Tuesday, December 11, 2007

clearly I like the outdoors

Randomata: Public baths. I love 'em. Sento are local public baths in the middle of the neighbourhood. Onsen are usually a bit more touristy, often drawing from hot springs and using mineral water with supposed health benefits. Rotemburo are outdoor baths, ideally with a clear view of a lake or a mountain or some gloried scene of nature to absorb your mind as the water absorbs your weariness. I think I've said before, but men and women are separated in the far majority of baths. Oh, and you don't actually bathe in the bath with everybody else. There is a row of low stools and shower heads on one side of the big room, where you soap up and clean yourself off before getting in the water. Maybe it seems odd, the idea of lathering and scrubbing with your naked neighbour only a foot away, and then sitting around in the water shoulder to shoulder, fully exposed. But you get over that after about five minutes. Already I can't imagine why any society wouldn't have them. Aside from the relaxing qualities, getting naked with a bunch of other people some how goes a long way toward making you more comfortable with your body. After all, every body is funny looking. And it even helps strengthen relationships, removing one more barrier (meaning the pyschological defence that clothing provides) between two friends or family members. I thoroughly enjoyed the skinship onsen bonding with my father when he was here visiting me.

Sunday evening I had one of the most content moments in my life.

Sadly I have no pictures; I think I'll have to buy a compact digital camera after all my wishwashing. Though visibility was a bit low, suffice it to say that the sight of so much snow and the massive course-covered mountain set my eyes aglow all day.

Sure, it was a little bit hard to get up at 6am on a Sunday to be on a bus out of the city by 8. But that meant we arrived at Kiroro Ski Mountain at 930am, with the whole day before us to play. Over the last few weeks, I have been amassing a collection of recycle shop treasures, the last of which I acquired the night before: by Sunday I had every piece of gear required, including $10 skis. I emerged from the change room an ugly mix of old and new, orange and red and black and blue - and caring very little about my appearance whatsoever. I was nervous and extremely excited to hit the slopes for just the second time in my life. When I told a Japanese person this, they asked me, "Are you a real Canadian?"

The bunny slope only seemed like a giant hill for about ten minutes, and I only fell on my butt once. We skiied all day, all the 'green' runs - maybe even a 'red' run or two (sure as hell no 'black' runs). There was plenty to keep me entertained, even though there were quite a few runs not even open yet. My ad hoc outfit held up all day, and my ten or so year old skiis (according to ski-bud Alice) still functioned enough to slip me down the slope. I even managed to get some air off a jump. So, basically I'm achieving things all my friends did about 10 to 15 years ago. That's ok, in this and many other things I know I still have lots of catching up and growing up to do.

For example, I never went through a punkish teenager phase, so maybe it's not surprising that for about two weeks there I was enjoying the Japanese punk rock/pop recommended to me by my 15 year old students. Someday I hope not to feel like a lame 65 year old nor limited 12 year old trapped in this body of mine. Maybe by the time I'm 30 I'll feel 22.

Another highlight was when we found a short section deep in untouched powder. Gliding through that powder provided me with a sensation never felt before, and for the first time I began to sense how people can fall in love with frozen water.

Lunch excepted we skiied all day until 4pm. Already absolutely content with the day, this is where the bliss comes in. Our skiing package included use of the resort's onsen. The rotemburo was deliciously hot compared to the freezing cold air and through the falling snow provided a vista of the ski range. I soaked my satisfied muscles in the soothing waters and let my mind soar, completely and utterly content.

Still on cloud nine, I was not phased in the least when I got back to my apartment door in the city, and realized that I had left my jacket - cell phone and house keys included - way back at the mountain.

It was no problem to climb the balcony to let myself in: I felt weightless anyways.

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