Friday, January 12, 2007

The Sento Mafia

I joined a sports club across from my apartment this past spring, before I got my tattoo. I have begun showering in a little cubicle, so as not to draw undue attention to my ink. You see, when I signed up, I was asked to fill out paperwork asking if I was in fact a "gangster". Deciding that I was not of the gangster persuasion, I filled in "no".

I have heard horror stories of people being asked to leave their gyms or various sento because their tat was showing and it's against the rules. I have been living in fear, walking around in the nude with my hand covering my hip, in some odd limp-wristed, Napoleonic, Bob Dole kinda way.
Earlier this week, I was going through my usual routine of workout, shower, hand-over-hipbone saunter into the outdoor sento, relax. Sento are usually quiet places. If you are with your friends, you can talk at a reasonable level, or just be silent and melt. As previous posts have mentioned, many women tend to evacuate the sento once a gaijin hops in, for unknown reasons. I was under the impression that no one ever talks to strangers in the sento. I have been going for a year and a half, and have never once been addressed by a stranger, besides the occasional "sumimasen" if you bumped them or needed to walk past. Imagine my surprise when I settle in and am immediately addressed.

"Gakusei?" (are you a student?)
Iie, watashi wa kyoushi desu. (No, I am a teacher)
"Sugoi!" (that's great!)
Arigatou (thanx!)

The conversation continues and she proceeds to ask me why I take a shower instead of sitting at the bucket/sinks and bathing out in the open like everyone else. Meh?? I explain, that I have a TATTOO. She starts laughing and tells me that I am free to wander around in my nakie glory without looking like I have a broken wrist anymore! I have Obaachan clearance.

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