Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An Anniversary to...to....a..a..a-ATAMI!!!!! (Gesundheit)

A recent humorous post on Happysurfer's site was a joke list of special classes for men, i.e. learning to cure bad habits typical to men. Needless to say, it was a collection of stereotypes, such as inability to fill ice cube trays, put the toilet seat down, pick up one's dirty clothes, give up control of the TV remote, or remember important dates, such as birthdays or anniversaries. It was a very funny post, to be sure, but the fact is that I have never had any trouble filling the ice cube trays in my home. Our Asian-style toilet doesn't even have a lid. My dirty clothes go straight into the washer every night. Since I don't have much interest in TV, I happily give my wife and kids control of the remote. Moreover, I have never had any problem with remembering birthdays or anniversaries...at least not of people here at home.

(Well, maybe there was that one time back in...aw, whatever.)

Take this year, for example. My wife and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary, which was on October 9th. (10-9, which is how I remember it...the beginning of the countdown!) Luckily, the 9th just happened to be "Physical Fitness Day", which is a national holiday here in Japan. For some strange reason Ye Olde AcademyTM tried to assign me to office watch duty for the day, but after a bit of work I managed to find someone to swap that out with. That left the day totally free for me. Since my wife is no longer tied down with that tennis club of hers, she also had the whole, three-day weekend wide open...the first we'd had together in about four years! It was really beginning to look like an anniversary to remember!

Then we remembered we had one problem. Our daughter had won several events at her school's sports day, so she was assigned to go on to the Aso District Championship, which just happened to be on Sunday the 8th. Trying to pull her out of that would be a very bad idea. Finally, we settled on a compromise. She would participate only in events that took place in the morning and swap out any that came in the afternoon. That would at least give us the afternoon of the 8th and all day on the 9th to play with.

That left coming up with what to do on those days.

After a bit of wrangling over it...and a lot of schedule conflicts...we finally went to a travel agent on Friday the 6th. I actually thought it a bit daft to try booking a trip during a three-day weekend the Friday before. Apparently the travel agent did, too, because the first thing she did was start waving her hands and saying, "It's impossible! It's impossible! Everything for the weekend was booked up a week ago!" We insisted she look anyway. After giving her a general destination (in this case the Izu Peninsula), she got on her computer, tapped around a bit, and finally came up with four possible resort hotels. We chose the closest one, mindful as we were of our afternoon departure. That put us in the oceanside hot spring resort town of Atami (熱海, which literally means "warm sea"). Coincidentally, it was also the cheapest of the available hotels, which ranged from moderately pricey to "oh-my-god". It was definitely an arrangement we could live with.

I wound up busy on Saturday the 7th. I had both the Saturday Afternoon Concert at Ye Olde Academy and a district PTA banquet in the evening. That tied me up for the day, leaving the (frustrated) wife and kids at home doing the weekly housecleaning (and, I figured, some shopping). What I didn't say was that I intended to use the time in between the two events to get my wife her anniversary gift. I did just that, and what I wound up getting wasn't what you'd normally expect (or me, for that matter). Her present wound up being a new laptop computer to replace the aging and slowly-disintegrating 1999 antique she'd been using. That night, as she lay sleeping on the sofa with her TV blaring loudly to no one, I quietly set up her new computer on her desk in place of the old one, installed a colorful "anniversary card greeting" desktop wallpaper I'd made, and went off to bed.

The next morning she made no indication of having noticed the new computer at all as she hustled the kids out of bed and got them ready to go. Then, just before she took them off to the Aso District Championship sports meet, she paused at the door and said, "Oh, by the way, thanks for the computer." Then she asked me to install some extra software to allow her to use it for work. Then they went to the sports meet. I stayed home, did my share of the weekly house cleaning, installed the software, and got my luggage together for the trip. As soon as they came back, we loaded our gear (including her new computer) into my BLUE RAV4, hopped in, plugged the coordinates into the navi system, and headed southwest.

Incidentally, the in-laws weren't too happy about our going. Not only did my wife wait until the last minute before telling them, but she [gasp] didn't invite them to come along, too! The nerve of it all! (I mean, come on! A wedding anniversary? Ideally it would only be the two of us! But I thought it would be rude to foist the kids on them out of the blue, so we took them along! Apparently the in-laws don't see it that way. In their eyes a family trip means the whole family, regardless of the reason. Funny...they never have any problem with popping off to hot spring resorts with hardly any announcement, taking the kids with them, and not inviting us. In fact, they do that a number of times every year!) I didn't really let that bother me. I did notice, however, that I had a bit of a sniffle and a raw throat as we hit the road. I figured it was probably housedust from the cleaning.

The twin-typhoon suction power we'd had not long before had left us with a surprisingly hot day and an almost perfect, clear-blue sky. We had some fantastic views of Mt. Fuji as we were driving in, and, except for some inevitable squabbling between the two kids, it was smooth traveling all the way down to Shizuoka Prefecture. (That sort of thing can make me sleepy, so I was sipping cans of coffee and vitamin drink all the way.) Then we arrived at the Hakone cutoff, which would bring us over to Izu, apparently at the same time everyone else did. Traffic was at a dead halt. It took us more than half an hour to travel a couple of kilometers. Once we were off the expressway and on the coast route it was still a solid line of traffic, but at least we were moving.


The town of Atami on the Izu coast, where we stayed.

The Izu coast is quite beautiful, and the sparkling sky made it even better. We actually didn't mind the slow pace so much. It was almost a shame when we finally rolled into our hotel, the Hotel Onoya, which was an impressive, large structure. Check-in went smoothly, and the service was quite good. It was already late afternoon, so we asked for our dinner to be delayed till 7:00 and headed straight for the natural hot spring baths.

By now my sniffle and raw throat had evolved into a full-fledged runny nose and cough.

The spa facilities at Hotel Oonoya include open-air baths (segregated by sex, of course) and a famous, giant, Roman-style bath. We weren't sure whether splitting up would be such a good idea with the kids present, so the four of us grabbed one of the family baths, which aren't a whole lot bigger than a typical household bathroom. Still, it was a rich, mineral-laden (and very salty) spa bath from a natural hot spring, and the atmosphere was nice. (I'm not sure how my American readers in particular would react to the idea of a whole family bathing together, but in some parts of the world people don't have sticks shoved quite so far up their backsides in that respect.) After the soak in the spa we rinsed and toweled off, dressed in yukata (lightweight cotton kimono usually provided by hotels as leisure wear), and headed back to our room to find dinner waiting for us.

Dinner was a large, traditional-style, multi-course meal consisting entirely of local fare. It was quite good, but I'm not sure I would call it spectacular. (Actually, my wife was a bit disappointed; she'd had particularly high hopes for dinner, and she thought it was a bit too "typical".) Still, it was a feast, and I washed it down with a cold bottle of Sapporo Black Label beer (one of my favorites). Unfortunately, as the meal progressed, so did my affliction. By the time I was finished my sinuses were so swollen shut that they were starting to push my teeth out, exposing the roots and making them much more painfully sensitive than usual. Needless to say, my whole head was a seething mass of pain. (This happens to me on rare occasions...such as right after I finished filming Jeff Nicholson's "Hockey" video...) During the night we had a beautiful view of the almost-full moon in a clear sky from our window, the kids squabbled, the wife worked marking papers, and I just went from feeling bad to worse.

At about 10:00 p.m. I was so dizzy that I more or less passed out, but it didn't last long. I woke up again around midnight (to find the wife still doing her school-related work). The bed and pillow both seemed too hard, and between the wife's rustling papers, my daughter coughing loudly in the next room, covers which made me either too hot or too cold, and that awful pounding throughout my head and jaw, I basically didn't stand an Avon lady's chance in Kandahar of getting any sleep. I more or less lay awake hating life till morning.

I'd hoped to get in the spa bath one more time, but that was pretty much out of the question. After getting dressed, I managed to sneak in a quick nap before and after breakfast (which, like dinner, was very large and quite nice but not really spectacular), but I still wasn't sure of my suitability to drive the long way back home. There wasn't much to be done about it, so we packed up our gear and checked out. Then, while I waited in the lobby drinking lots of tea (CAFFEINE!!!!!), the wife and kids did their gift shopping.

While I was waiting a woman sitting at a nearby table apparently had a heart attack. The ambulance arrived just as we were loading up in my car at the main entrance, forcing me to toss everything (including my son)in and punch it to get out of the way.


Hmm...what's wrong with this picture?

The drive back was a bit easier as traffic wasn't quite so heavy. As we emerged from Izu, however, I suggested making a quick detour to the Odawara Castle Park in nearby Odawara City so we'd at least have something to do. Odawara Castle was actually a major castle from the Sengoku Period, when it was capital of an expanding empire (under Daimyo Hojo Soun), till the end of the Edo Period, when it was the seat of an important regional warlord. During the Meiji Period, when the Emperor retook direct control of the government from the Shoguns, the castle was demolished except for its main tower, or donjon, which still stands today. The old castle grounds were turned into a park which includes a small zoo and amusement rides for small children. There was basically something there for all of us, so we were quite happy about it. Afterward we had a quick lunch of soba and got back on the expressway, and it was here that I made a rather frustrating discovery. By cutting through Odawara City, we completely bypassed the crowded Hakone Cutoff, meaning that if we'd done so the night before we might have trimmed close to half an hour from our travel time. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Pepped up by frequent doses of coffee, tea, and vitamin drink, I kept us on the road for the thankfully uneventful return trip. Then, after making the journey through Tokyo, we decided to go on one last adventure: a Costco run. After all, my wife had never been there, and I was hoping to look for Halloween stuff. A quick reprogramming of the navi system, and we were on our way!

My wife was overwhelmed by Costco, but their selection of Halloween decor was sadly disappointing. To make matters worse, after covering only part of the second floor (which is where you have to enter), my wife suddenly decided she wanted to use the rest room. There didn't appear to be one on the second floor. However, if you go down to the first floor, there's (technically) no way to get back to the second without leaving the store completely and going around. I asked her to wait long enough for me to grab one or two quick items, but I turned around to find her and both kids gone. A little while later my daughter came running back telling me what I'd already figured; my wife had already gone downstairs. Sighing, I aborted my mission and went down there, too.

The bottom floor is the supermarket section, and this is where I usually go nuts. While waiting for the wife, I went ahead with some of my shopping. Unfortunately, when we finally linked up, there was no sign of our son. I'd thought he'd gone with her. She'd thought he'd gone with me. Apparently he was left trapped up on the second floor with us unable to get him without leaving the store. My wife and I proceeded to have a loud, screaming, cussing fight right there in the middle of the crowded supermarket section before she walked off and got on the escalator heading back up to the parking lot. I canceled all further shopping, paid for what I had (desperately trying not to blow a gasket despite my still-violent headache), and boarded the same escalator. My daughter and I went back to the car to find...nothing(?).

A little while later, a quick cellphone conversation revealed what had happened. My wife had cut across the second floor parking garage and re-entered the store, somehow sneaking in without a member's card (supposedly not possible). She'd then found my son, who had been quietly watching TV. As she hadn't even bought anything yet, we linked up again on the second floor and proceeded with a second round of shopping, which fortunately went very peacefully. Needless to say, my BLUE RAV4 was stuffed full of stuff, and I'm surprised we managed to get it all in without smashing anything.

The remainder of the drive home was smooth and easy, but my eyes were growing alarmingly heavy. I'm glad we got home when we did. As we headed northward, a very low, very large, and very orange harvest moon hung directly ahead of us on the horizon. The kids were actually a little scared, but it gave me something to help stay focused. My headache eased, but the dizziness and shaking did not. The chest cold got worse, too. I went to bed really early, took the next day off from work, and slept almost all day. Now I think I'm getting a bit better...I hope. Still stuffed and wheezed up. At least I'm still getting along very well with the wife...though her parents are still irked at us.

At least it was an anniversary to remember...whether I like it or not.

13 Comments:

  • Happy Belated Anniversary!!! :)

    By Blogger Selba, at 4:12 PM  

  • Thanks!

    I guess that's a gold for you this time!

    Word verification:

    Oh, I forgot; you tagged me just before!
    Now I had better get up off my butt!
    Gold is what you have now, but you want more:
    Only the answers to - I know not what...
    I guess I'd better get to work.
    Patience! This task I will not shirk!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 6:44 PM  

  • That's another fine adventure you've gotten into, sir.

    A beer drinking man from Ibaraki,
    Fell to travelling to Atami
    K-wife came along
    Offspring in a throng
    Giggling about sniffling Pa on the tatami.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 2:53 AM  

  • Happy Anniversary and hope your sniffy nose and horrible sinus aches are better now.
    Sometimes trips away are just not worth the effort. I guess the kids had a good time.
    We almost never took our kids to a hotel, but one time when the brother-in-law didn't turn up at Nadi airport, we had to book into the Nadi hotel. About 4 a.m. I heard some yells from the hotel pool. 'Hey, Mum and Dad. They've got a heated pool!' It was just tropical warm water of course.
    W.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 7:51 AM  

  • oh my word. i really want to read this but i've hit the wall of sleep and my eyes are telling me it's bedtime.


    i'll be back sometime this weekend, promise!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:43 AM  

  • PS Happy Anniversary and many more!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:44 AM  

  • Over here, the place to avoid on a public holiday is the Genting Highland Resort. This is a holiday destination and has the only casino in Malaysia and while adults gamble away their shirt (or not), kids would be having a whale of a time on the rides.

    From KL, it is an hours's drive - thirty minutes to the foothill and another thirty up to the resort which is at over 6000ft above sea-level. There was one time, we took more than an hour and a half just coming downhill.

    MM, best wishes to many more happy anniversaries. And thank you for the link.

    Totally zonked from the flu
    Shopping packed the Rav Blue
    Izu Peninsula there they went
    Sounds like fun-time they spent
    Back again, how time flew

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 5:23 PM  

  • what a wonderful story and happy anniversary!

    the trip sounds full of adventure. the baths sound interesting... and really, i see nothing wrong w/ bathing together. i think the u.s. has too many hang ups on such and should lighten up. i think if your kids were older, then maybe it would be different... or does japan not see any probs w/ that. prob my american background peeping up here.

    when you ask what's wrong w/ this picture w/ the elephant.. the one thing that comes to mind is that the elephant looks like it's on a cement slab w/ no where to go or nothing to do. i think that's horrible since they need open fields and lots of room.

    i'm glad you're feeling better... hope you start feeling 100% soon. :)

    By Blogger tooners, at 7:23 PM  

  • Fact:

    When Disney released the Studio Ghibli movie My Neighbor Totoro in the U.S. they deleted a (rather important to one of the subplots) scene that shows the father and the two daughters bathing together. Disney said American audiences wouldn't understand and might even get the wrong idea.

    The Japanese failed to see what the big deal was. It's not only normal but even expected for fathers to bathe with their children until the children themselves decide otherwise.

    (To answer your obvious question, yes, but not anymore. I set 7 as the maximum upper limit for my daughter [who is now 10], and my son prefers bathing with grandma. Unlike me, she doesn't make him wash his face.)

    Good heavens! Are those people really nude,
    Inside the bath together without shame?
    Perhaps it's something evil, something rude
    Involving soap and washing, nothing tame!
    Leave out the claims of innocence!
    People, this wrecks all moral sense!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:55 AM  

  • you know, i agree w/ you. i think when the child starts feelings uncomfortable, then it's time to stop. i see nothing wrong w/ bathing w/ kids.

    i'll tell ya about this girl/woman that i used to know. she was in her 30s, her son... well, he was 11 or so. she used to walk around naked in front of him and would do the same or rather walk around w/ a t-shirt and undies on underneath and nothing else when his friends came over. once she took them to blockbuster to rent a video like this and the ppl inside wouldnt let them rent it, so she had to run inside looking like that. she laughed about it. i have issue w/ this. she also had huge, fake boobs, and tended not to wear a bra. very anna nicole smith or pam anderson to me.

    By Blogger tooners, at 1:21 AM  

  • happy belated anniversary!

    wow... that's some anniversary to remember! hope your flu has got better now. and glad that you enjoyed the trip, despite all the unexpected turns.

    Bathing with dad? hmmm... I think I can't do it even if I can turn back time. culture difference, it is.

    By Blogger YD, at 3:43 AM  

  • Poor Moody was so ill
    Loving inlaws were a pill
    Nothing can stop me now
    Displaying affection somehow
    Underneath the bubbles bath
    Children play incurring wrath

    By Blogger Pa've, at 5:56 AM  

  • Loved the story but
    people bathing together
    has my imagination racing.
    Not on, we are
    very very private people!
    w.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 10:21 AM  

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