This is one of the cluster of hot spring baths at Kurokawa onsen.
When I told one of my friends that Japanese women sometimes keep one of these folded towels on their head while in the communal baths; the friend said,
They must not wash their hair then.”
I was taken aback until I realized, we think of communal bathing as in washing up. Japanese never get into a communal bath without thoroughly washing themselves first. You don’t wash in the bath at all. You relax and enjoy it.
Outside the bath they have little stools and basins with a faucet or hand held shower spray. You sit and wash first.
Our tour guide Steve Biemel pointed out that the more you relax in the baths, the deeper your relaxation gets. I went once or twice a day, whenever we had the opportunity and found that to be true.
You get to keep these little towels. They often had large bath towels available to use. I liked the economy of these little towels and used them like a chamois. They are the perfect size to wrap one around your hair. I still use them at home.
They are about 28″ long by about a foot wide.
I bought these green ones at Kurokawa, an area that has many hot springs grouped together. You buy a passport that allows you to visit as many of the 12 or so springs as you can. You stroll around a winding mountain path in your geta and yukata, a cotton kimono, (Provided by ryokan).
In different places the water has different qualities. Depending on mineral content, they offer different benefits to your body. Some smell like sulphur, some are natural, some are large man made baths. The man made one at Karatsu was spotless. I was told that it was emptied out every night and scrubbed before refilling. In Japan the word for beauty also means clean. It makes me feel relaxed just thinking about being there.