There are few ways to look good in crepe paper underwear.

Even if you have the rig to pull off skin-tight jocks, paper underwear tends to gather and hang in unfortunate places.

It has a habit of pinching where you'd rather it wouldn't, notably around certain wobbly areas, while simultaneously bagging and puffing out in other areas it shouldn't.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and for a moment thought I'd developed a mysterious growth, a crepe paper tumour growing at a peculiar angle out of my buttock.


They weren't actually paper undies. They were made of some disposable polyester-type material with a thin elastic waistband. Imagine the hairnets at a reasonably hygienic cheese factory. Now, imagine the same hairnets with leg holes. It was all a little undignified.

With the exceptions of heroin and stand-up paddle boarding, I'll try most things once. I skydived from a plane. I bungy jumped from a helicopter. Once, just out of interest, I paid an Indian fortune teller to read the sole of my left foot.

But being buried alive in a pit of hot fermenting sawdust? That was a first. And who knew such activities would ever be available on Auckland's usually bland North Shore?

The attendant knocked.

"Are you ready?" she asked.

I glanced at my paper underwear, dumped my clothes in a box, and distributed my embarrassment across a set of nearby digital scales. She walked in and smiled. The sawdust beckoned.

Having only witnessed the process, I'd say digging a person's grave in a pit of hot sawdust is marginally easier than doing the same in soil or sand.

I lowered myself into the hole, and the attendant crouched to her knees and used a gardening trowel to fill me in


"Some people like the smell. Some people don't." she said, as the weight of the pine chips covered my arms, and reached up my chest to my neck.

I shut my eyes, put my head back, and tried to relax. She used a cold flannel to gently dab at my forehead. Sweat dripped off my nose. My armpits felt hot and weird. I asked how often they changed the sawdust.

"Very often. Once a week!" she said.

It didn't feel very often.

I cannot speak to the full purported health benefits of a Japanese sawdust spa. Maybe it's the fermenting process or maybe it's the 65C heat, but somewhere along the line, the enzymes are supposed to do something. People come for regular treatments. To a certain type of person, being buried in fermenting sawdust might be a bit Zen.

It made, for me, an interesting gift. Much better to receive an experience and a memory, than a possession or a thing. I brushed myself down with the kind of duster you'd usually use to sweep up broken glass. The sawdust stuck to my sweat. By the time I'd showered and ditched the paper undies, the digital scales reckoned I'd lost 1.5kg.