Ingrid has allergies and wears this get up commuting from home to school on the train to protect herself from the pollen. I think she looks like Michael Jackson. Funny thing is, no one in Japan thinks its all that strange.
About 2 months ago we celebrated our friend Ingrid's birthday with a girls night out (James excluded for obvious reasons). For her birthday gift, we promised her a day at the spa, treated by Laura, Jesse and Charity. Last night we finally took her out to LaQua, a 3 story spa/onsen complex near Tokyo Dome. Surrounding Tokyo Dome are skyscrapers and a theme park filled with roaring roller coasters, ferris wheels and Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurants, while inside, LaQua is it's own tranquil theme park of massages, baths, saunas, steam rooms and facials. To enter, you pay 2,500 Yen to receive an electronic wrist bracelet that gives you unlimited access to the spas, steam rooms and relaxation rooms. Your wrist bracelet opens your locker and is the mode of currency in the spa complex. You are then given a bag containing your choice of 3 different ugly polyester type comfy outfits for your lounging pleasure. The dressing and locker rooms are the size of a school gym and contain vending machines that supply you with everything from water to underwear to nylons, all with the swipe of your bracelet. After booking massages (choices range from Hawaiian to Swedish to Thai to Balinesian to Aromatherapy), we swiped our bracelet again for a snack before being rubbed down. My massage wasn't all that great (her arms were scrawnier than mine), but it was relaxing. Then we hit the onsen. This place blew me away. There must have been over 50 shower stalls leading into the 5 pools, sauna, steam room, cold bath and foot bath. It's strange to be confidently walking around naked with 100s of other women....the pools were hot and relaxing and incredibly serene considering the city mayhem surrounding us. The sauna had a huge screen tv with 20 naked Japanese women watching reruns of 80s pop music tryouts a la Star Search. The outside pool was just perfect for lounging and not overheating.
I was so relaxed and at peace after all the warm water that I managed to slather conditioner all over my face instead of facewash. Unfortunately, we were woken out of our blissful state when a spa staff member came over, grabbed our wrist bracelets and told us that we had 30 minutes to get out. Turns out, someone had turned Laura in for having tattoos. We saw the signs prohibiting body art, but we chose to play dumb gaijin....apparently they've seen that trick in the past. Laura's 2 small tattoos are discreet and not much bigger than a quarter--it's amazing how threatened someone can feel by another's choice to ink themselves. She's lived in Japan for almost 10 years and never had an issue in an onsen. So, we left with giggles at feeling like we had been picked up by the police in high school prank calling or something ridiculous like that.
The other crazy part of this place is the football stadium sized room equipped with 100s of lazyboys and personal sized TVs. The spa is open from 11:00 a.m to 9:00 a.m., so if you are in the neighborhood and happen to miss last train, you can pay less than 30 bucks to sit in warm waters and then sleep in a lazy boy until the trains start running again. Only in Japan. Love it.