November 1st, 2001 § 0

People travel hundreds of kilometers and spend thousands of yen just to spend a few hours in this room.  The three sides punctuated by tall windows show snow falling on trees.  Through them comes the white light of the afternoon, whose shadows are so hard to catch.  Heavy wooden ceiling structure criss-crosses, recedes upwards into darkness.  The building is like a barn in that every surface is unfinished wood, yet the surfaces here are planed and sanded skin-smooth, worn by water and time until they shine.  On one side, slatted screens separate changing areas.  When you take off your cotton yukata and slippers, you can glimpse the bath and bathers inside.  It works both ways.  A copper washbasin.  Bare feet on slatted deck, you crouch and dip a cedar bucket into the hot water.  Rinsing yourself you then soap with a bright pink bar, careful to keep the washing water well away from the edge of the bath.  Your eyes adjust to the low light.  Silently slip into the silky water.   Wooden decks divide the large square pool into four smaller ones.  Loose chunks of wood serve as floating pillows.  Your feet, joyfully hidden from view, explore a bed of river rocks.  This room was built over a river.  The hot mineral water bubbles up through the rocks, smooth and hard.  Resting your head against the edge, you look across a glassy reflection to a window.  No one makes a sound.  With a wooden pillow under your neck, your eyes wander up into the maze of beams and rafters.  Eventually you let your eyes close, listen to your breath, and ripples carried across the water’s surface to your ears.

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