Following the order
This entry is not about Kendo, so those of you not into this martial art can proceed safely with reading. Although, it is Kendo-induced fear not… As I mentioned in one of my early entries, if in a need, one may take an ofuro after the practice. In my dojo bathroom is quite small - two showers and one bath tube - so by some ancient decree there are maximally two occupants at a time. The role of the changing room plays a two square meter area of dojo preceding ofuro, separated from the rest of the dojo by a curtain. After the end of the practice two highest in hierarchy transfer their standard clothes close to the curtain, go behind the curtain, undress and throw away their kendo clothes to the “public part” of the floor of the dojo. Then enter the bathroom. The one that finishes first shouts from behind the curtain “ofurooo doooozooo” (ofuro, please) wipes off partially soaking into furry doormat, grabs his standard clothes with his hand reaching behind the curtain and dresses up. In this time a third person enters behind the curtain, undresses and joins the person still remaining in the bathroom. In the bathroom itself, he cleans with use of the soap and water from ofuro and bowl or shower, while the other person heats up in the bath tube. Then the other person exits the bath tube ad the bathroom and the just-cleaned person goes into ofuro.
The only people who are allowed to move half-naked around the dojo are the senseis, who do it only to slip past the curtain to their small room and most likely only because the distance is about 50 cm. Others have to move around dojo dressed. I have heard this information from my European kohai (co-slave in Kendo) when… I forgot to bring my towel from upstairs and the obvious idea of mine was to slip somehow from behind the curtain up, avoiding the eyes of female kendokas. So, I was fortunate enough that he was dressing in mostly the same time as me, so I could wait and he brought my towel. My kohai did not participate in the next practice, however, unfortunately, my dementia did. I again forgot about the towel. For a brief moment I considered asking a sensei who was close by to bring my towel, but I decided it to be not appropriate. Of course, my lack of ability to explain were he would have to look for the towel had nothing to do with did. So there I was, standing behind the curtain completely wet and considering all possible options. Slip upstairs? To risky. Ask? Not appropriate. Wait until I dry up? May take ages. In the peak of my desperation I considered using floor rags that were within the reaching distance. Then, however, I would probably depart from dojo being more dirty when I came. But suddenly I was enlightened. The doormat. I was saved. However, future generations, beware! I must state a thing that may not be so obvious: doormats are not as good in wiping as towels.
The other day, coming back from practice I was tempted by a food bar, which I never was. There exist, for me, basically two types of food-bars in Japan, and each of them has two similar subtypes. My favorite ones are those with a coupon vending machines. One chooses a meal on a machine, pressing proper button (analogue or touchscreen), puts the money in and receives the coupon, which he then gives to the service stuff. Most of the time simple way, with no language stress. Unless… there are no pictures of the meals on buttons but only written information. I am always somehow magically reflected from the latter subtype of the bar. The second type of the bar does not have a vending machine but a menu. Printed or wall-hanging. Fortunately in most cases there are pictures of food in the menu. Those bars without pictures… again, the magical reflection.
So I was tempted by the menu-type of bar. Usually when you enter, you hear shouted invitation “irasshaimase”, seat, take the menu, choose and wait for the service. Then eat and pay when leaving. This time, however, the service near the cashier shouted something different. And there was a wall-menu hanging near the cashier. So somehow I decided that it must be the fast-food type of bar like McDonals, where you order and pay at the same time. So did I. Then proceeded to take a sit. I was fortunate enough that the service person who chased me spoke some English, so there was not a big problem to explain that no, I don’t want a take-out. Then, after some time, something enticed me into using a napkin. The napkins were in a stand, tightly fitted. I could not get one out simply pulling it, because then I pulled the whole stand. So I used my second hand to grab/push a stand. The effect was a loud bell sounding in the whole bar. I haven’t noticed that the stand is equipped with a bell-button for calling the service. So there I was, trying to explain a very helpful, but this time not English speaking waitress that I really do not need anything and I did not push the button on purpose. I am not sure if he believed me or understood, but finally she attended other customers. Since that day I reach for the napkins most carefully.