Quite often, when I pick up my five year old daughter from nursery school, I take her to a local Japanese “sento“, or bath-house.
Bathing is a recreation in Japan. Bath-houses used to be as common as muck, and very good for removing it in the days when Japanese houses resembled shacks and lacked bathing facilities. Sadly, many of these old bath-houses have shut down as the upwardly mobile Japanese began to be able to build and live in modern apartments with all the amenities supplied and now prefer to bathe in private!
However, you can still find quite a few bath-houses dotted around Hiroshima, where I live, and most other towns and cities, and if you want to experience “the real Japan”, popping into one of these places is a good way to do it!
The baths at these places include a piping hot main bath, a jacuzzi bath, maybe some baths with water jets for massaging your tired muscles. Most bath-houses also have a sauna, and cold plunge pool. Some even feature “electric baths” – i.e. hot baths that have a low voltage electric charge running through them to give you a shock as you climb in!
Anyway, last week, when I took my daughter along for a bath, she discovered that she could climb into one of the clothes lockers and once in, she didn’t want to get out again. In short, my daughter had found her niche!
Next, she wanted me to shut the door and lock it, but I declined that particular request. After all, while it is good to find your own niche, it is not good to be stuck inside it. Some freedom of movement is always advisable because there are plenty of other niches out there that are just waiting for someone to occupy!
Also, had I locked her in and gone and enjoyed my bath in peace, my daughter would have been deprived of her chief delight, namely pouring bowls of freezing cold water of the benighted noddle of her long-suffering father!