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Day 5 Recap and Shintoku

I had a shock when I looked in the mirror at the onsen yesterday. My face was a patchwork of dark and light splotches, the skin on my left temple, nose, and upper lip were peeling, my lips were chapped and bleeding, rivulets of sweat and sunscreen were dripping down my cheeks, carrying the dismembered bodies of gnats and other insects. My hair, unwashed for five days, was in mad disarray, and my bare torso bore the outline of a T-shirt I was no longer wearing.

I could scrub off the gnats, sweat, and sunscreen, but the other problems only time can cure. When I walked out of the onsen, clean if nothing else, one of the gentlemen who had helped us on the mountain didn't recognize me at first. They knew us as "San Francisco boy and girl," and the one with a car drove an hour out of his way to pick us up at an earlier stopping point. He may literally have saved us because, by that point, we were long out of water, and Chris had been carrying both our packs for 7 km because I had twisted my ankle and my knee hurt badly. Such kindness must be repaid somehow.

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Now we're eating happily at a soba shop in Shintoku, a small town between the onsen and Sapporo. We met Yoshi again in the morning--he took the same bus as we did--and he helped us locate "accommodations" for the night. We will be sleeping in a trailer by the train station--no facilities, but at least it's free.

All right. Chris has paid, so we're off to use the free internet again.

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* * * * *

I'm feeling lost without any book to read. The only novel I brought (Mother Night) I realized I'd read before. So not only do I not have reading material, but I had to lug that dead weight over nearly 50 km of mountainous terrain.

We have nothing to do here in Shintoku besides eat and use the internet. We couldn't even find the first soba shop we wanted to visit--the entire street was deserted, metal gates hiding whatever storefronts there might have been. I wondered what kind of place would be so deserted at noon on a weekday--perhaps it caters mostly to tourists? "Oh this is a very small town," Yoshi told us with concern when the bus pulled in. The two "cheap" ryokans in Shintoku were already booked up. No Western toilet anyway, and still $50 per person per night (meals not included).

When Chris gets hungry he'll start missing his parents again and wondering when their next vacation will be. He misses his showers, his easy entertainment. As long as there's television, internet, and a bed, he can't get bored. Add basketball and good food, and you could probably take away television. (Reading this he will chuckle outloud; he loves hearing about himself.)

The train station is deserted now. The clerks rush by, casting me curious sidelong looks. I have no reason for being here except that it's a place to sit--it's in fact a place for sitting and there I belong, or, rather, I do not not belong. And so I go on sitting quietly.

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Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in Japan

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