Flesh eating fish.

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Yes, it’s true. In Japan, you can stick your feet in a pool of water, and tiny flesh-eating fish will immediately swarm over your feet and nibble. The sensation this causes is nearly intolerable at first. Tickly – creepily intolerable.  But once you have endured the first couple minutes, you become entranced by these gobbling creatures that look shockingly like mini-sharks.

Supposedly, these fish first appeared at hot springs in Turkey where the only food available was humans. They don ‘t bite because they don’t have teeth. They merely suck the dead skin off your feet. It’s a pedicure like you’ve never experienced before.

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I found that if I dipped my legs deeper into the water, they would ‘hoover’ away the dead skin almost up to my knees. They dive between your toes and munch, they congregate around that crusty callous at your heel.

As you can see, this is a community thing, where participants sit around the big pool and get exfoliated. And where are these fish eateries? Why, at the Japanese bath houses, of course.

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We spent a couple hours being pampered at this bath house in Tokyo. Naturally, there are the segregated baths where lots of naked women, obviously the best of friends, chat, joke, and share secrets while lounging in hot water. (Sorry, fellas, no pics allowed.) There are both indoor, and open-air baths. Very private, but relaxing to enjoy the hot water and fresh air surrounded by rocks and blooming trees. Once you have finished your bath, other delights await out in the garden. There’s a foot bath, sand bath, stone spa, and of course, the fish therapy. The foot bath was torturous.

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The floor of this seemingly-harmless water path was covered with small stones. The idea is to stroll blissfully along the meandering stream and have your feet gently massaged.

Bull! Those stones hurt like hell!

I could barely hobble to the side of the stream to get out. I noticed in some sections of the stream, the stones were cemented in at wider intervals, and not wanting to appear as a big baby, I tried it again. Fug-get-about-it. Even the bigger, round stones hurt my feet.

My idea of a foot massage? A big comfy chair, my feet soaking in hot water, a cup of green tea at my side, and a young Asian guy kneading my ‘tarsals. Mmmmm.

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