If you were to watch Japanese dramas, or movies, I am sure you'd have seen scenes of people in a hot pool, whether indoor, or outdoor. That my friend, is what is known as sento (indoor bath house), or onsen (outdoor hot spring pool) in Japan.
In South Korea, there is a similar practice. There is the mo-gyok-tang, where go to a public bath house to soak in hot water. At least, there is where my university going mate, Matt, went to, as there are only showers faucets in his dorm room in winter.
The first time I was introduced to a hot-spring was *surprise, surprise* in Rotorua, North Island in New Zealand. That was in early January 2008. It was also the first time I realised that the Japanese women in the ladies changing room also walked around naked.
Yes, you heard me. NAKED. (Sadly I could not take any pictures. I don't want to risk being prosecuted !>_<
The first time I went to the mo-gyok-tang in South Korea was in Busan. That was in January 2009. I had to wait for someone who could speak English as the jim-jil-bang I went to did not have a single person who could speak English, and was not in the city area.
I learnt about "onsen" etiquette, when I was in Japan. My japanese friend in Kyushu, Haruna told me about the etiquette in the onsen, where if before one goes into the pool, the woman has to tie-up their hair. This is to protect the pool from getting dirty, as it is for public use.
Also, before entering the bath, one normally scrubs & showers first (which makes perfect sense) as you have to scrub off all the dead cells from your body before you can go into the bath anyways!!
This year, I learnt the difference between a jim-jil-bang and a mo-gyok-tang.
Jim Jil Bang: A jim-jil-bang is basically not just a bath-house (mo-gyok-tang), but includes other facilities like a cafeteria, sleeping area, television. It is open 24 hours, and has different pricing entrance fees depending on the time you enter, as one may stay overnight in the jim-jil-bang.
Mo Gyok Tang:
A mo-gyok-tang, does not provide the facilities of the jim-jil-bang. It also opens for a certain number of hours and closes before midnight. There are normally found in places hanging with the sign "sauna" outside. It is similar to the onsen.
There are price differences for entrance to each area. You can pay to enter both, or just one area individually.
My mother told me that she went to a bath-house in Korea in her swim suit. If you are wondering, that is "sort-of" a bath-house, but it is not a "true bath-house". It is catered to foreigners, like us Malaysians who have never bath naked before.
Nonetheless, bath pools are gender segregated where customers are naked.
If you are wondering, no one looks at you when you are stark naked in your own gender segregated bath areas.
If you are a female and want to stare at the other women's sagging breasts, try to keep it subtle, kay?