James Roddy and I took a day trip from Misawa to Towada-Ko, old Towada where there is a lake in the mouth of an ancient crater. This is a tourist spot for the Japanese, but not a place where many Americans go. It was really beautiful when we went – the leaves were starting to change color, but the weather was still fairly warm.
Japanese tourists means all things Japanese. We were Gaijins – or “Foreigners” in English. We had to go into a restaurant in order to find a bathroom – there was nothing available publicly. I climbed the back stairs of the restaurant and see the bathroom sign, along with spotting the urinals. Score! The men’s bathroom.
I’m at the urinal doing my business, when I get bumped from behind. I look back to see a tiny old woman shuffling past me to get to a stall (with the hole in the floor style toilet). I guess that I should have been hugged up closer to the urinal as it was kind of tight in there. However, that is neither here nor there. The key learning point is that “all things Japanese” means all things. One bathroom serves all where space is at a premium – even in rural areas such as Towada Ko. But this isn’t the moral of this story, so I must have digressed.
James and I ate our noodle bowls or whatever we could point to on the menu that they’d sell to us, then we ventured out along the road that meandered around the crater and through the countryside. Aha! A pull-off. So we pulled into the small parking area and spent some time hiking on the hillside. We became somewhat confused on our return to the car and came out on a retaining wall a short ways away.
Two young Marines. No obstacle too tough. You know what’s coming next.
Of course we jumped off the retaining wall down to the road to get back to the car. I went first. Although I didn’t land like Spiderman, I did just fine. James slipped a little as he jumped and he came down a bit awkward. No. He came down a lot awkward and tried to catch himself with his feet, which resulted in his ankle rolling over and James going down like a sack of potatoes. We didn’t know if he broke it or what. So I helped him back to the car. Once again, I have to remind you that we were two young Marines. Going to the hospital was not our first choice. He said it hurt, but he’d be fine. As we drove along the road, James started yelling, “Stop! Stop!” I pulled to the side as best I could. James pulls a pen out of the glove compartment and opens the door. He looks at me smiling. He hobbled back to a road sign we just passed – Falling Rocks. He drew in a stick figure next to the rocks and penciled in the words, “Falling Gaijins.”
We drove back to base and James was in a lot of pain. We thought his ankle may have been broken, so we decided to try a little painkiller. Japan of the early 80s had vending machines for everything. For 1000 yen, we were able to buy a mini-keg of beer, maybe two liters. James consumed the beer on the drive straight to the hospital. I helped him inside where we received an actively hostile reception. We tried to explain that James drank the beer after getting injured, but they didn’t care. They confirmed it wasn’t broken, wrapped it, and sent us on our way without even a sample pack of motrin.
Moral of the story is, when in Japan, stand closer to the urinal.