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Take The Plunge at The Yamada Spa

By: Sara Bennett

Date Posted: 2000-07-07

There are certain experiences one must not miss out on while on Okinawa. Exploring the coral reefs, sampling the wide variety of sushi and visiting a public bath. The Yamada Spa, tucked away on the second floor of the Renaissance Okinawa Resort, provides a wonderful first-time public bath environment for the inexperienced. The Yamada Spa is attractive for several reasons. For instance, you donít have to be a guest at the hotel to visit the baths and it allows persons with tattoos. Some bath houses prohibit people with tattoos from using their facilities.

As is customary in Japanese bath houses, men and women bathe in separate facilities. Although this may be comforting to some, there can still be a great deal of apprehension before entering a public bath. There is a certain amount of vulnerability in being naked among people from another culture.

In the spaís lobby the attendant hands out towels and keys to lockers. There are small baskets of personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, hair brushes and disposable razors available at a reasonable price for spa visitors who forget to bring them. The lobby is comfortable and bright, a perfect place for men and women to meet after visiting their respective baths.

Both baths have small anterooms furnished with small numbered lockers where visitors store their shoes. When visitors step through the inner doorway, muted earth hues greet them and add to the relaxing atmosphere. There is a small lounging area where, after finishing, bathers can wait for friends or simply chat with other bath visitors. Across the room is a long vanity counter and mirror. Adjacent to the vanity area is a massage room, available for bathers wanting to schedule an post-bath massage. The clothing lockers are clustered together in the center of the room and through double glass doors the jade bath water shimmers invitingly while people undress and store their clothing. Some enter the bath area by modestly wrapping their towels around them, others casually stroll in, unabashedly bare.

Before getting into the water, bathers thoroughly clean themselves at the showers along the walls. Large pump dispensers of shampoo and soap are between each shower. Bathers sit on short plastic stools while washing their hair and bodies. In addition to the shower, large plastic basins are provided so bathers can rinse off their plastic stool and showering area when they are finished. Freshly cleansed, bathers then gingerly slip into the warm green waters where even the most body conscious person can feel relaxed. Some bathers sit on the floor of the shallow bath, submerging up to their necks, while others sit half-submerged on the ledge just beneath the surface of the water. The water in the bath is not as hot as that of a jacuzzi, so bathers can linger in the nourishing waters for long periods of time. The water gently trickles out of a large flat faucet into the bath. Some bathers sit motionless in the water, while others cup their hands and pour the water across their shoulders.

Afterwards, bathers rinse off at the showers and return to the locker area. Many bathers stop immediately outside the glass doors and get a paper cup of water from the cooler before dressing.

Most bathers dry off and dress before preening at the vanity counter, although a few simply wrap their towels around them and immediately begin drying their hair. Hair dryers, cotton swabs, facial astringent, cotton squares, lotion, soap and tissues are provided at the vanity counter for bathersí convenience. Relaxed and refreshed, bathers deposit their wet towels in the the numerous wicker hampers and retrieve their shoes from the anteroom. Back in the spa lobby, bathers return the locker key to the attendant and may take a few moments to sit and compare their bath experiences before leaving. The Yamada Spa costs •1,050 and massages are extra and must be scheduled. For more information contact the Renaissance Hotel at (098) 965-0707.

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