Nate: Hey Phil: Have you ever been to a Japanese public bath? I hear it's quite an experience.
Phil: Yes, and what an experience.
Nate: What do you mean?
Phil: Well, it's nothing like visiting a swimming pool in the States.
Nate: Well, what do you do when you go to a public bath?
Phil: First, you take off your shoes before you enter.
Phil: Then, you pay an entrance fee to the man or woman at the front counter. [Um-huh]. Next, you get undressed in the dressing room. And I was very surprised . . . and a little embarrassed to see that the woman who took my money was sitting on a platform where she had a clear view of the men's side of the dressing room. [Really?] This allows the workers to keep an eye on the patrons' belongings while they are in the bath.
Nate: Wow. And do you wear a bathing suit or something?
Phil: Oh no! You don't wear anything. Then you go into the main bathing area and wash your body while sitting on a small stool about 40 centimeters high.
Nate: On a stool!?
Phil: Yeah. It was really hard getting used to bathing in that position. Sometimes, even, people wash each other's backs.
Nate: Oh really. So, what do you do after that?
Phil: Well, after you've rinsed off all the soap, they usually have two or three large baths where you can soak for a while.
Nate: Do you actually share the bath with other people?
Phil: Yeah. Traditionally, the bath played an important role in the community. It gave neighbors an opportunity to socialize while bathing.
Nate: Huh. Interesting.
Phil: When you're all done bathing, people relax in the dressing room by watching TV, drinking tea or juice, or talking to friends. It's quite an experience.