Weekend Climbing Warriors
Lately on weekends, we have been rock climbing. This is no simple or cheap venture, as the nearest crag is over 3 hours away, and involves a ferry ride. Despite the inconvenience, we have grown accustomed to the rituals involved in getting there; the ferry ride with the occasional ride up front with the captain, the hilly, agro intensive scenery, the stops at the favorite FOODS PEOPLE, an interestingly named grocery store, driving through the Pachinko lined main street of Isahaya, and finally onto a farming road which eventually leads us to our destination.
February-March is the start of the potato and lettuce-growing season in Nagasaki. I suppose in order to cut down on the weeds the fields have been covered with rows of plastic. It makes for an interesting view, although somehow unsettling.
Upon reaching the crag, we try and jump on any descent climb that is available. This is often difficult as on Sundays there are many eager climbers. After a few warm up climbs we like to jump on some climbs that are quite difficult for us. Slowly week after week of repeated effort we manage to figure out the best combination of movements and finally link things together.
(Sorry no picture available, this is not that kind of site!)
After a full day of climbing we hit the “onsen”, the local hot spring. This has become a must after any day of hard climbing. We find it very therapeutic for our muscles and our sore fingers. Rik likes sitting in the cold bath until he can’t any longer and then switching to the boiling hot bath until he is fully boiled. He claims it helps flush out the old blood, and bring in new fresh blood. It all makes sense.
There are two different onsens to choose from “Hiratani Onsen” in Saga Prefecture and “Sun Spa” in Omura City. Hiratani Onsen is a newly renovated hot spring with 2 indoor baths and one outdoor bath. The water feels nice on the skin and the baths are never too crowded. Rik likes the cold bath because it is especially cold. The setting is very peaceful by a clean river with lots of nice trees and greenery. The only drawback is the price 600yen (a little expensive), and the boilers that heat the water. The boilers happen to be situated beside the men’s onsen, and depending on the wind, blow disturbing fumes into the men’s bath.
The onsen in Omura “Sun Spa” is another unique and completely different, yet truly Japanese experience. Located near the Nagasaki Airport, this onsen is located in a plaza with everything you could ever want within a few meters. There is a noodle restaurant, a sushi restaurant, a game center, a dessert shop and the onsen right at the heart of the complex. In the crowded parking lot there is loud pop music blaring out of strategically located loud speakers. This onsen is no ordinary hot spring. Recently in Japan, new deluxe hot springs are popping up everywhere. They are all unique and extravagant, but none quite matching the Sun Spa hot spring! Indoors there are about 4 different types of baths, a large sauna with a big screen TV, a cold bath and extensive showering cubicles. Outside there are more baths, a water wheel, a footbath, four oversized clay pots perfectly sized for one large gaijin. Outside there is also another sauna and a cold air sauna?? I haven’t really figured this one out yet. Perhaps it will come in handy in the summer.
This is only a description of the women’s hot spring. Apparently the men’s hot spring is completely different. After our long soak, it has become a necessity to sit in the massage chairs. For 100 yen you are kneaded, vibrated and chiggled around until you become fully limp and useless. It’s all you can do to get out of the chair and buy an ice cream at the long line of vending machines. After eventually escaping from the hot spring complex, we find ourselves moving spontaneously to the game center complex next door. Inside we are greeted with different music coming from all directions, young couples feeding 100 yen coins into machines in futile attempts to catch various cute stuffed animals in a game called UFO catcher, people lined up in front of a large screen betting on virtual horse races. Game after game, endless clanking of coins, a cacophony of sounds and the smell of stale tobacco, senses are numbed and after observing this form of entertainment for awhile we find ourselves feeding our coins to the hungry ”Puricula Machine”, a funny photo booth complete with music, drawing pens, the works. After a ridiculous amount of time we leave the game center with our sanity barely intact and a new collection of fun photos.
We depart the complex and pass by the local used electronics shop “Hard Off”. What exactly is that supposed to mean? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Finally we leave the city and head back into the mountains to our long abandoned campground, and the comforts of our tent. The next day, Monday, will be spent climbing with few or even no people to be seen. By noon, we have to pack up and sprint in our mini car back in time to catch the last ferry of the day.