I decided to bite the bullet and went to a public bath. As in naked. With other men.
First up some back story. When we were staying in Kyoto, I went down to the hotel's public bath a couple of times. By concidence, I managed to get the whole bath to myself on both occasions (really, really good. The best thing for a long hot day of sighseeing). I want a bath just like it at home now.
This time though, it nearly approaches arm wrestling trying to get time in the shower here at Osaka. So I thought "Stuff it" and made my way to the Ofuro.
I locked up my shoes in a locker at the entrance, paid the lady inside the door 350 yen, went to the changing area, put all my clothes in another locker and went into the bath area.
There were three other people in there and contray to all the travel guides that I have read, I wasn't suddenly the focus of attention or conversation. Nor was I particulary stared at, everyone else was busy with the business of getting clean.
What you do:
First off you claim a spot along the wall where you have hot and cold water taps, and douse yourself with some hot water. Then you go and step into a anti-microbe (reading the hiragana) bath for a minute or so. Then you can get to the business of getting yourself clean. Once you have scrubbed yourself to your heart's content (in my case about 15 minutes - I love nice long hot showers), rinse yourself throughly. Then you can get in the soaking baths. As you may know, Japanese baths have two temperaures: hot and scalding. My preference is to sit in the hot one for a bit then get out and then splash myself with some cold water. Repeat a couple of times and you will feel super clean - and a little lightheaded.
I suggest you try it at least once as you won't believe how clean you feel afterwards...