Thursday, August 25, 2005

Typhoon Number 11

After my two days of management-trainer-led enlightenment, I was ready for a holiday! The plan, carefully organised by my wife, was to spend two star-filled nights and three sun-filled days in Izu, Japan's answer to Cannes, the Costa Del Sol, and Mazatlan all wrapped together, a mere three-hour train trip from Tochigi, even closer from Tokyo. For three people, a mere 150,000 yen for these three days, or roughly 1,350 USD or 1,050 Euros. What a bargain!
It was with the upmost grief that I suggested to my wife that we may, considering that typhoon number 11 was to expected to hit Honshu precisely at the spot where our hotel lay, want to (gasp!) cancel our reservation. She put it off until yesterday, which actually turned out to be a good thing, since the hotel or employee social-insurance scheme's rules allowed us to cancel without penalty because it was very likely that trains would not be running, and that a typhoon would hit. Otherwise, we would have had to pay a 20% cancellation fee.
Amazing woman, my wife, and she was able to arrange, on a moment's notice, a trip to the only tropical place on Honshu this day: Spa Resort Hawaiians. In Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, on the Pacific coast, the resort started, from my recollection, as one of those boondoggles spawned during the 'bubble' period in Japan. Why, one may ask, would people pay to go to a fake water experience, when they were right on the Pacific coast? I won't say that the local government and the companies that built the place were particularly farsighted, but on a day like today, near the end of summer, a typhoon bringing lots of rain, they made a bundle of money. No talk of overhead, costs, the far-from-mythical five dollar cup of coffee that costs that much because of the high cost of land in Tokyo. They are raking it in. Japanese summers are hardly ideal for laying on the beach: Seasonal rains start out the summer, until early to mid July. From Mid August or so there are typhoons. That leaves roughly a month of unimpeded summer, though it can and does rain during that month, as well.
The official hotel charges 23,000 yen per person, even with the social-insurance scheme's discount. Add that to the 2,000 yen per person per day entrance fee for the reason you are actually there, the water park, as well as, you realise only once you have already sunk so much money into it that there is no turning back, the 2,100 yen per person per day fee for the water slides. Luckily my wife had sticker shock at the hotel price, no mean feat considering her high tolerance for high prices, and found a much more reasonable hotel, which is exactly two minutes walk from Spa Resort Hawaiians.
What exactly is Spa Resort Hawaiians? A very good question, one that occurred to me, as well. And here is the answer: It is not Hawaii, and really has nothing that reminded me very much of Hawaii other than mobs of Japanese, water, and high-priced food and beverages (as well as everything else). What it is, is a building with a very high roof, something like eight different pools, five water slides, and the aforementioned mobs of people. There is a hotspring which is also included (amazing!) in the price, which I am is guessing because it was already there.
We started out poorly, at 9 am taking a road out of town which, as I told my wife before we left (and made sure she was reminded of later), is totally packed because it is on the way to Honda R&D, which has flex time, with core time from 10. We then proceeded to take a 'shortcut' that was all right, mostly, except the part that took us over a mountain pass on a gravel road with ditches on either side, and craters in the middle. Luckily our new car, a Murano, has 4WD, which actually came in handy. I think we are going to take the expressway back, no matter how much farther it looks on a map, it is closer, and I think my wife now believes me. Though, I think that the way things look, there is a good chance that the expressway will be closed for the typhoon.
Actually, 11 is my lucky number, so I don't know what I am worrying about: I am still 100,000 yen richer than I would have been, my kid is having a ball, despite shitty weather, and even my wife is happy, at this very moment watching hula dancing. A hui hou aku!

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