September 30, 2015

Prisoner of summer

It’s no secret to readers of this blog that I am captive to warm winds and sunny skies. So I won’t rail against the fact that summer is over, preferring instead to bask in the remaining warmth of my memories. How’s that for a tangled preamble? Here comes the vacation download, stream-of-consciousness narrative mode.

Leaving Yokohama in the dank, dark evening, just as planned, Patton-style, nimbly swooping around the phalanx of 18-wheelers and evading the zippy hyperactive German sedans stealthily zooming onto my six. I deke into the slow lane for the sake of the kids, otherwise it would be ‘Go Time’ with these Teutonic tin cans. Driving…fresh, calm chill of the air conditioner blowing against my brow fuels my enthusiasm for Everything. It is summer vacation time, baby! And feeling, as I did, that something awesome was about to happen. And it was.

Needless to say, the nouveau Third Army, a.k.a. the Rising Family™, made it to Hiroshima intact. The new car’s debut performance on the long haul was outstanding. She can now be called a Trusty Steed. But getting out of the car at 0630 after roughly 11 hours at the helm felt like Arizona cactus needles being rammed into my buttocks because my legs and derriere were long asleep before my brain.

So what do my children want to do once we are functional again and it is 35 to 40 degrees outside (95 to 104 degrees for you Imperial types)? Duh…wade in the river, of course. Thus, we went playing in the local river (Otagawa) that Naomi frolicked in as a kid, with Ojichan and Obachan (grandpa and grandma), trying to catch little brown fish. Gives our kids some experience with the real countryside.
Many hours also spent catching frogs in the rice fields and imprisoning them in teal-colored plastic pail, which I dubbed Stalag 17.

Other random shots:
- Had a morning run with Marina, our first together, maybe 600 meters tops, to go see a pack of wild kittens. Honest.
- Visiting the Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima was, in actuality, more time spent picking up scores of dead cicada carcasses off the park grounds and tree trunks than spent touring the museum.
- Fireworks at home; and fireworks “on board.’ Long-time stalwart bud S.M. wonderfully offered to host us on his family’s boat to watch the world-class Miyajima fireworks on Aug. 11. Deck chairs and feasting on the stern, later on, all passengers on the bow viewing the fireworks.
Cordite smell on the water. Our kids could meet his kids again after several years. Kid-wise, felt like the Paris Peace talks during Vietnamization. But us erstwhile adults reveled in the absolutely Kickass Fireworks Display and the easy camaraderie of many years of friendship.
We march on, camping was next. At Hamada – camping day #1. My main accomplishment was reading The Descendants here. Popcorn reading, and, no, I don’t think I am anywhere near being George Clooney. Let’s stay real here, for crying out loud. Beach time = nice, slow time.
Rained for a day but kids watched kagura at a local mall instead. Kagura is a Shinto religion theatrical dance with rituals associated with the agricultural calendar; think deep South blues songs derived from oral history, but with dancing snakes that impart morality lessons about being a good citizen. Imagine an Asian Elvis spinning songs with booming drums and cymbals, but with history that pre-dates the birth of Christ. That’s living tradition.

Hamada day#2 at the beach was pristine blue skies and warm water. Beach Boys songs capture the essence perfectly.
Next day we drove on Route 191 all the way to the northeast corner of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Came to Tsunoshima and made the mistake of deciding to visit the information counter because “we have time.” That’s like choosing Betamax over VHS, Blackberry over iPhone, monumentally SuperBad choice. Bumper-to-bumper traffic jam from the entrance all the way to the restaurants. Throngs of people, no restaurant was open. We were stuck in the Tsunoshima area for over two hours. It wasn’t pleasant. Bad atmosphere in the car resulted, too. I was so road-raged and helpless that I swear I saw a gaggle of tropical birds straight out of Disney’s “Rio” forming a team circle and winking at me, as though I belonged with them.
Finally we arrived at the autocamp site about 2030, set up the tent for the girls. Sweaty and tired, all I wanted to do was swim the defeat off my body and have a beverage.  So I hooked up with fellow JET alumni Anderson McSleeman (not his real name). We had made plans to rendezvous at this campsite. We enjoyed a few cocktails; he smartly pulled the plug later that night when I thought I could actually play the ukulele. I’m told that the next morning was great family time with A.M. and his family on the beach, but I underwent virtual brain surgery and cannot recall one second of what we did.

Next day, next stop: Shimonoseki!

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