Caturday felid: biznss kitteh at the onsen

January 15, 2011 • 6:05 am

Last week we had a cultural analysis (thanks to reader and blogger Yokohamamama) of the “bzness kitteh” video used as an ad by the Japanese travel agency Jalan.  There are four of these ads, all featuring the Japanese bobtail cat Nyaran engaged in business or pleasure travel.  Only fifteen seconds long, the videos are nonetheless packed with insights into Japanese life and culture.  But without a translator we’re clueless.

This week we have the second commercial, called “Having a Spa Day,” which is kindly analyzed again by Y. She adds her take on onsen (Japanese hot springs).

First watch the video, then read Y.’s analysis:


Here’s Nyaran at the hot spring:

Watashi wa Nyaran.  Kyou wa hyoubanonsen ni kitan da yo!
(I am Nyaran.  I’ve come to a famous/popular hot spring resort today)

Kyou wa sassoku! (Today, I’ll go straight to the bath! sassoku=directly, immediately, promptly, at once)

Un?  Koko wa onna na nyo ka?!  Shitsureishimashita!
(Huh?  It’s all women in here?!  Excuse me!  shitsurei=rude)

Chikara ga nukeru.  Shiawase.  (I can relax.  Happy)

He’s come to a popular hot spring resort—an expensive one, by the looks of it.  The kind where a kimono-clad woman from the front desk comes to greet you and take up your luggage for you (his is so small, she’s carrying it on a tray—a nice, wooden carved one from Kamakura, from what I can see.  It’s always preferable not to touch other people’s things directly, and you usually excuse yourself before you do touch someone’s things if you have to).

There are usually lots of things to do at a hot spring—and many people go relax in their own room first for a bit.  There’s always a teapot, cups, and loose green tea on the kotatsu (low table—some have heaters attached underneath for keeping warm in the winter), and generally a snack, too—o-sembe or manjuu, or such.  At an expensive-looking place like this, probably a pretty delicious snack. )  Rooms have TVs, and these days there’s also usually a big-screen TV in the common room.  There’s usually ping-pong, go, shogi (chess), karaoke, sometimes playstation for kids (but it depends on where you go).

He decides to forgo all that and heads straight for the bath.  He trots right back to the outdoor pool (you can see the stools and baskets behind him, where you put your clothes and yukata.  A Yukata is a lightweight cotton robe that crosses over and is the same shape as a kimono, but those are made of silk).  He has his little bath towel around his neck.  Men put theirs around their waists, but that would be hard for Nyaran…  It looks like spring because it’s green and it looks like there are tsutsuji (azaleas) blooming—which means Golden Week (April 29-May5), high tourist season.

But…this is the women’s bath!  A-ra-ra!  Excuse me!*  And we see him make for the men’s bath (the blue noren curtains say 男湯= otokoyu = men’s bath).  He dries off naturally in front of the fan after he’s soaked.  They didn’t show him washing, but if you’ve never been to a Japanese hot spring, Rule Number One is:  Wash well with soap and rinse off *outside* the bath.  When you think you’re clean, wash again.  And rinse.  And *then* you can get in the hot water and soak.  Rule Number Two is:  Don’t forget to take off the toilet slippers after you’re done in the WC…  )

I love Japanese onsen more than anything—no ugly bedspreads, no jarring colors, no bad art on the walls.  A room with practically nothing in it, and an enormous cavern-like room dedicated to getting as clean as the day you were born.  If cleanliness is next to godliness, then it’s no wonder Christianity never took off in Japan.  Why go to church when you can go to an onsen?

We’re not the only primate that uses onsen. You’ve probably heard of the Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) who have also learned to soak in the hot springs. They’ve been doing this for several generations, and it’s a prime example of cultural transmission in other primates.  Here’s a wonderful BBC video (click on the “Watch on YouTube” line) showing the monkeys soaking.  They seem to enjoy it as much as humans do! And the scenes near the end of baby macaques leaping into the pool are adorable.


*JAC:  I think Nyaran went in there on purpose: to look up the women’s towels!  As we’ll see next week, he suffers from loneliness.

h/t: Yokohamamama.

26 thoughts on “Caturday felid: biznss kitteh at the onsen

  1. Oh yeah–I forgot to mention…these spots are really short because a common marketing technique here is to make a short commercial (15 seconds), pay for a 30-second tv spot, and show the exact same commercial twice. Really. I have *no* idea why they think it’s effective, or if there are stats to show that it *is* effective–but it’s extremely common practice.

  2. I don’t know if it has been said already, but cats don’t go “meow” in Japan, they go “nya”, so “Nyaran” is like “Meow-ran”, the cat-spoken version of the company’s human-said name, “Jyaran” (or “Jalan”).

    1. Oops–I said that in the first analysis, but didn’t repeat it here. Probably should have repeated that part for those who missed the first one! Thanks for adding it to the comments :-))

    2. If Jyaran = Jalan, does it follow that Nyaran (Meow-ran) would equate with Meowlan? I sense an opportunity for insensitive cultural bastardization. Are you listening, Disney?

  3. I think Nyaran went in there on purpose: to look up the women’s towels!

    Probably so. Sneaking a peak up women’s dresses is a pop-culture meme in Japan; even Pikachu does it for kicks in the original Pokemon anime opening (see here).

    1. True–even Nobita-kun in the sweetly innocent Doramon series is always hoping the wind will blow Shizuka-chan’s skirt just the right way… ;-))

      And then there was the whole flap about men with “tip-toe” cameras on their shoes…

  4. Nyaran should go to the Dai Iche Takemoto Ryokan in Nobori Betsu, Hokkiado where the ohuro are really hot and with mixed bathing but separate dressing rooms. The spring is just above the town and the water flows through the basement into and through multiple baths. He will note that the older men select the first bath for the hottest water from the spring.

    1. Would *love* to go…it’s so expensive to take five people, though! :-(( I’ve noticed that older people seem to be able to take *really* hot water, whereas I’m all “ooch! ouch! atchi! atchi! oooh! girl bits! at-chi-chi-chi-chi!”

      They also seem to be able to go straight from the super hot water to the 18deg water with nary a flinch…

  5. “I think Nyaran went in there on purpose: to look up the women’s towels! As we’ll see next week, he suffers from loneliness.

    So Nyaran is a pervert (hentai). O.o

  6. He dries off naturally in front of the fan after he’s soaked.

    Oh … I thought he was cooling himself off after getting too excited by the naked women.

  7. Don’t be thinking all is sweetness and light with the hottubbing monkeys.

    Those Macaques are kinda like humans in more than just using hot baths: the have exclusive access.

    They form a strict hierarchy, and only the top of the hierarchy is allowed to use the hot water spring.

    the rest just get to watch and suffer.

    no joke!

  8. Cool monkey video. Never knew this was a recent thing – somehow I always assumed that they were in natural hot springs.

  9. If more ads were like these I might watch them instead of muting the tv and checking my email! Thanks for the commentary Yokohamamama, it makes all the difference.

    1. You’re very welcome–glad everybody can enjoy them! I think they’re hilarious, in a sweet sort of way.

      I watch commercials here–I never do at home, they’re just not interesting. Somehow, overboard cute doesn’t bother me, but overboard sex/X-treme gets on my nerves…
      Working on Hawt Date Kitteh…!

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