Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Akan National Park

Akan National Park
阿寒国立公園

Farmland was wushing by the windows, but it was sometimes hard to
tell, since occasionally St Peter opened up the floodgates somewhere
high in the sky above Hokkaido, as i closed in on Akan dake, i seemed
to be getting closer to the source as i soon reached the clouds, and a
mist closed in on the road, in symphony with the dense forest now
surrounding my vehicle, and the twilight setting in, it felt like I
had entered another world. As i got deeper into the forest, deers
appeared out of nowhere, flew past the headlights, and disappeared as
quickly as they they had shown themselves. The magic dissolved when i
reached an intersection to a busier road, the mist cleared, and the
truckers had woken up from their slumber, and set of into the night.
As i switched on the indicator lights and turned onto the empty dark
and winding mountain road leading up to the Youth Hostel, a little
devil got hold of me, i turned on the long lights, gave an evil smile
to no one in particular, and pressed down the accelerator - and with
prodigy banging out the speakers, i cut every corner i could get near.

As the sun was battling the mist next morning, in a heartfelt effort
to start the day, i finished my breakfast and set out for some
sightseeing, hiking hadn't really taken of in this area, so i was
happy to have four wheels to take me around. The lake was beautiful,
and when i arrived there, the sun had been victorious! :-)

Look for yourself...

Unfortunately as i went for the heart of the National park, the
weather turned against me, and i in turn, turned around back to my
temporary residence and entered a nice warm Ofuro instead. Ofuro? You
may wonder, well it's a something in the way of a complicated bath;

Basically an Ofuro is an oversize bathtub, the Japanese it seems, are
more comfortable splashing around at least a couple of people in the
same bath, and have increased the tubs size to accommodate this
peculiar desire. In time this seems to have created some hygienic
concerns, and after chopping of gross peoples heads for a while,
someone who forgot his samurai sword at home, had the brainwave that
it might be a jolly good idea to have people wash before they entered
the bath, so that the number of farmers without heads, didn't start to
cause a food shortage - and so it was that little chairs and buckets
of water was provided for people to wash themselves before they
entered the bath. Another problem was the lack of laundry machines,
this was due to the fact that in feudal japan, electricity was limited
to tying frogs to metal wires during thunderstorms. This created a lot
of dirty towels that again created hygienic problems in the very same
baths that were supposed to keep the Japanese clean. The solution, now
that people had heads, someone thought, was simply placing the towels
on top of these, out of the water. A while later, a Japanese guy had
been splashing around his Ofuro for a while, quite disenchanted with
his rather dull bathing companions, and decided the the few
gaikokujins (outside country persons) was an untapped source of such -
so he decided to import and adapt the shower head, for washing ones
hair, only in the name of the aforementioned entertainment, the hose
was made so short you still had to sit on your chair, this both kept
the guy entertained as westerners tried to shower, and as an added
bonus this also happened to solve the problems of towels getting dirty
from unwashed hair (another side effect of leaving peoples head on).
This ongoing evolution of the bath has left taken a bath in Japan a
rather complicated affair for foreigners, and to this day, remains a
source of much entertainment to the splashing locals.

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