A Blind Massage

Well, that’s unusual.

We booked a massage for this afternoon, and after walking about Shibu in the cold and snow – YES!!, we settled in to our hotel for a 4pm massage; shiatsu anyone?

W went for a hot soak in the communal bath while I went out to the lounge for a few minutes. When we both returned, we were met by a couple who appeared to be totally blind. After some initial confusion, the elderly gentleman and lady took up a kneeling pose next to our respective futons. Used to massages, we de-robed (I know, I know, there’s no such thing in English) and lay down on our futons, modestly covered by knickers. (Don’t go there).

Photo by Felice Beato

An icy hand touched my shoulder, and “Kimono” was uttered. Oh, so we need to wear our kimonos for the massage; similar to the Thai ones sans oil. We duly retrieve our kimonos, and off they went. Her firm hands soon warmed up as she discovered the knotty ropes that constitute the muscles in my shoulders and back. Firm but not painful, and soon enough I was in that twilight zone that means my muscles are relaxing.

Since the couple only speak Japanese, I was wondering how she would communicate if she wanted me to turn over at any stage – a push on one shoulder? Sign language? But no, they only do one side, not like a barbecue where you have to turn things over.

Then the fun started again – we had no idea whether we should pay them or the hotel, until she opened her bag and took out a purse. In Japanese, she indicated the price – what the?

Not to be deterred, I pulled out the recently downloaded google translate app, and asked her, “How much do we pay”. Keep it simple, Andrea. Strangely enough it translated her response into “I would like 8000 cake please”, which I assumed meant eight thousand yen. Now – is that each, or in total. We established it’s 8K for the two of us, so the next bit is the money – how will she know how much I’ve given her? I hand over 5000 yen and she puts it away. I then hand her three one thousand notes, and I think she’s confused. So I take her hand and count off on her fingers – one two three four five six seven eight. She smiles and nods, and puts the three notes in with the first one.

And then they feel their way out of the room, and with many “arigato kosaimas” and “sayonara” they wander off.

I am left to ponder her thoughts about the strange thing that I did, talk English at her, and then follow in a squeaky voice in Japanese. Does she think I have multiple personalities? Or does she know about mobiles and technology, and if so how? Never mind, it worked, and it’s time to venture out in to the snow again to have dinner – decisions, decisions: rice or rice noodles?

A Ryokan/Restaurant we’ve walked longingly past for the last few days is now open for business. And lo and behold – it’s a western menu. The most Japanese dishes are battered fried mushrooms and rice balls, but even the rice rissoles are more Italian than local. Add to that honey mustard chicken, and we could be in any restaurant. The place has the feel of Scandinavia (contributed in part by a large group of ?Danes at the next table), entirely out of wood with the floor planks made recycled out of crates containing soy beans imported from the USA. I’m puzzled that the US exports soy beans to Japan…

And it’s snowing again as we leave, and continues for much of the night.



2 thoughts on “A Blind Massage”

    1. Thanks Mel, never sure whether these entertain anyone except me, so it’s nice to hear back. W is not enjoying the cold, but I MIGHT persuade him to go skiing tomorrow… I’ll keep you posted, or should that be piste-ed?

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