Receiving a few curious looks from other Japanese women that lasted merely a few seconds (after realizing that I had the same exact body parts as they did), I went safely unnoticed as I submerged myself into a near boiling pool of water at the foot of a Roman statue. The Japanese were pretty tough when it came to hot water, taking plenty of time to simmer themselves while catching up on local gossip with their friends.
I had also grown accustomed to the high temperatures of the hot baths and after a couple of minutes, my body would adjust and my muscles would relax. It was only several minutes later that I would realize that my skin had turned a splotchy red color, which took a couple of hours to disappear.
This time was no different and I decided to head for the sauna to give my skin a break from the water. The sauna of course, was also extremely hot, but in a different way. In America, warnings on sauna walls always suggested staying inside for no more than 10 minutes, as saunas make you release buckets of sweat and you can easily become dehydrated and faint, where some hours later somebody finds you dead and shriveled like a prune inside. I was always painting lovely pictures such as these in my head.
In Japan however, I couldn’t read the signs so I had no idea if there were any warnings or not. However, I often saw women stay inside for 30 minutes or more. Heading inside and greeted by a sudden gust of pure dry heat, I saw that it was only myself and another woman in the sauna. The other women, was laying on her back, with a towel over her face. I wondered how long she had been in there.
I laid down, allowing the heat to penetrate my body and instantly, little beads of sweat poured out of my pores. I think that my ears were even sweating. After a good ten minutes had passed, I sat up. The woman was still there.
Was she breathing??
Tiptoeing gently over to her to make sure she was still alive, I was relieved to see her chest still moving up and down with each breath. Reaching out my hand to tap her on the shoulder to make sure she was okay, she suddenly shifted, grunting, and pulled her towel off her face in one sudden movement. Looking a bit shocked to see me, her eyes widened.
“Anata wa daijobu desuka?” I asked her.
“Hai, daijobu des”, she answered, breaking into a slow smile.
At least she had sensed my concern.