Again, I apologize for the one week stoppage in blog entries. Time slips away from you unless you grab it and hold on, but when I am sick, I don't have to strength to grapple with time and make every minute count. Time is slippery puppy. But yes, I was sick again this week. This time with the Japanese stomach flu (much worse that the North American variety). Symptoms included vomiting and the runs, and the terrible choice that must be made when they come at the same time and you don't have a bucket.
Before I start today, I would like to say a few words about Christmas in Japan. Christmas decorations are, suprisingly, commonplace. Most large stores have Christmas sections. At first, I thought this was odd in a country where something like 1% of the population is Christian. Although, this doesn't seem to matter, since Christmas is not associated with Christianity at all. It is a couples day. Valentines Day is the day when girls do things for guys, White Day is the day when guys should reciprocate if they know what's good for them, and Christmas seems to be the romantic holiday when you spend time with eachother. There seems to be a lot less emphasis on family as well, but there is Oshogatsu 6 days latter, and I hear that is the big family holiday, so there you go.
Anyway, Aimi invited me to her gospel choir's concert on Saturday night, so I went and got to hear lots of music. Some of which was in English. Some of which was in Japanese.
By the way, Aimi is the ultra Soprano, in case you are wondering. Then I bought a CD and got it signed by the group. And there we go, some of my Xmas shopping is already done!
So late Saturday night I e-mailed Go and asked him if he wanted to go to Kusatsu. He said sure, so we met the next day and were off in the general direction of Kusatsu. Go learned, however, that there was ice on the road to Kusatsu, and since his car has no snow tires we changed our plans.
Our drive took us by this valley in Agatsuma, where the wind blows up the valley sides and blows the leaves up and out of the valley!
After a good 2 and a half hours of driving, we arrived at Siriyaki Onsen. Now "oshiri" is the Japanese word for "butt", and "yaki" is to bake or cook. So literally, Shiriyaki Onsen means "baked butt hot spring". I laughed at the name and thought it was crudely funny, until I realized how true the name was. So Shiriyaki Onsen is a river. It is mixed sex in theory, but as with many "mixed sex" hot springs in Japan, the only people that go are men and old women. It is in a very small town, located on the downstream of a small spillway which the road overlooks. It is not what you would call "seinic", since it is filled with decaying public works projects, but it is quaint, quiet and almost deserted (which means there were only 5 people there when we arrived). The water is lukewarm, which some people really like but I am not such a bit fan of. The great part is that the river has some really deep parts and you can swim in warm water even though outside it is 1 degree C. The river is filled with smooth rocks that are fun to slide on. There is also sand. Now, if you sit on the sand you will soon realize that the name is absolutely correct. Heat is coming up through the sand. Lots of heat. In fact, if insert your finger into the sand you will have to remove it very quickly or risk burning yourself. So, true to the name, I baked my butt.
Afterwards Go and I stopped for some Udon and tempura. By the way, did you know that you can tempura anything? Today I had tempura Mizuna and Maitake mushrooms.
We returned to Shibukawa, and on my way home I discovered a park that is really close to my house. Luckily some of my students were there to show me how to use a very dangerous cable slide.
So I am in the process of coming up with an amazing Christmas plan for one of my schools. I'll keep you posted!