Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The secret is out: residents of certain cities can rent city-owned property very cheaply and have a grand old time of it.
I've known for awhile that it was inexpensive to rent the citizens' center, say, or rooms in other public buildings. A small business that I occasionally teach for rents out classrooms in the beautiful old historic buildings of Yokohama, like the Port Authority building or Yamate 234, and the students and teachers both benefit from the lovely surroundings.
My mom rented a cabin in Nagano prefecture in the town of Tateshina. The city of Sagami-ono owns a small "village" of cabins that the residents can rent - there are two large 15 person cabins and about ten small five person cabins. The residents of Machida, by proximity, can also reserve these cabins, though Sagami-ono-ers get first pick.
We reserved two cabins for a family weekend get together, and after teaching on Saturday morning, I. and I drove out along the Chuo freeway to Nagano to meet with Mom, Dad, A., and J. We arrived after dark, but I was pleasantly surprised by the comfortable-ness of the cabin - it was well made, spacious, and had plenty of amenities. A large wooden table sat next to a big heater under a vaulted roof; a tatami sleeping room was next to the dining area, and the cabin also had a small kitchen with fridge and range, a full bathroom, and a balcony. All this for only 7500 yen. The big cabins, which were already reserved, are an even better deal at 15,000 yen, or only 1000 yen per person if filled to capacity.
That evening, we made a big dinner, snacked and drank and played cards until late.
The next morning, we awoke to a light snow decorating the trees and underbrush around the cabin. After a huge American-style breakfast, we all took a walk around Megamiko - Goddess Lake. The cold had a bite, but the scenery was lovely, the surrounding mountains golden and green with foliage, the water incredibly clear.
The area around Tateshina boasts many attractions, but November is a bit of a down season. Ski slopes were visible all around, but there was not yet enough snow for skiing; there's a farm and a ropeway, but seems to be open only in the spring and summer, when it's not too cold for the animals. We contented ourselves with walking around and enjoying the scenery, and bumming around the cabin.
In the afternoon, A., J., and Dad had to head back to Tokyo, but I., Mom and I drove to the other nearby lake, Shirakaba-ko, or White Birch Lake. True to its name, there are many lovely white birch in the area, their stark branches standing in beautiful contrast to the reddening hills and dark forest floor. We entered a nearby establishment, a recreation center next to the lake, and rented swimsuits and towels for the co-ed outdoor onsen on offer. Luckily, they permitted I.'s tattoos, and we were able to soak together in the baths. With an occasional falling yellow leaf and the errant snowflake, it was an excellent hot spring experience in the bitter weather.
The compound also housed many arcade games, and I tried my luck at the jan-ken machine, one I remembered from childhood, but sadly lost. Better were the several rounds of air hockey we played, and the taiko game I play whenever I get a chance. Taught Mom how to play the drum game, and she did pretty well for a beginner.
Back at the cabin we watched sumo on tv (this round in Fukuoka) and played scattergories around the big table. Another deep sleep and morning bagels and it was back to the rush and congestion of city life.