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After college, my friend Lisa and I packed two enormous duffel-bags full of our belongings and moved to Japan.
We lived in a small city near Osaka, in an apartment with tatami mat floors and sliding shōji doors. In the winter, we would sit on the straw floor with our legs tucked under a kotatsu – a low table covered by a thick blanket, with a heating element underneath. We ate okonomiyaki (savory pancakes made with shredded cabbage, eggs, flour and – my personal favorite – octopus) at a local food stall, sang at karaoke bars, and tried our best to learn Japanese and its three alphabets.
One of my favorite attempts to absorb Japanese culture was bathing at the local onsen — a public bath complete with hot, medium and freezing tubs of water. There was even a pool with currents of electricity running through it. Before you entered these tubs, you had to take a seated shower, planting yourself on a low plastic stool & using a hand-held shower head to make yourself squeaky clean. A row of women would be doing the same in the large, open shower room, and their children would look openly at Lisa’s and my naked bodies and giggle about our ghostly white skin.
This week, so many memories came flooding back when I visited the Korean Spa Castle in College Point, NY. I had been heard about the Asian-inspired pools when the facility opened in 2007, but it wasn’t until my little experiment in trying something new every week (more on that in an upcoming post) kicked in that I got it together to go. So, on my birthday, my husband, the boys and I went out to Queens to give it a whirl. Read the rest of this entry »