Hanami, Baths, and "asobi" in Japan

The last post “Omotenashi” did not go into much detail on the subject, but if there was ever one true statement about Japan, it’s that people work hard, and play hard.
This was always something that had amazed me. In my background, we always tended to spread out the workload, making each day somewhat productive, yet somewhat relaxed. Then again, I grew up in the suburbs of coastal California…
I’m sure you have heard of the Japanese bath houses, or “Sento”. Or perhaps the notable amount of natural hotsprings or “Onsen”, which also take the form of a bath house of sorts. Well, one thing that my investigations into Japan did not prepare me for was the “super sento”

Beautiful and relaxing onsen can be found all over Japan

Beautiful and relaxing onsen can be found all over Japan

These “Onsen” look like a tranquil getaway to let your stress and concerns drift away in a hot bath; and that’s exactly what they are. But for many, just a bath is not enough to fulfill the ultimate goal of pure and seemingly excessive relaxation.

Take the soreness from your muscles, take care of all your hygienic needs, have a nice drink of water…and then what? You’re ready to relax to the max; or maybe even let loose and have some fun. The Japanese have answered the call with the Super Sento.

The super sento is a complete relaxation facility complete with fun for the whole family. After taking a bath, why not take a stroll to one of the many restaurants and have a meal? If you’re not hungry, sit back in a recliner with a personal T.V to watch a movie, or maybe the news. Let the kids run around in the arcade or ping pong room while you have a nice massage. Or if you’re a gambler, how about some Pachinko? If Karaoke is your bag, let some energy out with your favorite singer. You could always just eat and drink until you can’t take anymore and pass out, then get back in the bath….This is what most seem to do actually…

A super sento always have a restaurant where you can find Japanese local foods such as a bowl of soba noodles or a plate of Japanese curry For a gambler, the pachiko section at a super sento is the place to be.
Comfortable beds and resting rooms at a super sento allow for a rejuvenating nap

The Super Sento is a facility dedicated entirely to relaxation and indulgence on a more basic level, and you can bring the family along! To top it off, it’s very affordable, at around 1,000 yen to enter. Food and drinks will cost more of course.

In this same sense, Japanese working culture, in Tokyo at least, builds up the value of holiday and relaxation as something which must be enjoyed to the maximum. Carpe diem applied to relaxation, if you will.

Hanami is celebrated every year around the 2nd week of April. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom all over Japan, and people gather among them to eat drink, and be surrounded by the beauty of the flowers. This is akin to a picnic or barbecue- for nearly the entire country. Parks and streets around the whole Tokyo area will be filled with people of all ages admiring the cherry blossom trees, and more importantly, the coming of spring (and not to mention after a very tough post-disaster winter).

Hanami is celebrated by people of all ages marking the end of a severe winter and the beginning of a pleasant and fruitful spring

Beautiful…but a bit crowded for my taste…

Japan can be a culture of extremes in my opinion. Working hard and playing hard is just one example of that. People look forward to spring so intensely, and some tend to celebrate a bit too hard…

Alcohol poisoning was up about 5 fold this year…

But at any rate, I have come to respect the view that work and play ought to be separate (for the most part), and both should be pursued to the maximum. Although I can’t say I’ve adapted it to my own life yet!