Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Signs of Life

Two days back in Japan.

Went to work yesterday. Not that I needed to, mind you. I have three days off before I have to be back to work. I was just too tired to head out on a trip anywhere, and I needed to return a couple things anyway.

But today?

Since it's my last day off, I decided to get out and do...something.

Wouldn't ya know it. The weather was crap.

Ah well.

I drove out into the hills in Noboribetsu, then drove over Orofure Pass, which is supposed to be beautiful on a clear day.

I saw the insides of rainclouds.

Then it was down into Otaki, where I had a kinoko-don (translation: tempura mushrooms on rice) for lunch. Apparently, you can pick all kinds of mushrooms in the mountains in Otaki.

I also saw the one million dollar rest area there.

Quite a few years back, when the Japanese economy was booming, the government gave the yen equivalent of one million dollars to every city, town, and village in the country. I've heard of some places that put that money to good use, but most places just built some hideous new building or built a tunnel...or something.

Public works projects. Gotta love 'em!

Anyway, Otaki had put their money into making a one million dollar rest area. That's how they advertise it on the sign out front.

It is sparkling clean inside, and there's a baby grand piano in the foyer that plays classical music automatically.

Impressive? Yes. Necessary? Hmmm....

After the one million dollar potty break, I hit the road again. I considered turning off to the west and checking out Kutchan, but I decided against it, opting instead to travel out to Lake Shikotsu and hit a hot spring there.

Marukoma Hot Springs.

This was a very cool place to visit. The baths were all great, but the best one was the outdoor bath. The water level changes with the level of the lake, and since it had been raining recently, the water came up to my chest. A stand-up outdoor bath? Cooool.

Then it was back home for me. Gotta get back into work mode for tomorrow.

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