Men and Women Can’t Be Friends

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Yesterday I headed to Inazawa (稲沢), a city near Nagoya (名古屋), to meet with the friendship society. About two and a half years ago they invited me to give a speech on Seattle. Next month I will be giving a speech on Japanese culture that interests me and some of my reasons. We had a meeting to discuss and plan for the event. As with any meeting here, there was also a focus on getting all of the involved parties introduced.

After the meeting I was planning to hit the onsen (温泉) at the Nagoya International Airport with the former society president. Somewhere along the line three of the women invited themselves along and we had a sizable outing to the hot springs. The location also got switched for proximity to Tohkichiroh (湯吉郎), which is named after Toyotomi Hideyoshi – a powerful historic figure born in this area, using his childhood name.

Soaking in the various types of baths was followed, as usual, with a relaxing time in a dining area, chatting and snacking. This bathing practice is still important bonding time in many business and social circles in Japan. We refer to it as hadaka no tsukiai (裸の付き合い) or in English: “naked socializing”. Many possible reasons for the importance of this practice come to mind; which are accurate probably varies from person to person.

  • very relaxing to soak in the mineral water
  • very casual environment
  • far from the office
  • nudity is a social equalizer

Over the table we were discussing that this was a path to building closer friendships and associations. So, I asked the obvious (or maybe not) question, “How do men and women form closer bonds?” Virtually all onsen and sento are separated by gender. The women got a kick out of this, but probably also thought I was some kind of pervert. There are rumored to be some baths in Japan that allow everyone to bathe in the same place, but I don’t know anyone with direct experience with such a place.

One time someone mentioned to me that the communal baths are populated by old women, but I think he was just making it up since he couldn’t name any locations. Anyhow, to put my more conservative friends at ease; I haven’t been searching for one of these, just asking questions about social behaviors.

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5 Responses to “Men and Women Can’t Be Friends”

  1. sunkissd1 Says:

    Wow, that was entertaining. I doubt coed bathing would be that enjoyable…like the nude beaches, it’s usually the disgusting, perveted old men that go there, not the hotties we’re anticipating.

  2. びっくり Says:

    Since the nudity at an onsen is not sexual, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the age, but having lecherous perverts around would be discomforting. One friend said it would be better to have older people around, he said he would be really embarrassed being naked in front of young cuties. In any case, this isn’t on my current list of plans.

  3. sunkissd1 Says:

    I think you should try it at least once so you can speak from experience. Make sure you blog about it. You could get technical, take pictures and post those on your blog…Lol.

  4. びっくり Says:

    You know? I have never tried taking a camera into the baths. Maybe if I explained that I am a member of the All-Japan photographic society, they wouldn’t mind.

  5. Gifts of Gab « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] recommendations for my upcoming trip to Korea, and someone else passed on some photos from my planning/onsen (温泉) trip. Yet, the most amazing present was from a guest that couldn’t […]

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