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That Time I Got Naked In Japan

February 25, 2018

Want to hear about the last time I was in an Onsen in Japan? I was 19. It was a day that changed my life. So much so that I got a tattoo to commemorate it.

Want to hear about the last time I was in an Onsen in Japan? I was 19. It was a day that changed my life. So much so that I got a tattoo to commemorate it. Or as my friends like to joke – I got a tattoo to remind myself that I'm fat. I was travelling for the first time without my parents and only one friend. I was firmly cemented in body neutrality at that point (even though I didn't know the word for it!). We had been there for a month and we were spending the day in a traditional Japanese hot springs where you had to be naked. Despite all my body worries, being naked has never been a problem for me – that's how I was in hospital most the time anyway… and I think I’m an exhibitionist at heart. We were enjoying our day jumping from the hot and cold pools when I noticed there was this girl staring at me. She couldn't have been older than 10 and she continued staring at me from 9 am til 6pm. I kept noticing it and trying to ignore it. At 6pm I finally lost it. "Why is she staring? Do I have chocolate on my face or something?" My friend shrugged her shoulders. "It's cause I'm fat right?" I stared in the mirror frustrated, trying to figure out what the hell it was… then it dawned on me. It was my scars! Of course.. for 9 complete hours, I had actually completely forgotten I had scars. I had forgotten about my biggest insecurity and the assumption I jumped to was my fat. The only way I could describe that moment was complete liberation. Yes I thought I was fat but… well, every girl thinks that. I grew up wishing that the only problem with my body was just fat. I felt normal for the first time in my life because fatphobia is so normal. How weird is it that the fear of fat was the first time I ever felt normal? Just 9 hours of freedom of not thinking about my scars and being in my body made me realise just how inconsequential my body was. People don’t believe in lightbulb moments but I do. This was one of mine and when I was hospitalised the following year, that tattoo got me through it. I would look down at it and just say to myself: “we will get back to that happy place. Soon, I promise”. #ScarredNotScared • PS Thanks @curvykate for my Xmas present! 👙😘

A post shared by Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared) on

Or as my friends like to joke – I got a tattoo to remind myself that I’m fat.

I was travelling for the first time without my parents and only one friend. I was firmly cemented in body neutrality at that point (even though I didn’t know the word for it!). We had been there for a month and we were spending the day in a traditional Japanese hot springs where you had to be naked. Despite all my body worries, being naked has never been a problem for me – that’s how I was in hospital most the time anyway… and I think I’m an exhibitionist at heart.

We were enjoying our day jumping from the hot and cold pools when I noticed there was this girl staring at me.
She couldn’t have been older than 10 and she continued staring at me from 9 am til 6pm. I kept noticing it and trying to ignore it.

At 6pm I finally lost it.
“Why is she staring? Do I have chocolate on my face or something?” My friend shrugged her shoulders.
“It’s cause I’m fat right?” I stared in the mirror frustrated, trying to figure out what the hell it was… then it dawned on me. It was my scars! Of course.. for 9 complete hours, I had actually completely forgotten I had scars. I had forgotten about my biggest insecurity and the assumption I jumped to was my fat. The only way I could describe that moment was complete liberation. Yes I thought I was fat but… well, every girl thinks that.

I grew up wishing that the only problem with my body was just fat. I felt normal for the first time in my life because fatphobia is so normal. How weird is it that the fear of fat was the first time I ever felt normal?

Just 9 hours of freedom of not thinking about my scars and being in my body made me realise just how inconsequential my body was. People don’t believe in lightbulb moments but I do. This was one of mine and when I was hospitalised the following year, that tattoo got me through it. I would look down at it and just say to myself: “we will get back to that happy place. Soon, I promise”. #ScarredNotScared

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