Fishies Cleaned My Feet

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Zoupi towels off after the onsen

Yesterday, I found myself at Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a hot-springs bathing theme park at Odaiba. It opened 4 years ago and I'd never heard of it. Camilla and Liz, visiting friends, told me about it and we went together for a five hour bathing extravaganza.

We did the full round of baths twice, had a sand bath, sat and enjoyed the outdoor foot pond, wandered around the Edo-themed complex and tried the doctor fish. As great as the baths and the retro decor were, the fish were the highlight of the day.

Doctor fish nibble the dead skin off your body - in this case our feet - leaving them smooth and fresh. It feels very strange to have a horde of fish surrounding your feet and sucking on them, but it works. Once you get over the giggles (it tickles), it settles into a tingling sensation as the fish have their dinner.

In Turkey, where these hot-water dwellers come from, they are used for treating psoriasis. Here in Japan they are more cosmetic than medical. Why do they dine on your skin? The fish are starved so that they'll go for your crusty bits. Maybe it's cruel, but I appreciate the effect. I can still see the pale pink demarcation just above my ankles where the dozens stopped dining. I sort of wished they'd worked on the rest of me, too.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari does not allow persons with tattoos, but they didn't notice mine and I spotted another foreign woman with a tattoo. They didn't seem to have a problem with Zoupi or his friend Moe, either. Maybe they were feeling lenient on a weekday afternoon without too many customers. In any case, tattoo'd folks attend at your own risk.

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Oedo Onsen is great fun and a cool place – ever so slightly off the beaten path, yet still touristy enough – to bring visiting friends...

They did notice my tattoo when I was there, but merely asked that I cover it with a towel when walking around between baths... so it wasn't that bad. It also was on a not-so-busy weekday.

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