Earlier in the year I went for a five week holiday in Hong Kong and Japan. It was fun, I did some face sliding down a mountain in Niseko (gravity did not care if I had either skis or a snowboard attached to my feet – it still kicked my arse). I watched the 2010 New Year Sumo Tournament in Tokyo; that was awesome, you would not think it but nothing says “a good day out” like two fat men running at each other in nappies. I did try and lose my passport in Hiroshima, but despite my best effort, the horribly nice people of Japan returned everything, including all the money in my bag. Criminals of Japan must try harder.
Because we went in January, it was winter in Japan, and it got bloody cold. We left Adelaide on the tail end of a heat wave, and in Niseko it reached -20 degrees when we were learning how to ski. I had two pairs of gloves on and I still could not feel my fingers. And then the wind picked up.
There I was, an Australian tourist with not a whole heap of exposure to sub zero temperatures, and therefore I was wearing a long sleave t-shirt, a jumper and a rather large coat on with really big pockets; still feeling cold. The big pockets were great, because it was so cold outside every shop keeper in Japan set the thermostat to 50 degrees. Every time you walked into a shop you basically had to strip down to your undies so you would stop baking.
In one department store alone I could have heated up a roast chicken in each coat pocket. They were huge! Probably still are. It got so hot I stuffed my beanie, scarf, gloves (two pair), and whatever paraphernalia I felt appropriate at the time like into all the pockets available. Sometimes even my wallet, camera, or map.
Our last stop in Japan was Sapporo, which is on the North Island, and every year they host the “Winter Snow Festival”, because what people want to do when it is freezing cold outside, snowing, the wind is biting through your clothing, and ice paving the streets is to spend more time outside looking at ice sculptures. I am well known to not being the art world’s biggest supporter so let me make this clear; Leonardo Di Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a master piece because it can stand against the test of time. Ice sculptures on the other hand could not even stand up against a hair dryer.
Sapporo does have some good, indoor attractions, like a brewery and a chocolate factory. When people ask about holidays in Japan, the Japanese Tourist Board does not answer ninja, sumo, sushi, chopsticks, or the nation who has been on the receiving end of the most nuclear bombs; they say beer and chocolate.
The best and worst thing in Sapporo was in fact the chocolate factory. Every factory tour you go on there are tasting areas and cafes where you can eat, but this little ripper had itself an all-you-can-eat cake buffet. And it was awesome. I have never been that sick on sweets before, even in my childhood I did not get much of a chance. I must have had myself five or so plates of cake and tarts and two pots of tea. So good.
When the nausea set in we were leaving the buffet, via the gift shop of course, so I just shoved everything in my pockets that was on the table, rather than putting things like my video camera away. Every pocket was full.
Tea drinkers might be aware that when you drink tea, it just goes straight through you, and when you have two pots, you will spend the next three days peeing. I needed my first wee within five minutes of leaving the factory, and fifteen minutes later I found my first available toilet.
The odd thing about Japan, but not the only one I assure you, is how mental they are on their hygiene. They are so obsessed about not wanting to touch things almost every toilet you walk into has automatic everything. Therefore I was a little surprised, and a little shocked, that this toilet had the traditional western twisting taps. I was also a little surprised and a little shocked about the fact that the traditional western twisting taps had left hand thread. No longer was it “righty tighty, lefty loosey”, and it took me a while and almost a dislocated shoulder to work that one out.
Before I washed my hands I walked quickly to the toilet. I fumbled at my fly, but I had too much stuff in the way. So I then thought it was a good idea to unpack my coat pockets onto the shelf above the urinal; that way I would have better access to my gear and able to hold my jacket away from it.
So onto the shelf went my maps, gloves, scarf, used tickets and my video camera.
The unfortunate thing is that my video camera was facing to my left, towards the door, and at first I thought nothing of it, and then the moment I started making water a Japanese man walked in. He strolled up to the urinal on my left, unzipped, saw the camera, re-zipped and left. He did not say a word. Or wash his hands.