Spa World changes floors for men and women on alternating months. I had a completely new Spa World to experience, so I obviously couldn’t pass up the opportunity. With the intention of spending at least 2500 yen for the day, I was pleasantly surprised when three hours cost only 1000 yen. Maybe it was a special day, or they knew that I was coming so they dropped the price for me (and everyone else). I’m going to choose the latter to make me feel more important. This month was the Asia theme.

Although Asia sounded like the more attractive choice in the beginning, my experience there left me slightly disappointed. I think I was spoiled by the large number of choices and waterfalls from the European spa. There were much less baths and this lack of a waterfall really bothered me. My original complaint about the European baths was that there were too many selections that repeated in every themed area, but I’d like to flip this con into a pro. People don’t stick around one area too long anyway, so if you find a place you like, it is more likely that other people will walk to different baths. Those who are going for their first time (like me) always feel this obligation to go through all of the rooms and say they’ve tried everything Spa World had to offer. In today’s case, I was left sitting there with a more frequent cycle of newcomers, making noise and attacking my personal space. It’s not homophobia, but when my leg is almost touching another naked man’s leg, I get a little claustrophobic.

Here is a rundown of what to expect of the Asia Spa:

When you walk in, there is a grand bath with perfect temperature water, similar to that of the Europe Area. There are three little streams of water pouring from a clay statue on the left, which vaguely resembles a waterfall – this was actually where I spent most of my time. I feel like I’ve grown accustomed to normal bathing, and I want to be surprised with something unique like a different colored water or a huge fountain with bubbles. Whatever the surprise, I tend to choose getting a massage by water than just soaking in other people’s dirtiness.

Walking out of this main room, there is “Dr. Spa” on the left. In this area, there is a salt sauna, a cloudy watered bath, a warm bath, and 3 single lawn chairs immersed in a warm bath. I guess they added this portion because they needed another section to fill in the baths that aren’t traditionally Asian.

Continuing left, there is the outside Japanese traditional onsen with more natural scenery. The sides of the pools were filled with rocks that really hurt my back leaning against them, but I’ve always liked the extra sun. They even have the large wooden tubs that look like they can be used for brewing sake. I wound up sitting in one of these and playing with the smaller wooden ladles like a rubber ducky. I found it fascinating because it still stays afloat even when it’s completely filled with water – probably because it’s completely made of wood. I’ve concluded that the outdoor places are the best as long as it’s warm and not raining. The natural humidity acts as a combined sauna and water bath.

The next area (which I think was also Japanese) had two large baths, two hot coal saunas, and a sleeping area. The sleeping area consisted of a line of foam mats with wooden, cylindrically-shaped pillows. Let me tell you, if you like comfortable, this isn’t the place for you, because it’s the opposite of comfortable. It’s the pure essence of sleeping on the floor. There was a nice breeze from the air conditioning conveniently placed above, and if you close your eyes you might be able to imagine the warm breeze blowing against your naked body on a nice beach. Of course, when you open them, you’ll find that you’re naked lying next to middle-aged/old naked men. This sounds like a version of the “forbidden hello.”

The last area was actually mostly for the body scrubbing room, but it did have a bubbly Jacuzzi with a great view of a gold fountain. This Jacuzzi made me feel like I was a king with my own private place to bathe, surrounded by my international treasures acquired from my conquests of neighboring countries. (It’s probably just me and my crazy imagination.)

There were a few other rooms, but they were all for taking showers before leaving the place. In no way were you cheated out of any particular type of sauna/cold bath/hot bath, but the reduced number of selections did make me feel this way. Clemens, the typical American, looking at quantity instead of quality. Or Clemens, the typical American, always moving to the next experience instead of treasuring the current one. Or Clemens, the typical American, over-scheduling his life even when he’s on vacation. Mmm – there’s much to learn from other cultures.

Before leaving Spa World, there is a checkout machine that you pay for the expenses of the wristband. In return, you get a ticket that makes the turnstiles work for the exit. I think there’s a huge flaw in this system, but they probably took it into account. What stops a person from paying for the 3 hours and then getting the ticket to leave later? You could basically sleep there in those lounge chairs and not have to pay for those overnight fees, right? I don’t think it’s worth the extra $3 or $5 that you’d be saving, but I’d be curious to see if they thought about the scenario.

~See Lemons Thoroughly Replenished

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I need a bigger towel – Spa World Pt2

statue in front of spa world

Random Observation/Comment #25: That’s a negative on facial hair. Please stop trying, Clemens. It looks like patchy seaweed.

Spa world is divided into basically 4 main floors of entertainment: 8F swimming pool family area, 6F women only Asian spa, 4F men only European spa, and 3F food.

The top floor (8F) is the large public swimming pool for families to play in the slides and swim in the large water-current lead course circling the inner perimeter. You wear your own bathing suit when you come here (so please don’t make the mistake of showing up naked in front of young children). The water is about a meter deep and the current flows counter-clockwise as you stare at the large water structures placed in the middle as the main attraction. I think you have to pay for a blue concert-type wristband to use this, but it looks well worth the money. You sit on this raft and you go through a long series of tubes to end up flying up a large orange slide, before plummeting backwards into the larger public pool. I decided against it because it looked like no one older than 18 was riding this.

I did two laps around the pool to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and then proceeded to the 4F for the European spa. I felt naked without my notebook (and I was also literally naked because I wasn’t wearing any clothes). The orange towel really didn’t leave anything to the imagination, and I guess you don’t want any of the guys around you imagining anything (::shutters::). Stare at the ceiling and the walls, if you’re uncomfortable. The whole relaxing factor at this place would probably be useless if you’re nervous around other naked men.

The European spa is broken into the follow parts with different water temperatures and “solutions” for loosening your muscles. Each place had an instruction manual (written in Japanese) on what order to follow in order to maximize the opening of pores or whatever. I just did what I usually do, which is a cold bath to a sauna to a hot bath. You’ll find these categories repeat for whichever section you choose.

Rome greets you with a beautiful fountain and large statues. The sauna here felt more steam based because the condensation builds up on the roof and fell to scald my bare skin. I was saying “Ow” every few seconds, and the showerhead they have on the exit is extremely hot. My second favorite bath was the main fountain with bubbles coming from the center. Not only was the temperature perfect, but the bubbles and atmosphere created by the walls and ceiling lighting really made me happy. There’s a cold bath called the “Golden bath” but it is way too cold if you’ve already felt the nice warm water.

Following the left walls, you’ll find the Blue Cave next. The water in the blue cave is ridiculously hot. It has the dark and eerie lighting, but you’ll want to get out in 5 minutes. Actually, I wouldn’t suggest staying in any of these baths for longer than 10 minutes. There are about 15 baths/saunas to try, so you’ll definitely be wrinkly after going through all of them. In the blue cave area, there are also 3 single baths with very murky, white water. I think it has some type of chemical (like blue cave shyt) but the temperature was a relief. Next was the salt sauna (if you have open wounds, this place sucks). The correct course of action is to go inside and cover yourself with salt from the large monument thingy used for holding salt. From here, you just sit there letting your sweat dissolve the salt so the nutrients (or something) soak into your pores. I didn’t know I had a cut on my leg until I came here – ouch. The crappy three second shower outside the salt sauna didn’t help either. Backup plan: Jump into another boiling pool.

There is a foot bath area embedded into a little bar so you could soak your feet while enjoying an expensive drink (they add at least 30% from what you can get outside of the European spa area – You know it’s an economy when they have inflated prices even when you’re in a place with a centrally controlled economy). Skip this place because it’s a rip-off, unless you want to sit around on wet chairs and watch some TV with a refreshing beer – actually that doesn’t sound too bad.

The prize is the Mediterranean spa behind the concession stand. The waterfall was my favorite. You stand under it as the hot water gives you a free back massage. Any sounds are drowned out by the splashing water, but it’s definitely relaxing. There was no cold bath or sauna here – just clear warm water with lawn chairs and Jacuzzi jets. I think they even put an artificial sky to make the waterfall cooler.

Finland is filled with crazy people. It was nice that they didn’t pretend Finland had any outdoor warm baths, so they put a freezing one with a bridge. By even the slightest touch and my balls began to recede. Run away to the sauna. Oh wait, the sauna is temperature based instead of steam, so you’re basically being roasted alive. The extreme hot and cold did a toll on my external organs.

Greece has a set of herbs based warm baths that you cycle through to do some more moisturizing. The brown color makes me a little nervous, but I didn’t smell like herbs, so it was like every other bath. The sauna here was regular.

And lastly, there’s Atlantis (I forgot this one’s name, but my made-up name seems fitting), which was basically warm salt water baths with little fishes swimming in tanks beside you. It wasn’t anything too exciting, but they had to have a salt-water ocean theme somewhere.

After you try all of these places, there are stations with liquid soap and shampoo to take a shower. It’s the Japanese shower, so they give you a little seat and a face bowl with a showerhead. There are also disposable toothbrushes and shavers if you’re really spending the night.

On the same floor (4F) is a room with 81 lounging chairs and 20 TVs. They provide blankets so I only assume that they let you sleep here overnight. I guess this is what a homeless person would do when they save up money (At least this is what I would do if I were homeless and saved up money).

You are unable return if you want to leave the building to grab food because they are trying to run a business in their inflated economy. The restaurant floor (3F) was quite impressive. They had almost any typical Japanese food I could think of – noodle shop, katsu, curry, something over rice, ramen set-o, okonomiyaki (omg omg omg), rice in an omelet, and assorted sweets. I think you know what I chose. The choice was not because I love okonomiyaki (omg omg omg), but rather the fact that it’s a little more difficult to find than a side shop for curry udon or something mundane.

I thought the making of okonomiyaki was more complicated, but it’s just chopped lettuce with some meat and two raw eggs. You oil the pan and put the lettuce in a circular shape. After 2 minutes, you sandwich the meat with the rest of the lettuce. You then let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then flip (lower the flame intensity and sit for another 5 minutes) until you get a nice crisp. The most interesting part is that the meat inside slowly cooks by a method similar to steaming. Oiishi. The sauce is the key, so be sure to get extra sauce.

I had already spent 4 hours here, and it’s only an extra 300 yen for the rest of the day. I wound up taking a nap watching some Japanese talk shows, and then going another round in the waterfall and warm tubs. Right before I left, I was actually approached by an old Japanese businessman. I’m normally very friendly, but it’s different when the first impression someone sees is my shlong in a hot bath. I think he spoke to me because he wanted to know what the sign said. None-the-less, being approached in this state is awkward to say the least.

He was a businessman recovering from a rough surgery, so he goes to onsens on weekends to stay healthy. It was weird, but I’m glad he spoke some English. I think he wanted to ask me how I stayed healthy so he could do the same. I just said I was 21, and he understood it was my youth that was keeping me in shape. I was too afraid that he would invite me to dinner and turn this into a terrible horror story, so I dodged my way out of there early.

After a long day of baths, there’s nothing else to do but sleep and dream. I hadn’t dreamt since I gotten here because I miss my dream-mattress that spoils me with a never disappointing perfect night’s rest. It was a good dream. I think I’ll go here again next month. They have monthly alternations of the men and women for the European and Asian spas.

~See Lemons Relieved

Wait a tick, I’m on vacation – I should act that way! Spa World Pt1

that looks like sex to me

Random Observation/Comment #24: Japanese does not have an equivalent to “Bless you”. Well then, how do they stop the Buddha from escaping? Maybe only possessed white ghosts have these escaping souls.

The dark gray clouds were not a friendly welcome to another day of bike riding. I did not have trees to protect me this time. Tall concrete buildings should have more overhangs. I had 5 train stops to figure out where I would go for the day before my choices simply expired (I could always take a train backwards, but I would have gone too far). Procrastination is a terrible thing, but it made my choice for me. Yodabashi Umeda was still largely unexplored and it was conveniently next to the observatory and a large number of train stations. I’ve found that Yodabashi Umeda is for the tech junkies, while DEN DEN town is more for the nerds who are buying these things. Nothing in DEN DEN Town is polished or setup nicely, but it’s just cheap and better for those who are looking for the best deals.

I spent an hour taking pictures and looking at all of the gadgets Japan’s best electronics mall had to offer. I finally took a picture of the 103” Viera scaled with a 65” TV – yes, it’s enormous (that’s what she said – wow that was relieving). Be sure to stop by the 7th floor of sweets and try the Mochi Ice cream – it’s heavenly.

After all 8 floors, I decided to walk down Tenjimbashisuji6-chome with all the little outlets on the side (this was of course after I saw that it was raining again). Luckily, I was side-tracked by HEP-5’s large Ferris wheel embedded into the mall. This place was extremely overpriced, but there were a few new styles to observe and absorb into my fashion arsenal. I tried on a lot of clothes and acted like a rich American ready to spend obscene amounts of money on overpriced items. (This may be true in real life, but I don’t think I normally act this way.) There was this one shirt that fit very well, but it was 8000 yen ><. This place is mostly for the fashion trendy and you can probably stay there “window shopping” as much as OPM. Luckily, I walked out of there empty handed (or else I wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere else that day). The money was used in a much more effective way.

It was my first real sushi experience in Japan. The rotating conveyer belt of sushi was absolutely delicious. I took sequential pictures of every dish I ate, slowly piling up to 1100 yen. I don’t think I could have found this deal anywhere else because they weren’t just serving shitty California rolls (although I do like them on occasion). They were serving the really exotic and good stuff that would cost much more than 135 yen per plate. Anything that looked fresh and cool, I grabbed it off the conveyer belt. It was such a happy lunch. I was a kid in a candy story. Well actually, I was Clemens in a sushi conveyer-belt restaurant (this makes a vivid enough picture for those who know me).

This was my third week in Japan and I had not been to an onsen yet – today was the day to rectify the situation. Before I explain why, please trust me when I say that you have to go to Spa World at least once if you’re in Osaka. This place was an awesome way to spend 6 hours for about 3500 yen. The ticket costs 2700 for three hours, but you can print out the 700 yen discount coupon from their website (If you can’t print the coupon, try a copy-and-paste of the URL to a new window)! There are weekend and midnight surcharges so it makes me wonder if you could stay all night at the spa and sleep on the couches.

A comment on Japan’s automation of entrance fees and utilization of vending machines: I think they’ve worked out a wonderful method of trusting customers to be able to enter money into a machine and receive a ticket (I mean, monkeys can do it – no, for serious, there are videos of monkeys actually putting money into vending machines in Minoh). With money out of the way, the front desk is only used for quick questions and handing out wristbands (so much for our work force knowing simple math). These wristbands are used as the sole means of monetary exchange in the economy of Spa World. They basically created their own economic system by giving everyone waterproof identifiers (worn like watches) so people would not need to carry around money. In fact, this accessory is probably going to be the only thing you’ll be wearing (not joking, it’s a European Spa – I’m glad they chose green (joking)).

To pay for food at any of the restaurants or convenience stores, just give them your room number and they enter everything into the computer system. If you want drinks from the vending machines, you can use your wristwatch to get coins from a machine – these values will be logged into the server.

Yes, they probably use a type of RFID that can be hacked, but how will you hack something without clothes, let alone any form of electronics (cameras and phones are prohibited). So their solution to whoever brought up, “what if they hack the system and distribute their spending across multiple person_ids so no one would trace them?” was probably “they’re naked – the end.” Besides, it would be much easier to just put a sticker over your wristband when the people mark down the numbers. Someone going through all this trouble to weasel 2000 yen really has a better way of spending their time. But, these are, of course, the thoughts that go through my mind – 1) this is how the system works, quickly followed by 2) how do I work my way around it? And finally, 3) how do I break it?

Just like the capsule hotel, you have to take off your shoes in spa world and store them into a locker. You get to choose your own other locker to keep all of your stuff (and when I mean all, I mean you won’t even have to worry about wearing underwear). There is so much more to write – I will explain the European spa of Spa World tomorrow.

~See Lemons Enjoy the Onsens