The sky was blue, the weather agreeable, and I felt in the mood to set out on an expedition to explore some of my town on foot. I took a few gulps of iced tea, threw on some gym shorts and a white beater, tied my Reeboks tight, and took to the streets like the wind. Jogging is the closest thing I can get to flying without an airplane and is my favorite way to explore new places. Every time I jog in a new area, I end up finding all kinds of strange things that I would never run across flying by in my car or by snailing along at a slow walk.
After twenty minutes or so of running above the riverside, a few grey clouds roll into the valley and it begins to drizzle. The weather is pretty warm, so I am unfazed, and continue on up ahead to a tree that I’d been meaning to see up close for a while.
This is a view of the tree on a sunny day. Super-old looking and…..unique. From the top of the staircase that winds around the tree, there is a pretty awesome view of the Kawakami dam and the river below.
I finally make it. At this point, the rain is coming down pretty hard, but it doesn’t matter because I’m here with this ancient tree. I reach my hand out to feel the wet bark’s texture beneath my fingers (some real Fern Gully-esque material, I right?), and as soon as my hand makes contact with the tree, I realize that something isn’t right. I bend my fingers and give the tree a few good knocks with my knuckles….
THOOP. THOOP. THOOP.
The tree was fake! I felt so strange! My heart beat a little faster at the surprise. I looked up to the scenery around me, half-expecting to discover that there were actually fishing lines hanging the clouds in the air and that the mountains were actually cardboard cut-outs. Deceit!
Not sure whether or not I am dreaming or if anything around me is real even if I am awake, I am no longer running, but have joined the ranks of a group of old Japanese people, waddling along up the “tree”‘s staircase like penguins in brightly-colored rain ponchos. I’m not really sure where the stairs are leading us to, but I just continue following the people in front of me, figuring that they must be going somewhere cool if they were willing to come out here in the rain.
Eventually, we reach a large windowed concrete building. There are a few signs around, but my comprehension of Kanji (Sino-Japanese characters; there are over 40,000 of them) is limited to the point of illiteracy. So, I keep following…
We enter the building and before I get a chance to figure out where I am, an employee of whatever this place was runs up to me and says “Come, come!” So I followed.
She leads me to this large area full of raincoats and rain boots of all different sizes, an I’m thinking she is offering to rent me out a raincoat, which I really didn’t need and surely wasn’t prepared to pay any money for, but she kept insisting that I suit up and that I didn’t have to pay her any money, so I put all of the stuff on and was ready to go.
Next, she led me down a small dark hallway, pointed to a dark humid room with metal walls, gravel flooring, and a TV set on the furthest wall sitting on standby. “You go in now,” she said. I was scared shitless.
Nonetheless, there was no turning back. I “went in now”, and was followed by a pretty large group of other people (all Japanese). The others looked stoic. They didn’t say a word to each other. Where the hell was I and why the hell do I always find the weirdest shit when I go out to jog…
The TV set turns on, and a green cartoon dragon comes up on the screen, laughing. He said a lot, but I only understood two things: he told me his name (which I no longer remember), and the word AME (the Japanese word for rain), the latter of which he said very loud and diabolically.
Frigid water started coming down all around us. It was so thick hat I couldn’t see but a foot in front of me, and nobody was moving. Everyone just clenched their fists and endured the storm. The dragon came back and the rain stopped, and this happened about 3 more times, each time, the rain getting harder and harder.
And then, it was finished.
wtf moments in Japan, 2012.
So. Apparently my town has an indoor rain simulator and at least one fake tree. What better way to beat the rain than with a family trip to the local indoor rain simulator! I’m still confused. Every day I find that this place has more and more character than I though it did the day before. Almost every time I’ve run around here I’ve fallen down some sort of rabbit hole of discovery, and it doesn’t seem like there is a limit to the directions in which I can run. More on other discoveries later. à bientôt.