Catching Up

It’s been an eventful week or so since I last posted here, highlighted by a few friends from Tokyo coming to visit over the last couple of days.

Last Friday Chieko and I drove up to Niigata, and after picking some melons in the rain on Saturday morning, I headed back to Kanazawa with one of my buddies in tow.  Here I am styling the old school rain gear.  I hadn’t had the pleasure of picking watermelons in the rain before, and as crappy as it is, it beats working in the extreme heat.  The rain gear works quite effectively to boot.

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On Tuesday another friend came joined us in Kanazawa, and yesterday we all headed back up to Niigata, where after a 3+ hour drive, we arrived at the train station 4 minutes before their train was due to leave.  

I spent the night there and then Chieko and I made our way back home this afternoon.  Today is the holiday known as Obon here in Japan, which is celebrated by visiting the grave site of your family members, lighting candles and incense, and saying a prayer to the deceased.  While Chieko was attending to her Obon duties, I was checking out the driving range that is situated immediately behind their graves.  I was particularly interested in the ball collecting vehicle, which was essentially a regular little K-truck with some nets around the windows and ball collecting unit rigged to the front.

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Japanese driving ranges are ubiquitous, huge, and ugly.  I’ve met several people who claim golf as a hobby, but have only ever played at ranges like these.  Most have two floors of tees, and one of the biggest nets you’ve ever seen.  This is a rural range, but urban ones have turf flooring and roof netting, and in a lot of cases the floor is hydraulically controlled to tip up and roll all the balls to a collecting point rather than having to drive around a pick them up.  The local one around here also has a mechanical rod that periodically spins around the artificial green and knocks the accumulated balls off of it, so it doesn’t get too crowded.

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Another kind of Japanesey moment I had today was when we stopped at a rest area in Toyama.  Many of the rest areas have souvenir shops, restaurants, and a load of vending machines, in addition to bathrooms, but the one we stopped at was pretty sparse — bathrooms, a few vending machines, and a covered smoking area.  But they also had these, which I had never seen before:

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Cots, spread out on a covered patio.  I’m not sure if this is a regular feature at this particular rest area, or if they are out now because it’s a big national holiday week, and there are a lot of people on the road.  Either way, I thought it was pretty cool.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  Not necessarily interesting but there you have it.  I leave with a picture my friend Andrew, half naked, pinching his nipple and snarling.  

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