As i’ve told many of you, the hardest part of living in Tokyo has been making new friends. I had the greatest group of female friends back home that were a major part of my life and i never had to think twice about what to say or where to go or what to do with any of them. Starting over is not easy at 43. Even though i consider myself a social person, i haven’t had to go out into the world and try to meet new people in a very long time. It’s been ten weeks since i arrived and even though i have met some very nice women, i hadn’t yet been invited to a girls night out and even though i had thrown out a few feelers, i hadn’t had any positive responses and so had not planned a night out myself. Last week, a new friend sent an email inviting six women for a korean scrub at Adam and Eve and then spicy ramen and beer afterwards. We were going to meet up at 8pm at the building up the block that looked like a ship, had no windows and said Adam and Eve on the outside. A building that advertised it was open 24hr. To be honest, i had heard it was a very unique experience and I would be required to leave my American modesty at the door. I knew each of the other five women who were invited, but the longest i knew any of them was two months and one woman i had met a few weeks before and was introduced to briefly. But as i said, i was desperate for a night out and slightly curious about the experience and never one to say no to a spa appointment, i quickly emailed back and said i’d be there. The night before the big night out, i actually had a mini-nightmare. I woke up remembering that i had dreamed about being naked in a room that looked very much like a morgue with other naked women around me but they weren’t moving. I put it out of my mind and the day passed. After i fed everyone dinner and cleaned up the kitchen it was time to leave. I decided to take my bike due to the new zero tolerance drinking and driving law passed in Japan. I met two of the women on the way and we arrived at the building and checked in. We left our shoes in little cubbies and were given a key for a locker inside. In the ladies locker room, we were instructed to remove all our clothes and take the small towel from our locker and wrap it around ourselves and go upstairs to the scrub room. The scrub room was very brightly lit and completely tiled from floor to ceiling. There were two nice size soaking tubs (one hot and one freezing), and then a few rows of low stools, hand showers and mirrors. As in every other Japanese bathhouse, you were to remove your towel, hang it on the hook on the other side of the room, walk across the room (completely naked) and sit on the low stool and begin scrubbing your body clean (yes, right next to everyone else doing the same). Once clean, we all got into the soaking tub together and waited to be called. From the soaking tub you could see into the next room which was wide open except for a low hip high tiled wall separating the two rooms. inside the treatment room there were six beds covered in plastic with an unbelievable amount of lotions and potions behind each one. While we were relaxing in the soaking tub, getting used to the fact that we hardly knew one another and now we were chatting completely naked but trying to pretend that we weren’t, the korean women who would be taking care of us entered the room. They were all short and stocky (some more stocky than others) clad only in black bikini panties and lace bra. They abruptly called to us and motioned for us to come into the treatment room to begin the process. I was instructed to lie facing up on the table and immediately a large bucket of hot water was poured over my body from head to toe. My eyes were closed. I heard pumping and soon was slathered with some type of body soap. And then she began to scrub my body fiercely with what probably was some sort of loofah but felt more like fine sandpaper. My skin began to come off in clumps. i felt them underneath me as i slipped and slid on the table. When she was finished with my front (the only place she didn’t scrub was my face), i was flipped onto my side, my leg hoisted up into the air and the scrubbing continued. This was followed by flipping onto my other side. I was then turned over on my stomach and i was able to at last open my eyes. What i saw out of the corner of my eye was my new friend Mona’s naked back covered in dead skin clumps and a woman in black bra and panties scrubbing her raw. i looked down at my own arm and saw the same dead skin and decided to close my eyes again. At this point i was past the embarrassment and i was now just physically uncomfortable. I couldn’t wait to get the skin and the soap off my body. It didn’t come as quickly as i would have liked but finally, i heard the twisting of faucets and the hand held shower removed the skin, the dirt, the soap and i started to finally unwind. Once the treatment was over, i was sent back to the soaking tub to relax while the treatment bed was cleaned. We were all back in the tub in a little bit of shock. We didn’t say much to each other but i soon realized that all of us were stroking our arms and legs and shoulders, marveling at how soft we were. The nudity issue was behind us – we had been through the exfoliation war and we had survived. We didn’t have a lot of time to appreciate our new bodies before we were called back in. I laid back on the table facing up and bra and panty lady instructed me to close my eyes. she slathered thick goppy pulp that smelled like fresh cucumbers onto my face leaving only room for me to breath through my nose. i was covered in oil and salt and received a “full body massage” (as in, no body part was spared). It certainly was not the best massage i have had and it wasn’t exactly relaxing as a good part of the massage included smacking me around. but i kept telling myself it was an “experience”. when she turned me over to massage my back i got a glimpse of Mona again. Her face was neon green. Of course now i knew what i looked like too. When the massage was over, she washed and conditioned my hair, had me stand and then hosed me down. By this point i could barely stand. A few of us went into the sauna to dry. It was about 10:30 and i remembered there was promise of spicy ramen and beer. we went to the exit door, clad only in a towel and after sliding back the door, found we were in the restaurant. The TV was blaring, there were two korean women smoking and the rest of the tables were empty. we were motioned to come inside and give up our towels. Yes, that’s right. we were standing in a restaurant where food would be served, completely naked. and then we were handed robes. We drank our beer in reclining chairs, hair wet clipped on top of our heads with the elastic key to our lockers and wrapped up in our robes. above us, there was a large oil painting of a foreigner (non asian woman) naked from the waist up, with large breasts. our waitress came and took our order for ramen and gyoza and when it came, we moved to the tables on the floor and crossed our legs and tucked in our robes and ate and drank and talked until after midnight. When we couldn’t eat or drink anymore, we left the restaurant, returned to the locker and changed back into our street clothes. Within ten minutes we were back outside getting on our bicycles (i wasn’t the only one to choose that method of transportation) and riding home. My body was clean, my hair wet, my stomach full, a little drunk, the air was crisp and fall-like, the bike ride home all downhill (honestly) and i was smiling. I had found some friends, done something adventurous and had a really good time doing it.