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I’m standing in a small room wrapped in a towel. I know I have to go in to a further room to shower, but I’m finding it hard to will myself...

Why I’m not scared of being naked in public anymore

I’m standing in a small room wrapped in a towel. I know I have to go in to a further room to shower, but I’m finding it hard to will myself to go in there because… well, when I get in there I will have to shower naked.. with other people.

It’s nothing weird - it's actually the usual practice at a Japanese onsen, or bathhouse, but it’s my first time (obviously).

I’m a loser. I know. I haven’t been naked in the company of anyone but my husband for, ooh, 18 years.

I don't frolic on the beach in a skimpy bikini or strip off in change rooms with ease. I’m not a public person. This is hard.

I am lucky - this onsen is attached to my hotel, The Celestine Kyoto, Gion, and is only for guests - so as I stand here, plucking up courage, I see only three other women wander next door.

Two of them are over 70. Let’s face it, if it’s sagging on me its going to be sagging on them.

There’s another woman. She’s probably 30, and she looks like a model. I’m so alone right now.

I’ve decided to put a bandaid over a small tattoo on my back. Nearly all onsens don't allow tattoos because in Japan, tattoos are linked to the yakuza (Japanese gangs).

I’ve removed my jewellery and put it in a locker, along with the special yukata (a cotton kimono) and slippers I have been told to wear into the area.

Now all I have to do is go in. I take a deep breath.

I open the door, wrapped securely in a bath towel for now, I walk into the shower room and assess the situation.

The rules are simple; in this room of the bathhouse you sit on a small stool and using a shower head, a pan and lots of soap, you wash yourself thoroughly before entering the hot bath itself.

So here I am, sitting - naked - on a plastic stool, with two 70 year olds and Miss World, washing my bits.

Towels go on a hook. It's a handheld shower head so a one-armed wash. All sparkly, and I’m ready for the bath itself. This is where it gets more tricky.

Towels mustn’t be taken to the water (it’s considered rude to have them touch the baths because they’re dirty), instead I reach for a facecloth to “protect my modesty” but then realise how dumb that is - my modesty requires far more flannel.

I stride purposefully towards the steaming bath instead, and by stride purposefully I mean run.

I get in and under before I’m spotted by anyone ('anyone' being the other three women - two of whom are already in the water, and one who is focusing on her own bits for the time being).

And then something magical happens.

It’s so relaxing... I allow the steaming hot water to envelop me. I do what I’ve read is customary and place the facecloth on my head, then lie back against a wall and relax.