Attack of feet-feasting fish

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Attack of feet-feasting fish

by: Chris Carlson | .
Stripes Japan | .
published: December 03, 2015

HAKONE

It was a smorgasbord, and I was the main dish.

To be clear, my feet were the delectable delights. And the patrons? Well, they happened to be hundreds of so-called “doctor fish.” Not piranhas, but the one-inch monsters were flesh-eaters just the same.

Let me set the scene. My two kids, wife, mom-in-law and I were dipping our feet into a special pool – and quite the busy exhibit it was – at the Yunessun, a hot springs resort in Hakone where folks can wear swimming suits while soaking in the springs.  It’s a popular location for foreigners who may not want to bathe in the buff with a bunch of strangers. Hey, some folks are shy.  Those of you who aren’t shy, there is a portion of the resort blocked off for nakedness.

Back to the minute, man-eating monsters that were nipping at my toes.  Before I go any further, I must be brutally honest: I have nasty feet. No ifs, ands or buts about it. My toe nails are fungus filled, deformed and a putrid yellow color. Yes, I’ve tried medication throughout the years, but to no avail. When I was younger, I was the dork who wore socks with sandals in an effort to hide my hideously deformed feet. To this day, if I happen to be wearing shoes without socks, I bring a pair with me that I can slip on when I enter someone’s home.

On this day, I guess my grotesque feet were just what the doctor fish ordered. Of the 30 of us sitting around the pool, there was no doubt that my feet were the main attraction.

The little biters were on full attack. They slithered between my toes. Nibbled on my heals. Munched on the dry skin under my ankles. They were really going at it. And they were enjoying themselves. As time passed, more and more ventured my way. In fact, I swear I saw one swim off to someone else’s feet and motion to his fish friends to follow him to a fleshly feast at the tip of my toes.

I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud. I mean, I was the main attraction. I noticed the Japanese sitting around me looking at me. I didn’t know if it was in disgust or envy. Oh well, I figured maybe the little suckers at my feet could cure where medication had failed. So I stared intentively at my feet and tried to ignore the curious human onlookers.

When our time was up, I pulled up my feet to reveal … the same nastiness, albeit with less loose skin. My feet did feel better, but there’s no doubt that I will still need to carry an extra pair of socks with me.
 

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