Posts Tagged View-o
After an eventful morning where my parents did some solo sightseeing, we met up with The Penpal and her parents to see some sights in Numazu. Both of their cars were too small to hold six adults, so we divided up into a men’s car and a woman’s car. While we were driving, my dad had about a million questions for The Penpal’s father, and I did my best to translate their conversation. I’m happy that my father is a friendly, outgoing person, but by the time we got out of the car my brain was tired!
We visited Senbonhama Park and beach, and then went on to the giant tsunami gate View-O, where I had been with The Penpal’s father before. Everyone got a chance to talk and hang out before we ended up at the mountaintop restaurant for dinner.
My parents were jetlagged and overwhelmed by everything, but they enjoyed getting a chance to spend time with me, their future daughter in law and her family. Over dinner we discussed the plans for the rest of the week. Tomorrow morning my parents and I were going to get up early and head west for 4 days in Himeji, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara.
It was a fun day, and a good way to spend time with my two families.
New Year is the most important family holiday in Japan; it’s similar to a Christmas in Canada or Thanksgiving in the US. Many businesses shut down for the last few days of the year to give their employees time to spend with family. Conversational English schools like NOVA are usually open for every other holiday (because students are available for lessons), but thankfully they give teachers and staff a break and shut down for about a week at the end of the year.
The Penpal had to work today, but her father had the day off and wanted a chance to spend some time with me. The only other time we have spent time together alone was in a very awkward car ride from Numazu station to The Penpal’s piano recital. The Penpal’s father’s English is limited to the basics; yes, no, hello, goodbye. The thought of spending an entire day with him was pretty terrifying. Fortunately my Japanese has improved a lot in the past year or so, but even with that I spent the evening last night studying new words and preparing some emergency conversation topics. This only seems neurotic if you have never faced the thought of spending a day with your girlfriend’s father who can’t speak your language.
The Penpal’s father arranged our day through the Penpal. He was going to pick me up at my apartment and take me to Numazu Port to see a structure called View-O. Like most port areas in Japan, Numazu is susceptible to serious damage in the event of a tsunami. View-O is a man made gate over the entrance to the Numazu port area that automatically closes in the event of an earthquake of a certain strength. The idea is that it will block some or all of a tsunami wave to reduce damage to the port and the boats.
The gate looks like an arch over the port entrance that has a viewing area open to the public. From the top you can get a great view of Senbonhama beach, the Numazu port, Numazu city, and the green mountains of Izu peninsula.
I tried my best not to think about how nervous I was spending time with The Penpal’s father, and to just do my best to be relaxed and enjoy spending some time with him. Fortunately the combination of my improved Japanese abilities, last minute study, and his patience made the time move fairly smoothly. I only had to look in my dictionary twice!
After seeing View-O and taking a lot of pictures, The Penpal’s father told me we were going to pick up his wife from her mother’s house, and then meet The Penpal for dinner. I had successfully made it through the afternoon and I was now in the home stretch and close to having my translator back!
We drove to a part of town I had never been to before and parked in front of a small, older looking house. After a few minutes, a tiny older woman came out of the house and walked up to the car. She looked at me through the window and smiled. I thought this was just another case of an older person seeing their first foreigner, until The Penpal’s father told me I was looking at The Penpal’s 91 year old grandmother. I jumped out of the car, greeted her in Japanese, and gave my best attempt at a polite bow. I really want The Penpal’s family to like me, so I did my best to make a good impression. She kept smiling, which I took as a good sign.
The Penpal’s mother got in the car, and we returned to their house where The Penpal was waiting for me. Even though the day went well, I was very VERY relieved to have my translator available. We went out for dinner and talked about our adventures during the day. I am thankful that her father took the time to get to know me better, and very thankful that things seemed to go well.
(2015 Update) It turns out that I did make a good impression on Grandma, and it ended up helping me out A LOT, which I would find out in a few months.
My in laws like to make plans for us when we come back to visit. The plan for the day was to go to Numazu port to see the View-o tsunami gate, go to a historical agriculture museum, then go to a public bath and get naked with strangers.
Numazu is a port city with a large fishing industry. View-o is a gate built at the entrance to the Numazu port area. In the event of a tsunami, the gate will lower to protect the port area and its businesses. You can ride an elevator to the top and get some fantastic pictures of the port area, Izu and Mt. Fuji. Due to the incredible heat, everything was hazy and Fuji was not visible.
The port area has narrow streets full of fish shops and restaurants. Himono, sun dried fish, can be seen (and occasionally smelled) all around the area. We ate lunch in a small restaurant that we chose based on the lunch special. They offered a dish called “Numazu Don” which had 2 kinds of fish and tiny shrimp on top of rice. Numazu Don is served with miso soup. I ordered deep fried tiny shrimp with miso sauce over rice, served with miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles. We stuffed ourselves for about ¥1000 per person. For anyone who says eating in Japan is too expensive – you are eating in the wrong places.
We were all moving very slowly in the heat and after the massive lunch, so we skipped the museum and went directly to the public baths. At this point I started getting a bit nervous. I had been to a small public bath before at a Capsule Hotel in Tokyo, and an Onsen at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) so I was familiar with the concept and the rules. However, I had never been to a big neighbourhood public bath before. In the time since living in Japan, my Japanese had gotten quite rusty. Also, The Wife, who is fluently bilingual, would be in the women’s section while I would be with my father in law who speaks no English and about 20 other naked Japanese guys.
When I am nervous or stressed out, my typical defense mechanism is to make jokes. When The Wife handed me the small privacy towel I told her in Japanese that she had made a mistake. She asked why, and I told her the towel was much too big.
I now present Barniferous’s 10 Easy Steps to being a Gaijin men using a public bath in Japan:
- Go into the locker area, find an empty locker and stash everything except your privacy towel. Yes, everything. You will end up with a small towel in front of your naughty bits and your pasty white butt will be fully exposed (substitute other butt colours as appropriate for you).
- Wish you had a beer or three first.
- Follow your naked 73 year old father in law into the washing area. Sit on the bucket and thoroughly wash yourself everywhere. You are about to sit in hot water with other naked dudes, so make sure you are clean and not soapy.
- Choose a nice indoor bath to start. Put your privacy towel on your head and slowly lower yourself into the 40 degree water. At this point you will realize how many nerve endings you have in your nether regions and how sensitive they are to heat. Understand how a boiled lobster feels.
- Don’t get confused – just because you are seeing a room full of Wangs does not mean you are suddenly in China.
- Move to the outdoor tub and then consider the wisdom of your decision to sit in very hot water while it is very hot outside. Awkwardly talk to your father in law until you run out of Japanese.
- When you start to feel faint, and you will, go to the cold water station and pour icy cold water on your feet. Resist the urge to scream like a girl.
- Sit in one more tub of incredibly hot water, because you didn’t travel half way around the world to only sit in two tubs of incredibly hot water. Try to ignore the fact that you are the only non-Japanese person in the place. Also try to ignore the many, many penises.
- After cooking yourself for a sufficient time, go to the washing area and wash yourself again.
- Return to the locker, get dressed, then go have a nice cold beer, you earned it. Nurse the beer because your wife and mother in law will be another hour.