First post and explanation
What's a 'Greenpia' anyway?
I devoted most of yesterday's post to one particular situation and very little to the entire trip during which it occurred. So today's all about "Ohnuma Greenpia Resort."
I woke up the morning of the trip and sort of lumbered downstairs later than usual, mildly dehydrated but otherwise hangover free. You've dealt me a few bad hands, genetics, but for the most part you treat me awesome. My host mother bid me good morning with a grin and asked whether I had a 'futsukayoi.' She watched astonished as I shook my head and dug in voraciously to one of her scarily professional breakfasts.
Later in the morning, my host mother dropped me off at a shopping center where the bus subsequently picked me up, taking the whole HIF crew into the mountains that surround Hakodate. Wherever you look into the distance of Hakodate, there's either the stretching barrier of the sea or the towering barrier of the mountains, so it was cool to see what lay on the other side. A "Quasi-National Park," as the Engrish subtitles on the sign welcoming us to Ohnuma informed us.
We drove along a wooded, bumpy road that hugged a lake between the mountains, mist still lingering over their peaks. The trees here are just as verdant as back home, but their shape and character is slightly different, just enough to always give this American a feeling of the mildly exotic. Gigantic piles of somewhat volcanic rock and soil everywhere might also do that too. Wisconsin ain't exactly famed for its mountain ranges.
Ohnuma itself was a mediocre resort. Not trashy, but a little pretentious. My host father said of it 'maa maa,' which is exactly the appropriate sound to describe it. There are wide park grounds, some rides, some recreation, a small golf range, and lots of very overpriced attractions. Tourist trap, basically.
I'd forgotten to hit up the ATM at the post office (the only place I can withdraw from my account at home here is the post office; how crazy is that?), so I found myself being very, very frugal with what money I had left.
Among the few activities I tried was a ride called the "Sports Slider." The ride itself was not worth the 400 yen I spent on it (about $4), but the uniquely lawsuit-tastic experience of its questionable safety certainly was. This was basically a very, very tall metal slide built into the mountainside which you rode down in wheeled carts with brakes you controlled with a lever. No tracks. No seatbealts. No particular protections to keep you from flying off the slide if you took a turn too fast, which one or two people did. It was an American insurance agent's idea of a sick, twisted joke and an American class action attorney's particularly kinky wet dream. That the common sense you're taking responsibility for your own damn safety might apply to this ride was a surreal experience. What, common sense? No no, we Americans are incapable of it. Please protect us from ourselves or we'll take all your money, kthxbye.
I also explored something called "The Big Donut" with some friends from the program, which turned out to be absolutely the coolest, most dangerous playground equipment I've ever had the pleasure of climbing all over. It's difficult to describe without redundant use of the word 'donut,' but it was made of wood, sharp metal, rope, and a dash of spiders. It was terribly intricate, with all sorts of passageways and secret slides and crazy rope course corridors. The playset reminded me of something I played on when I was a kid, a wooden monstrosity that defined the local park for me before they replaced it with a limpid, pathetic piece of shit plastic 'play' gym my freshman year of high school. Natsukashii na...
We also wandered all over the park grounds looking for something called "Canadian house" on the map, mostly because we were deathly curious about what exactly a "Canadian house" was supposed to be. Log cabins, mounties, and maple syrup? Unfortunately, we couldn't find it. As we were walking back together, I yelled in mock dejection, "There's no such thing as Canada in Japan!" and a pack of Japanese tourists stopped dead in their tracks and stared at us. This sort of behavior has become amusing to me, now that I've figured out there's nothing I can do that won't cause them to stare at me with total lack of concern for how rude they're being like I'm some animal cut loose from the zoo. This may or may not be a good thing.
Students commenced drinking as soon as they hit the resort, given that the maps HIF had distributed to us included helpful labels indicating the locations of various liquor stores. They know what this trip's all about. We had dinner in a big banquet hall and a few students put on a talent show, with one particular girl playing an astounding violin concerto. I mean, like, professional music school, drop-my-chopsticks-holy-shit-she's-incredible violin playing, we're talking here.
After dinner was the onsen and all that entailed. Then more drinking, more socially lubricated group talk-outs between the students as we sat on the tatami mats of our rooms crosslegged, and eventually one hell of a love-in in the karaoke room. One girl got so trashed she vomited. Another guy fell down the stairs and into some unfortunate Japanese woman. He was too drunk to apologize himself (he had no memory of the incident the next day, though he was extremely embarrassed), but luckily a few other HIF students were around to bow extremely low and apologize several times on his behalf.
We were raucous and obnoxious, but we didn't cause any damage. The day after, there was a running debate over whether our behavior had looked typically American, or typically Japanese with an American twist. The Japanese are allowed to be obnoxious when they're obviously sloshed, I've discovered. It's quite refreshing, actually. They can hold their own with the worst frat boys and switch back to tippity-toe courtesy the next morning faster than even the most conscientious American can manage.
As our bus left Ohnuma the next morning, everyone fairly hungover, some of the hotel staff lined up next to the bus and bowed on our way out. We found this uncomfortably amusing, as we were pretty certain they were glad to see us leave. But, appearances must be maintained and all.
I myself didn't get up to anything too debaucherous, just lots of frenzied conversation in English and relatively restrained drinking, but I did smoke three cigarettes through the course of the night. That made me feel disgusting in the morning. Ick ick ick, the buzz may be nice when you're drunk, but cigarettes really are gross. I'm thinking I'm going to cut the habit of lighting up when I'm drunk all together. The novelty's faded and I hate the idea of all that tar in my lungs. There's a cancer doctor's son for you.
All in all, an entirely enjoyable weekend retreat. Monday was an immediate return to intense amounts of homework, but I'd destressed and decompressed enough that it didn't bother me. We'll see how the rest of the week goes.