The bath house | Narita

The bath house - © anton kusters 2009

The bath house - © anton kusters 2009

I'm exhausted, waiting at the entrance of the tiny bath house at the golf course near Narita, hoping to get in.

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A couple of hours earlier, while we're teeing off, Soichiro tells me that playing golf is a good way to really really get to know someone. It's also one of the first things that Japanese businessmen do, and many business deals in japan are started, if not made, during a game of golf.

I feel ever so slightly uneasy knowing that i am, in part, being "measured up" here... but the beauty is that this is a double edged sword: i can do my own measuring too...

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Yamamoto Kaicho has just finished his round, and arrives at the bath house. He gestures me to follow him in. I enter the first room, where I undress, put my clothes in one of the many little baskets, grab a small towel to scrub and proceed to the bath and shower area.

In the centre of the room I see a large hot bath with mineral-rich water from a hot spring, surrounded by showers facing the walls, each with a little stool and shower gear.

It's foggy in here.

The boss's bodyguard explains i should sit, shower, soap up and scrub first, then rinse, and only after that, go into the bath. Everyone sits together in the bath chatting, once in a while going back to the shower to scrub again, thereby letting the minerals in the water take maximum effect.

The bath house - © anton kusters 2009

The bath house - © anton kusters 2009

Tattoos are banned in many bath houses in Japan... originally this rule was made as a way of indirectly banning the Yakuza (as they were the only ones wearing tattoos). But as slowly more often people start wearing tattoos in Japan, this rule is becoming difficult to enforce. Nowadays, a family will often rent an onsen or sento privately, and all go together. Like now.

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I didn't win the game of golf... not by a long shot. But somehow i felt that being able to hold my own, and at the same time talk about anything else but business, was way more important that being to focused on winning.

It's almost like the game in and of itself seemed irrelevant... and at the same time very relevant on a different level.