Here is a great anecdote for you today. My friends, Ruthie (teacher from Iowa, working at Baiko HS) and Jen (teacher from Canada…used to work here at the Center but now teaches in Kumamoto) and I went to Hikoshima beach this afternoon. We were going to take the bus, but when Ruthie asked if the bus stopped by the beach, the driver shook his head vigorously and said loudly, “NO!” and shut the doors, driving off. Ruthie was angry. So we took a cab and split the fare. When we got into the taxi, Ruthie (whose Japanese is incredible for only living here for 2 yrs) told the driver what had happened and he said that it was ridiculous…that bus stops almost directly in front of the beach. Even more angry now, we sat on our way to the beach, when we passed the very bus that would not take us, stopping just one block short of the beach. It was pretty funny for Jen and me as we didn’t really care what mode of transportation we took, just so long as it was fast and air conditioned.
As soon as we stepped onto the parking lot, a man picking up garbage stopped us and asked where we were from. Ruthie and I answered we were from America. Jen said she was from Canada. He then told us that he was glad we came to this beach and that if we wanted to use the showers, they were 100 yen per person, and they were only open until 6pm, like the beach (mind you, it was about 3pm at this moment). We nodded and thanked him and went to stake out a spot on the sand. It’s a man-made beach, so the sand is still pretty rough and there’s not a lot of wildlife. In fact, the most wildlife we saw was amongst 6 teenage boys who had decided to cover one of their fellows to his neck in sand and leave him there…occasionally pouring water on his head to cool him off as he yelled out. We were powerless. I brought no swimsuit to Japan, but was content to wade along the edge with my jeans rolled up past my knees. After a while, the other two got tired of the water and we went to our towels to dry off and eat potato chips (pizza flavored, and then salt and lime flavored…the second kind is a new favorite for me…they are called Sicilian chips, hah).
They were playing some great mood music, some of which added to the Sicilian feel, on the intercom across the beach (again…it’s a man-made beach, with all the luxuries). Out of nowhere, the music cuts off and a man’s voice comes on the speaker. It says, “This is contact to the Canadian (awkward pausing). The beach will be close at 6 o’clock. (awkward pausing) If you want use shower please be careful of time. (more awkward pausing, with the general noises one makes when searching for the next words to say) It’s ok? (really awkward pausing) Thank you.” Needless to say, it was obvious we were being watched. Badly holding our laughter in, we look to the office building and see someone standing at the window, probably holding binoculars to their eyes. We were in histerics at this point. We had our own personal intercom announcement. What made it more awkward was that we were the only non-Japanese on the beach, and there was no Japanese translation given, so it was obviously meant for us.
Not only that, but maybe 30 minutes later, the same man, with a friend came to our towels to tell us that the shower would close at 6pm, just like the beach, and that it was now 4:30. We sat for a little while longer, then went back to the water to wash the sand off and cool down…then we decided to go. We went up to the building to use the free faucets to wash our feet off, and suddenly the man poked his head out of the window to ask if we would use the showers now. We politely declined and took off for the bus stop. It was one of the most awkward moments I’ve had here in Japan, but one that I hope to treasure for the rest of my life.