Bath times in Japan are a family affair and the children have taken to them with great gusto. You all go into the bathroom together, sit on stools placed next to knee high taps and take it in turns to scrub backs and pour ladles of freezing water over your parents’ heads. It’s very important that you’re squeaky clean before you get into the bath, because the deep tub is only filled once a day and the water is shared by all the people in your ryokan, or guesthouse.
Once you are muck free, you lower yourselves, squealing, into the wooden bath full to the brim with scalding water, gradually getting deeper and deeper until only your head is unsubmerged. Then you soak until your muscles turn to jelly and the aches of a day spent walking around Tokyo have evaporated with the steam. Well, except for Dickon, he’s not a fan of cleanliness at the best of times, and he has no wish to be cooked like a pea. Once you can take the heat no more, you leap out and ladle freezing water from the waiting bucket onto your pink skin until it tingles, then you get back in and start all over again. And apart from the whole three squealing children in the bathroom at the same time as you thing, it’s really very relaxing.
Japanese loos are less relaxing, but the children are just as enamoured. Most loos have a little dashboard at the side with enticing buttons, labelled only in Japanese. The children disappear into cubicles in restaurants to try them out amidst much giggling, then re-emerge, whispering about washing bottoms and blasts of air. I find heated loo seats rather disconcerting, but I think the button which makes a fake flushing sound to cover any other potentially embarrassing sounds is rather sweet, and very Japanese. God forbid anyone should hear you wee.
And after three months in South East Asia, the children are finally, properly clean.
For reasons of decency, there are no photos accompanying this post.