I grabbed my shower basket (you’re not cool in Japan unless you have a shower basket), and my towel and stepped up to place them in the glass cubbies outside the showers. An energetic, wrinkled little 4 foot-something lady bounced up to me - if you had been there, you would have heard something like this.
Her: Pooru? Pooru ni ikimasu ka? (Pool? Are you going to the pool?)
Me: (caught slightly offguard) Uh….yes – pooru!
Her: Oyagu? Pooru – oyagu? (Swim? Pool – swim?)
Me: Hai – oyagimasu. (Yes, I will swim.)
Her: Nan-fun? Dore kurai? San-juu pun?(How long – how many? 30 minutes?)
Me: Uh…hai – san…san-juu kai. (motioning back and forth with my finger) ichi..ni…san…san-juu made. (Yes – 30 times…1, 2, 3, until 30.)
She was quite excited and laughing and bobbing and bouncing, stepping side to side and back and forth. I should probably mention that we were both standing there, completely naked, (that means no towels, either), having this energetic conversation.
Her: Sugoi, na! Na! (Great, isn’t it?!)
Me: (smiling awkwardly, trying to make sure I am a) understanding her correctly, and b) forming understandable Japanese answers)Her: Aruku? Arukimasu? (Walk, will you walk?)
Me: (slightly confused) Uh…ie – oyagimasu (making swimming motions with my arms) (Uh...no - swim.)
Her: Ah – hai, hai! Oyagu! (copying swimming motions with her arms) Crawru, crawru?
Me: Hai! Crawl! Hai! (Ha. Mission accomplished – communication successful.)
At this point, two other women came out of the shower area – there are now four of us standing around, completely naked. How often do you see 2, let alone 4, women – in Canada – standing around, completely naked, having a conversation? Never – at least, I haven’t.
Her: Hayai, na! Hayai…
Her: Eh?! Hayai?
Lady2: Hayai niwa eigra wa ‘supeedo’ (‘hayai’ in English is speed)
Me: Hai! Supeedo…wakaru! (Yes – speed, I undersand)
I should also mention that I had left my glasses in my locker – and those of you who know me know that I am practically blind without them. So just when I thought the conversation was finished, the bobbin’ ‘n’ bouncin’ lady would start talking again…but I couldn’t really see her, so without knowing where she was directing her words, I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or the other ladies.
Lady2: Doko kara kimashita ka? (Where are you from?)
Me: (proud of myself for understanding) Canada – Canada kara desu.
Awkward naked silence.
Me: Arigato…sumimasen… (ducking out of the alcove to the scale)
I weighed myself, then went back to get my bathing suit before going into the showers.
Her: (still bobbing and bouncing) Takai, na! Na! (Tall, isn’t she, isn’t she!)
Me: (awkward smile and laugh) Hai…hai. (Yes…yes.)
All three of the ladies are now giggling.
Her: Na! Na! (I don’t really know how to translate this….’I see, I see’ is the closest I can think of. Or maybe ‘wow, wow!’).
Awkward silence, amidst giggling and bobbin’ ‘n’ bouncin’.
Me: Sumimasen…yoroshiku onegaishimasu…arigato! (heading for the showers)
Her: Hai, hai….(somethin, somethin’) – gambatte!! Na, na! (Yes, yes…good luck!)
Smiling and still giggling a bit to myself, I hit the shower. She was pretty funny, and seemed to find me quite a marvel.
After a quick shower, I had to go back through the alcove to head out to the pool. She was still there, as were the other two ladies. I smiled and tried to be polite with my ‘sumimasen’s and ‘yoroshiku onegaishimasu’s…and she wished me good luck again, with a couple of ‘Na, na!’s thrown in for good measure.
She was quite friendly, and I was proud of having had an entire conversation (sort of) in Japanese – I do hope I see her again – we will both be excited to see each other and will probably exchange smiles, giggles, ‘gambatte’s, and ‘sumimasen’s in our lack of clothing. I’ve determined that being naked with other women lends itself to bonding rather quickly – despite the language barrier and short interactions. Perhaps that’s why it still seems to be so popular here.