Why don't Europeans use washcloth towels?

Japan's bathing culture: You, the tub is full

In this gallery: 4 pictures

The towel? Where on earth should you put the little towel? Crouched on a small plastic stool after the extensive cleaning operation, during which not a piece of skin was not soaped and rubbed off and soaped off and rubbed off again, the scrap is soaking wet. The small towel is actually a large washcloth. If you enter a Japanese onsen, one of the many hot springs that exist on this island, it will be given to you along with a large towel.

So where should the towel go? There is nothing that does not have its designated place in this country. This is the first lesson one learns as a traveler to Japan. At breakfast the miso soup is on the right, the rice on the left, and the other things around it. The pickled vegetables. The smoked fish, the cracked eggs. If you wait for a subway, you do this in a line - at marked points. If you go to the loo, you will find your own slippers ready in front of the door. The apartment slippers have no business in the Häusl.

And the towel?

The naked man on the left points to the back of his head. The towel belongs up there. Folded up nicely or just clapped around? Even the Japanese love of order doesn't go so far that even that is regulated. Onsen are a place where the strict code of conduct that governs social life in Japan is relaxed. It says so in the travel books. Friends get into the volcanic water to hang out together. Work colleagues for informal chats. The water is steaming, the people are dozing.

At least as long as nobody makes a mistake. Step into one of the basins with soap residue or maybe even unwashed? Doesn't work at all. Dip the towel, uh, the washcloth, in the pool water? God forbid. Enter the onsen with a tattoo? No way. At the entrance you get a sticker with which you have to cover your tattoos - if you really insist on wanting in at all. You don't like to see it. In Japan, tattoos are apparently still reserved for members of the yakuza, or organized crime.

Wrong comes back

Lesson two that you learn in this country: Many things have a completely different meaning in Japan than in our latitudes - and sometimes none at all. Blow your nose, for example. Is a sign of really bad behavior. It is better to pull up what has to be removed with a nice noise. Or if you give a tip: someone quickly feels offended. Courtesy, hospitality and good service are a matter of course in this country. So why tip?

With the ten yen that remain on the counter after buying a mochi filled with sweet bean paste, the saleswoman runs after you across the street. Again and again she bows and apologizes. Not that you think she wanted to put just ten cents in her own pocket! It doesn't matter, the dissolute woman is given to understand. Doesn't matter, explains tour guide Yuko. Injustice come back. If you pull something under the nail, it will happen to you too. Hai, one replies as a trained Japanese. Which means something like "yes".

Better to smile in a friendly way

In truth, a yes doesn't mean much at first. Especially not that you agree to something. Lesson number three is therefore: It is best to delete the word "no" from your vocabulary right away. Better to put on a friendly smile - and press around. You could think about it once. Shark. I'm not sure right now that ... Hai. Maybe you could ... shark.

It is not possible to be too polite in this country. Why only bow three times (with your entire upper body, but not too low) when you can do it ten times? After backing up the aircraft from the gate, the four ground workers who operated the tug line up. One by one bows. Then they raise their hands in greeting and wave - until the plane has disappeared on the runway. (Stephan Hilpold, RONDO, January 12, 2017)

The trip to Japan took place at the invitation of the Japan Tourist Board and the airline JAL.