Putting on the Ritz

Followed Reiko on an errand across Tokyo and saw the polished Japanese medical system at work. At a posh women’s clinic, no men were allowed inside. Nice architecture all around. Tom took pictures for his brother. Did some shopping but everything seemed way expensive so refrained from buying. Then we went to the Ritz Carlton Spa, Reiko and Isao are members as they live practically across the street.

First we went to the members only cafe for lunch: sandwiches, salad, and chocolates, so far so good. This was located way on a top floor, high above Tokyo. Then the fun began. The four of us went to the front desk to collect our equipage, previously ordered by size. We were provided with swim suits, caps, water shoes, dry shoes, sneakers, a robe, a towel, all in a handy, fashionably navy blue carry bag with a silver Ritz charm hanging from the strap.

We repaired to the sex appropriate side of the spa, down long halls past a series of closed doors. Feeling a little like Alice down the rabbit hole, I trailed Reiko. First, we encountered a locker room filled with cabinets with keys hanging from the locks. I started to undress but the smiling, bowing, dusty-rose uniformed attendant stopped me. The spacious cabinets were only for our shoes. I relinquished my shoes, received my key on a tastefully embossed chocolate brown fobbed key ring, slipped on the gold and white slippers provided, and looked around. Reiko was just outside, so stepping through a curtain, down another long hall and was led into a second locker room, significantly bigger than the first with a wall of larger lockers and one thin, half-naked Japanese woman seated in front of a vanity table applying makeup. I turned discreetly, placed my navy blue bag on the bench, and started to underdress. The attendant motioned me to follow her down another corridor to a small room equipped with a different pair of slippers, a private changing room. The door closed.

I began to change but on inspecting my navy blue bag, I found to my horror that it contained a pair of navy blue trunks, size 9 men’s sneakers, and a man’s track suit. Across the spa Tom was finding a maillot size 10 and women’s work out clothes. I consulted another smiling, bowing, uniformed attendant in one of the featureless halls. Apologies were made (I think  she apologized as everything was in Japanese) and in a few minutes I had my bag. I changed and tried to find the room with the clothing lockers. Finally, placing my clothes in the second locker and my shoe locker key in the small enamel dish indicated by the attendant, I put the second locker key on my wrist but found I had lost Reiko who had stepped down another hall into a shower stall with muted resting chamber and room for an entire swim team.  I found my own shower stall although I could not work the space age controls to produce any water so I sat in the arm chair in my anti room  for a suitable time, them emerged in my generous, white, gold embossed robe and new slippers from my bag.

Reiko’s toilet controls

More instructions on inside of toilet lid

But I had to pee. This proves difficult in Japan as “toilet” rooms are frequently off by themselves and when found are equipped with toilets that have jet plane control panels. Reiko has tried to instruct me but each toilet is different. Apparently, the devices wash, dry and powder your bottom but some have another orange button with the English word “STOP” written clearly. Very worrisome as I am certain that one of these toilet buttons opens a panel in the roof and shoots the unsuspecting sitter into orbit. Nowhere was there a sign or words ‘flush.’ I peed, stood, then pressed one of the buttons toward the end of the row until I heard a flushing sound. I had closed the lid to prevent any unwanted shower effect.

When I emerged, I had to find Reiko. Another smiling, bowing woman showed me to the huge pool. Two fierce-looking Japanese men sat in the whirlpool so I took a chaise, that had a members only sign on it, beside Tom and waited until the fierce men departed, then Tom and I slipped into the hot tub. Nice water, plenty of bubbles, no seats.

Isao called his massage place and booked Reiko and me in for 6:30 at $30. an hour. Then I did take a swim. Reiko was ready to go but first we needed showers. I made my way to the a private shower room but lost Reiko in the process. When I finished I managed to find the room with the lockers, but having no idea how to find the ‘changing cubicles,’ I opened a couple of doors ( one had low lighting and an empty queen-sized massage bed, the other has a rather startle-looking, sweaty, thin, naked Japanese woman in what I assumed was a sauna) In the locker room I turned my back on the half-dressed Japanese woman doing her makeup at the dressing table and put on my clothes. I didn’t know what to do with the wet towel, the robe, and the damp swim suit, so I deposited them one-by-one in various empty black lacquered laundry baskets I found scattered around the area, being emptied by bowing, smiling uniformed women.

Found my way to another makeup room where another three half-naked Japanese ladies were using the makeup bottles provided and drying their hair. I sat uncertainly in my jeans and LL Bean shirt, clutching my ripped, green LL Bean backpack. I tried to read one of the fashion magazines on the low table but they were all in Japanese and contained more writing than photographs. I did make a show of reading them back to front as I had seen others do.

Reiko finally found me and instructed me to go to the reception area but I never could find the reception where the kind, bowing man had given me the wrong workout bag and after a while I didn’t feel confident about moving around by myself. So when I found myself again surrounded by half-naked Japanese women, I high-tailed it down a corridor into another reception center surrounded by more makeup bottles and nail polish colors. I panicked and asked for the members lounge and was escorted by a smiling, bowing Japanese lady the Ritz had apparently specially hired for me as she spoke English and looked like some kind of manager in a severe navy suit with a badge. I thought I might be arrested as I had stuffed two packages of Ritz Carlton toothbrushes into my backpack to give to my daughters for Christmas.

The badge lady brought me, closely guarded, to the members lounge where Reiko, Tom and I had lunched. She sat me down and ordered me a ‘milk tea.’ But as soon as she left, I again felt the urge to pee. I went out the door and down the amorphous hall. On the third of three doors, all unmarked, I found a hand symbol. Holding my hand over the symbol, a panel slid open and there was a large bathroom. Inside was another ‘hand.’ I held my hand over that, the panel slid shut and an English sign registered “LOCKED.” I was trapped with another multi-buttoned toilet. Gingerly, I used same, flushed after 15 minute deliberation, washed, nicked another toothbrush and a small embossed facecloth for Tom from a pile of six on the sink and left.

Reiko finally found me at tea after I had fought my way out of the ‘hand controlled toilet.’ I left vowing never to return.



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