Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nishikiyu, Kyoto (錦湯)

There's one problem with Kyoto - the transportation system is more like that of a a medium-sized Japanese city (which it is) than that of a world-class tourist destination (which it is). That means you can get into weird situations where despite just going from one temple to another, you're kinda far from anything and it's getting dark and you're wondering how you get back to the hotel without a massive taxi ride. This happened to me the first time I went to Arashiyama (circa 1999) and it happened again today. Faced with a 20+ minute walk back to the train station, then a train-long walk-another train combo trip, I opted to roll the dice on a city bus. As it happens, it wasn't a bad ride, and I saw a few other neighborhoods.

Nothing as exciting as the Shijo shopping strip, of course, and the bus finally finished its route at the corner of Shijo and Karasuma. It was already getting late, but having looked up a bath house between there and the hotel, I figured...when in Kyoto.Obviously Kyoto isn't New York, and thank goodness for that, but the best way I can describe this is that 1 minute away from 5th Avenue, the lights go out, there are no cars, and here's a little bathhouse.

Honestly, this was a little intimidating to walk into. It's really old - bare beams, bare wires, bare chests kinda old. The guy working the desk was wearing a funny knit skullcap; it reinforced my impression that this area of Kyoto is an incredible mix of old, young, classy and hip. He was nice enough too.

Can you believe the rudeness, taking pictures like this? Incredible.

These are the 'lockers' where you store your stuff while bathing. They do lock, but it's the wicker baskets with the advertising? people's names? that are the real appeal. The old scale is nice too, especially because it was kind to me about my weight. Thanks chief!

Couldn't get a clear picture of the bath, but there was nothing of interest except that the stools were the smallest I've ever seen and they had one tub that was dyed green.

Well, it's par for the course that someone latches on and starts talking. This guy was 80-something but couldn't stop talking. Must be an affliction. The other guys were laughing because I got shackled with him when I was trying to dry off and get dressed. Anyway, it makes for a nice experience.

Not that there are a lot of bad sento experiences though, eh?

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