I wasn’t at all surprised to find out that the developer of “one night, hot spring”, npckc, is a foreigner living in Japan, despite apparently trying to pass themselves off as Japanese (though, to be fair, I don’t think they’ve ever claimed to be so, they just try and create the impression in people’s minds strongly enough that they’re never asked directly).
Lot’s of Westerners who (naturally) become envious of those actually born in Japan do this, and I certainly understand the feeling, but I don’t think it’s a healthy approach all the same. However, that’s just my opinion.
Where it starts being a problem, however, is when they wade into sensitive social and political issues and wind up, intentionally or not, using their false identity to give extra force to their particular opinions and arguments.
Anyway, I’m not surprised this game is actually made by someone who’s not from here is all I’m saying.
As for the game itself, it consists of our main character, Haru, a transgender girl; her best and childhood friend Manami, who is celebrating her twentieth birthday (legal age of adulthood in Japan, though this is in the process of being lowered to eighteen), and Manami’s best high school friend (whom Haru has never met), Erika.
Manami calls up Haru and insists that the three of them go to a hot spring resort hotel (ryokan) together to celebrate her birthday, her (parents’) treat. Manami knows that Haru is transgender, yet insists on ryokan anyway. Haru reluctantly agrees.
My misgivings started right away when after this Haru starts looking up online about going to ryokan as a girl to be prepared. When she sees advice saying to be sure to shave beforehand she is somehow confused, and wonders what exactly she should shave. Really? She hasn’t got any idea of what women usually shave when they might be appearing naked in front of others? Seemed hard to believe.
But I was willing to roll with it up until they got to the hotel. Erika, who is also aware of Haru’s transgender status, is introduced, and they all go in to check in together. But when filling out the check-in card, Haru writes her old, “legal” name and gender. It gives you no choice. Just fills it out like she’s going to be arrested otherwise. What? Hotels are legally required to request the names and addresses of all their guests, but that card is not a legal document. People check in under false names all the time, how do you think cheating works?
Fortunately the receptionist rolls with it and it never comes up again in the game. So fine, I guess, at least it doesn’t impact the game at all.
Unfortunately Manami, being written by a foreigner, is about the most tactless and careless Japanese person I’ve ever encountered. I might be willing to forgive her for insisting on onsen hot springs despite knowing that Haru is pre-op transgender if she then gave any further consideration to the situation at all. Over the phone Haru only agrees to go on the condition that there be private reserved baths. Manami is happy about her agreement but gives no assurances as to the baths. Then, at the hotel, Manami and Erika insist on Haru coming with them to the public baths, thinking it not a big deal, despite the fact that Haru didn’t even want to get changed into her yukata robes in front of them. They make her go by herself to the private baths while they run off to have fun just the two of them in the public ones! What kind of terrible best friend is this?!
The private baths then turn out to be fully booked so by the end Haru never gets to go to the baths at all. In real life this friendship would be over.
Haru and Manami are both terrible people (so I guess they do deserve each other to a certain extent). Haru should never have come if she was going to be a wet blanket the entire time, knowing that the entire trip that is supposed to be in honor of her best friend’s birthday will wind up being totally centered around her. And Manami should have never insisted on onsen, or booked a room with an attached bath, or booked in advance time on a private bath, or at the very least gone with Haru to the private baths rather than making her go alone. You know, done anything or had any consideration at all for someone other than herself. Just so many mistakes on her part that I find it impossible to believe such an awful Japanese person exists.
The only person who comes off as half-way decent is the other friend, Erika. She’s presented as somewhat callous and uncaring at first, but turns out to be just down-to-earth and in fact infinitely more caring than Manami. Despite leaving Haru to her own devices earlier in the day, she, probably feeling appropriately guilty, winds up asking the staff for help, who suggest that as it is a weekday and not very busy anyway, the baths will most likely be empty during the late evening. After Manami falls asleep Erika suggests this to Haru, who flatly refuses for some reason. There’s no choice there.
(There are different endings but even being totally friendly with Erika doesn’t allow you to go to the baths with her. If it is conditional on anything game-play-wise it has nothing to do with anything directly connected with going to public baths when they’re empty.)
Like why would Haru refuse in this situation? Erika went through all the trouble of arranging a private bath for her and still she just rudely tells her no, not at all caring about Erika’s feelings. Again, if Haru was going to insist on not getting in the baths she should never have agreed to go in the first place. Erika is the only character I feel bad for, though this is tempered somewhat as she does wind up sleeping through breakfast. Partially this is Manami’s fault for not waking her, but with a “friend” like Manami you should know to set your own alarm. I mean, come on, food is at least half the reason for going to a ryokan; don’t sleep through breakfast.
In conclusion, this is a stupid game. If you want to experience this situation for yourself and don’t happen to find yourself born in the wrong body, here’s a simple trick: just get some tattoos. It’s literally the same problem. Almost all the major onsen ostensibly refuse customers with tattoos. You can try and go in the public baths like normal and hope no one complains, you can book a room with an attached bath, you can book time on a reserved bath, or you can try and go to the public baths at off-peak times when there’s likely to be no one there. Same problem, same solutions.