And the abandoned granny wagon on the side of the road? How far could someone who needs this kind of transport gone on their own?! Have you reader’s ever heard of Tengu
? In Japanese folklore they are a kind of half-crow, half-human goblin responsible for various kinds of mischief. I’ve only read about them in books until now.
But before I move on to the really strange stuff, I’ll give you a little background information for this particular trip into the mountains on my mamachari. It was a Sunday morning I awoke to my summer ritual of a fried egg, english muffins with blueberry jam, and a little too much coffee. Oh yeah, and a slightly more than slight hangover this time. The night before was my last enkai, Japanese work party, which are famous for heavy drinking for those willing to go to afterparty after afterparty. Because it was my last one, I made a big speech which I did pretty well with (excellent planning, poor practice, and extremely nervous upon delivery), I talked with a lot of other teachers, and went to a few afterparties with the usuals. I think I’m much closer with my coworkers at Sakurai High School than most other ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). This is probably because I only go to one school whereas many others often go between 5 or 10 different ones a week. Also, I speak Japanese enough to make conversation, and so I do so daily with the various teachers at my school. Furthermore, I don’t mind having the same conversations over and over and over and over again that come up in such enkai scenarios; as long as I can drink and make the other party laugh in the end. If there’s no drinking and no laughing, my face gets sore from fake smiling so much and I want to drink way more than I know I should … that situation happens often in my line of work/life here in Japan.
So, I felt as though I did as much beer imbibing and socializing that a weekend needs and was just writhing to get on my bike and into the mountains. Funny thing is, there was an annual beer festival in Toyama City where small breweries from all over Japan come to Toyama for a big party. The fact I passed this up means I really wanted to be on my bike and away from people. This is kind of like school teachers who are forced to become crabby and bossy when kids drive them crazy at work; maybe they’re not like that naturally, but because of their circumstances, they become so. I feel as though I’m a pretty social and extroverted kind of guy, but because I’m constantly around people in social situations that are not fitting to my ideals, I’m constantly finding myself escaping more such events. Perhaps this makes me anti-social. Maybe other people should find more interesting things to do. All I know, is that at the time, being stuck in transit and paying large amounts of money to drink beer while I already had a hangover and have to make conversation with people known and unknown alike made me feel like I’d really hate Monday when it came along. Therefore, I was off.
This brings me to an important tangent about enduring harsh weather and hangovers. Both are quite separate, but first, by far the best way to deal with harsh weather is to get out in it. Lately it’s been the rainy season, and so it’s in the low 90’s, incredibly humid, and it usually breaks out into raging thunderstorms at least once a day in the middle of sunny weather. If I spend all day under air conditioners and fans, my skin and feeling gets all screwy and I hate it. Moreover, when you finally get out into the heat, it’s just unbearable because you could just as easily be under the air conditioner which you’ve grown accustomed to all day, all season long. And you know what? I really don’t mind the heat, which sounds weird when I hear myself say that, because usually I prefer colder to hotter temperatures. But seriously, I could care less if I’m sweaty and stinking. I only care because it is uncomfortable for other people if I’m teaching at school or getting together with friends. I’ll sit and write on my blog in my apartment and lose track of things in the world and look down at my arms to realize I have more beads of sweat than an elephant in the oven. I don’t care! I’ll drink water. When I’m on my bike, I’m either not around people, or people are already staring at me because I’m white, so what does the sweaty factor matter? It just adds to my general freakness here in Japanland. Anyway, the same works for snow and rain. Weather only sucks if it keeps you from doing what you want. So you should just do what you want in whatever weather is happening, and if it’s really what you want, the weather won’t matter. This little conversation has gone differently than I thought, I wonder if you learned anything. Oh yeah, hangovers: if I can manage to get out of bed then I can completley forget about the hangover when I’m leaking sweat in the sun towards the mountains.
My goal for this particular bike trip was a place called “Kitayama“, which literally means “north mountain”. It’s really not that far north and niether a particularly high mountain. One of my maps said there was an onsen there, and it looked a bit far, which were both good enough reasons to get me excited while I stared at them with my coffee cup in hand in my “living room”, which has tatami mats and isn’t really like what most people would think of as a living room. So I’ll call it my “living tatami room”. To skip all the little details of things I saw and get on to the weird stuff, I went looking for an onsen I didn’t find, and instead found myself in the same place I did almost exactly a year ago in an equally disappointing trip where I was so close to what I was looking for but didn’t find. After the initial feelings of failure, I decided to follow the road further up, and found this strange town of Kitayama. It was all rice fields and farm houses … except …
FOR THIS BUILDING!
I first saw this unfitting gigantic building from the bottom of town and I was pretty excited to make the rest of my trip downhill. However, I was just mesmerized by the oddity of this building. I thought maybe it was some kind of community center, maybe a hospital? Maybe it would even be an onsen. Many of the nicest onsen are actually in hotels that look pretty bare or even shoddy from the outside. I decided to give it one look before I go down because I was pretty sure I’d never be here again.
As I got closer, I noticed graffiti on the walls and a lot of broken windows. Also, a wall of shrubs grow around the perimeter save a long sheet metal barrier. I rode my bike beyond it to higher ground, like a wolf circling some strange corpse to extend the time of distant investigation.