The Japanese Hot spring (Onsen) requires complete nakedness. One is expected to shower with stangers in a shower room where there isn’t any cubicles or partition to separate one another from view.
Sitting on a stool, side by side with stangers around you, you have to perform the cleaning ritual of shampooing your hair, scrubbing your body and washing your face. Constantly being mindful not to splash water accidentally onto your neighbour who is about 3 feet away.
Getting naked in front of total stranger requires courage.
The courage of being completely comfortable in your own skin and the courage of openness.
For me, the nakedness feels like a removal of a “mask”. For once, you do not have clothing to define who you are and no hairstyle (after the hairwash). Just a human being along with other naked human beings. A strange kind of status equality.
The hot sping is usually a very short walk away from the washing area. As you approach the people sitting in the hot spring, it’s like a fashion runway. This little “walk of fame” can only be safely navigated if you let go of all your ego. Any sense of insecurity and attempt to rush into the hotspring is a bad idea because of the wet floor.
Once I relax into the hot spring with another stranger beside me, I became aware of the complete silence as each one is engaged in their own thoughts.
There are teenager, middle-age man and old man all sitting together in the hot spring. All shapes and build.
It isn’t long before I started contemplating the passage of life. Each one of us born with a temporary body, transitioning from youth to old age. No matter how we look like now, ultimately it will be all wrinkled and fragile. That’s human existence.
It is just as it is.
Strangely, there is a sense of acceptance and tranquility sitting in the hot bath along with naked stangers….