Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Asakusa Kannon Onsen

I must mention this onsen as it is special.  The onsen is located very conveniently right next to Senso-ji, or actually it is on the temple ground to be more precise.  If you are facing the main hall of Senso-ji, this onsen is on your left.  You can see a 4-5 story building that is covered by ivory leagues.

The onsen facility itself is very run down, very old, very vintage.  The people manning the onsen are also very old, just like the building itself.

I went there twice.  For the first time, when I went in, people were leaving, so I had the WHOLE onsen, not entirely whole really, as I only had the WHOLE men's part of the onsen, all to myself.  There are two pools, one is very hot, the other is hot.  The very hot one is really too hot.  The moment I dipped my toes in, I had to jump out.  So at the end, I still only used half the onsen.

The onsen has very little crowd.  After I came in, only one old man and a young man came in to join me.  The old man was really old.  He was trembling when he was walking.  I am always very afraid of old man in the onsen.  They look so fragile you have no idea when they will just slip & fall.

The second time when I was there, some older office workers were there, but they soon left.  And then two old men came when I was about to leave.  Then it comes to the very interesting point of Asakusa Kannon onsen.  In Japan, there is an unwritten rule that if you have tattoos on your body, you are not welcomed in any onsen or sento (bath house) with very few exceptions.  Tattoos in the older days are symbols of being a member of yakuzi, or mafia in English.  Asakusa Kannon onsen is one such exception.  One of the old man that came in, had very colorful tattoos on his right arm.  Looking at the age of the man, when he was young, for sure tattoos were symbols of mafia.  Does this mean he was/is a member of the mafia?? 

In Japan, before you dip yourself into the onsen pool, you should always clean yourself thoroughly.  However, this man with tattoo simple didn't bother.  He went straight into the pool.  He even happily dipped his long beard into the pool too.  Yucks, I was using that pool just minutes ago, luckily I left just that minutes earlier. 

I was wondering whether he had some glory past, but he now looks week and fragile, slow in motion, numb to the surroundings. 

If you want to see some pictures of the onsen, you can find them at this blog.  Ok, btw, this onsen is one of the oldest in Tokyo, and 'frequent' by both locals & tourists.  As to the effectiveness of the onsen, I was happy.  I went there with a tired body, after 12 hours of intercontinental flight, and many hours of walking along the streets of Tokyo.  The onsen easied my pain in my lower back. 

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