Why I’m Glad I Raised My Girls in Japan Where Communal Hot Baths are Common

Getting naked with your preteens is a great way to help them through puberty

Mary DeVries

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Photo by Cloris Ying on Unsplash

There is nothing like seeing a wide variety of naked women of all shapes, sizes, and ages to give girls a realistic counterpoint to the mostly unattainable photoshopped portrayal of feminine beauty common in the West. This was an unexpected but wonderful benefit of moving to Japan when my daughters were preteens and leaving six years later on the other side of puberty.

My middle child was the first family member to experience public bathing. It happened on a Girl Scout homestay with a Japanese family.

“So after dinner, we went to this place and I didn’t really know what it was or why we were there because my family didn’t speak any English really. They paid admission and the dad and son went through one door and I went with the mom and the daughter through another door and then everybody started taking their clothes off so I did too.”

I couldn’t decide whether to be impressed that my kid’s reaction was, oh okay, this must be the culturally appropriate thing to do so I’ll follow their lead or horrified that she didn’t even pause to consider what she was getting herself into before following the crowd into nakedness.

“Then we went over to this shower area where there were these little stools you sat on and handheld shower hoses. They showed me how to work everything and made sure I used plenty of soap. When we were all clean we went into the bath area. It was like a giant hot tub. There was an indoor part and an outdoor part too. I loved it. Can we go to an onsen as a family soon?”

There are a wide variety of public baths in Japan from the inexpensive public bathing houses, sento, to genuine hot springs fed with mineral-rich water, onsen. There are fancy resorts with multiple pool options and simple single pool facilities. Many have indoor and outdoor options. During our six years in Japan, we sampled a wide variety and found something to love in each place.

It took a little longer for the rest of the family to dip our toes into public bathing but eventually, it became a key part of our family traveling experience…

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Mary DeVries

The older I get, the less I know. That won’t stop me from writing about everything and anything under the sun. Join me in delighting and despairing about life.