I was fortunate enough to have my very first Spaworld experience one recent evening when, on a briskly cold school night my friend and I ventured out into the depth of downtown Imamiya to indulge ourselves in a bath.
The area itself is a bit didgy. In all my time here in Japan, I have never truly felt unsafe as some areas in Sydney would make me feel (especially at night). However, when I parked my bike at Shin-Imamiya station that day, I truly did believe it wasn’t going to be there when I came back.
So it’s strange to think that such a dreadful place (hmm, maybe dreadful is a strong word – it’s certainly no Kings Cross or Liverpool) could hold the beauty and wonder of a place like Spaworld.
For those of you who don’t know, Japanese has their own unique washing and bathing culture that has resulted in the construction of numerous hot springs and bath houses both in the inner city and in the far reaches of the country. Hot springs (温泉) and bathhouse (風呂) are as common as sushi shops here and can be just as cheap. You can read more about my first ever hot spring experience here.
Spaworld is a bathhouse and it is quite literally a world of spas. First of all there are two levels which alternate gender depending on the month. This month the European floor was for the men and the Asian floor was for us women. It was nothing short of amazing. In the less than two hours that we were there we journeyed through the mozaic-tiled baths of Turkey, the bamboo jet-spas of Bali to the grand elegance of Persia and the rustic nature of old world Japan. We finished up in the Dr Spa with vitamin infused waters and salt scrub saunas.
And all for only 1,000 yen.
The ticket itself lasts for 24 hours so you can spend as long as you like bathing and relaxing. There are also beauty therapists on hand for massages and treatments (for an extra fee of course), restaurants if you’re feeling a bit peckish and a beauty station complete with hair and face products, brushes and hair dryers so that you can leave looking your most fabulous self (and you won’t have to take the train with damp hair).
Since the whole entire floor is women only, you can walk around naked with just your yellow modesty towel and feel comfortable and welcome. However, Spaworld also offers these awesome retro, pink moo-moos that would offer a great photo opportunity if you were actually allowed to take any pictures. Once you’re in the bathing sections however, it’s the full monty all the way and surprisingly there is a strange kind of empowerment from being so naked and vulnerable in front of complete strangers and your own friends. It’s not something that you can describe in words and to feel it, I recommend you just go yourself.
For more information on this amazing bathhouse, you can visit spaworld.com (don’t worry, it’s in English). As we went on a Tuesday evening, there was almost nobody there so the world was our oyster, however I’m told that weekends and public holidays are almost unbearably busy.
Well, it is Japan after all.
Emma Perry is a kindergarten teacher and freelance writer living in Osaka. Originally from Sydney, Australia, she enjoys travelling (mostly to warm places), meeting awesome people, watching Rugby and riding roller coasters. You can read more of her work at http://tilltwentyfive.wordpress.com/