Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cabining in Oshima, Day 1

Each spring break, we try to take a little family trip. Last year was Sasebo. This year was cabining. And I say "cabining" because, and I am using third person to place emphasis on this properly, Jessica does not camp. I tried camping in Girls Scouts about three times: 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade, and the experiences progressively got worse. These experiences included icy winds whipping THROUGH our cabin all night (to the point where we were so cold, we were a shade of blue and got to sleep in the facility's cafeteria the next night), vomit and menarche. Add to that overflowing porta-potties, having the lyrics of "Pour Some Sugar on Me" written on my arm in Sharpie, and dust so thick you couldn't breathe, and I'd had enough by junior high. I do not camp.

Cabining, however, is something I might be able to appreciate... if I brought a maid along with me. Let me explain.

As a Christmas present, our neighbors took the boys cabining a couple of months ago and they had a great time, The boys were eager to share this experience with us, their parents, and asked if we could go for Spring Break. The spouse, who is from rural Illinois, felt the need to get back to his woodsy roots and was willing to go. That just left me as the party pooper, and, if you haven't learned anything from these posts, it's that I am willing to try nearly anything once. So, I agreed to try cabining. After getting information from the neighbors who put this idea in the boys' heads, I headed over to the ITT (travel) office on base, found in Crossroads Mall. There I told them where I wanted to camp, Katazoe Beach on Oshima Island (about an hour from base), and they used my cell phone to make the reservation. I could have done it myself, of course, but I do not speak Japanese. For a 4-person cabin, it runs about $130 a night. In my opinion, this is cheap, considering that Japanese hotels charge per person, meaning we spend more than $200 a night in most cases. ITT also gave me a map to the campground, and a list of all the amenities the campground had to offer. Our cabin had a kitchen, so we could cook meals there. We also rented a grill for 1,000 yen ($10) for each day. Yeah, that's expensive, but they clean it for you afterwards. Bonus.

So, not having been camping in my adult life, I definitely needed think seriously about what to pack. We brought food for five meals (one meal we were going to eat at Aloha Orange, a Hawaiian restaurant on the island that I recommend - be sure to get the macadamia nut pancakes), items to grill being the top staple. We remembered eggs, cereal and fruit for breakfast, hotdogs, hamburgers, ketchup, mustard and the things needed to make s'mores, but forgot salt and pepper. While sheets and blankets are provided, you need to bring your own bath and kitchen towels, as well as bath soap... we did forget bath soap, but, luckily I had some soap left from a hotel stay a few months back. Mom saves the day! Essentially, by the time we were done packing to be gone for 48 hours, the four of is had filled the back of my large sedan.

So much for packing light. But we were on the road a little after 1 p.m. so we could check in around 3 p.m., the earliest you could check in to your cabin. While the staff does not speak much English, as long as you have your yen in hand, everything else kind of works itself out as you check in. You had over the yen, they hand over sheets, a cabin door key and a pass that opes the electronic gate t the campground. A gated community, no less! But definitely have a Japanese translator on speed dial... I had to use my "Phone a Japanese Friend" option about an hour in to the cabining experience.

Spring break was an excellent time to go. The weather was cool but not miserable and it is not a popular time for the Japanese to camp, so there were only a few other people there. A Japanese family was truly camping... in a tent and everything. And there eded up being a group of Japanese men cabining on the hill above us. Other than that, we had the place to ourselves.

We got Cabin #5. And this was the view from our back porch:

Fr thse camping in tents, the building seen in the picture above is the bathrooms, showers and laundry room. Maybe this isn;t "real" camping after all. No toilet paper leaves necessary.

This was the front of our cabin.

And the back... the spouse is already dressed in hunting gear, with a cigar, starting the grill. He looks happy, doesn't he?

This was a cabin behind us, which was easer to take a picture of. Ours was on a bit of a cliff, so getting a good shot of the porch was difficult.

Once all the required gear was brought in to the cabin, the males in the family scattered, leaving the housework to the lone female in the family. I supposed I could have gotten dirty with the boys or smoked a cigar with the spouse, but I was more of the mind to sit quietly, read and enjoy the view. Plus, there were perishable foods that needed to be put in to the (tiny) refrigerator, and iced tea to be made... I was thirsty. The beds needed to be made and storage was scarce, so I had to find a place for stuff to go so I wouldn't trip on it everywhere I moved. This where the maid would have come in handy.

Here is the one-room living area:

The kitchen:

The boys loved the bunk beds... they each have their own window!

Another plus to cabining: There is air conditioning and heating, with a remote control thermostat attached to the wall. There is another console on the wall near the front door. My neighbor who took my kids camping had explained that I needed to go to the console near the door to turn on the hot water for showers and cooking. I pressed every button that I could find on the console on the wall by the front door... no hot water. Rodney confirmed that my button pushing wasn't producing the required results. All of the buttons were in Japanese ands the instruction booklet that comes with the cabin is... all in Japanese.

Hmmm... time to phone a friend. A Japanese-speaking friend. I texted a photo of the console to my friend Chie, along with a brief explanation of my predicament. It was a terrible quality photo and she called, asking if there was anyone there she could talk to about my predicament since she couldn't read the buttons on the photo. I told her I would call her back and made the 1-minute drive to the campground office. When I got in to the office, I called her back and handed the phone over to the guy at the front desk. His face was priceless. He looked at my phone, looked at me and squinted in disbelief. I said, "Please," and put the phone to my own ear in an attempt to show him how to use my iPhone. Sometimes sign language goes a long way. I handed the phone to him again. He took it delicately in his hand (I think he might have thought I had American cooties or something) and then said mushi-mushi, or whatever it is that means "hello, begin speaking" in Japanese. Chie explained my lack of hot water and Japanese reading and writing ability in a matter of moments, and I soon had the campsite guy following me to my cabin to show me how to turn the hot water on. Turns out, there is a whole other, third console in plain sight that I completely missed. He showed me how to turn on the hot water and then waited to make sure that I did, indeed, get hot water. I thanked him profusely, and then he headed back outside... and around the corner of the cabin to where my husband to grilling to ask him in limited English if everything was OK. Why he didn't ask me, I have no idea... maybe the (mostly untrue) rumors about dumb blondes has reached the island. Just because I couldn't find the third console in plain sight, geez. But I would not quibble... I now had hot water for a shower. Yet another benefit of cabining.

So here is how the afternoon went after we acquired hot water: Rodney was manly with the grill, the boys got dirty and found random "treasures" and I learned how to use the Japanese hot plate.

While I made all the beds, the guys were playing catch outside. While I put away the groceries, Rodney was "manning" the grill while the boys searched for just the right sticks for roasting marshmallows. While I made iced tea and cut produce for the burgers, the boys played tag outside and Rodney lit a cigar while stoking the grill. I didn't really get in my reading time like I had hoped. Again, a maid would have been nice.

We did go for a stroll down to the beach, but the sun was going down and it was quite chilly. We still had plenty of fun looking at weird plants and poking things washed up on the beach with a stick.

The spouse grilled hamburgers for dinner, followed by s'mores, which I had not made or eaten since Girls Scouts... they are actually quite tasty when you haven't set your marshmallow on fire. Not that Xan would know...

 I got a birds-eye view of dinner from the top of the bunk beds (with their own windows!)

While the boys were excited about the sleeping arrangements, Rodney and I were less so. Basically, the beds were tatami mats with thin futon mattresses. Thirty-something Americans aren't designed for these. Especially the spouse, who somehow convinced me it was better to sleep together on a narrow space with two futon mattresses stacked beneath us. Sleep was.... difficult. Let's just say that if we cabin again, we will be bringing air mattresses and sleep separately.

Day 2 is when the real adventure began...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Printing pictures in Iwakuni... when Walmart just isn't an option anymore.

As a photographer and scrapbooker, I am often asked where people can go in Iwakuni to print pictures. Now, there are many places you can go, but the one I like to use is Kitamura, in downtown Iwakuni.

Here are the directions from the north gate of base: Directions. Essentially, if you know how to get to the Iwakuni City Hall (below), then you are a block away from Kitamura... at this spot in the intersection, turn right and drive until you see 7-11 on the right. Kitamura is the building to the right of the 7-11. Side note: the flower shop across the street is a lot of fun.

Once inside, you will see photo printing kiosks at the center of the store. There is an English option, so use it. And you can use any number of media: memory cards, USB drives, iPhones, USB ports...  the kiosks allow for lots of ways to upload your photos. While I have never printed more than a few photos at a time here, I have never had to wait more than 10 minutes for my prints to be ready. They also have new and used cameras and lenses for sale, as well as other photography and scrapbooking/photo album goods. Customer service in English is a bit limited, but I have rarely had trouble communicating with the staff. If there is a word they do not know, like "warranty" they quickly jump on their smart phones to translate the word.

Enjoy the benefits of an onsen without getting naked... at least in public.

Traditional Japanese bath houses, or onsens, are one of the things that Americans struggle with while living in Japan. While the idea of relaxing in warm baths, possibly fed by nearby natural hot water springs, is one worth entertaining, you are required to be naked in a pool full of people while you do it.
Thanks to our country's Puritanical roots, most Americans find this embarrassing and avoid onsens altogether. And yes, you would be in a pool of people of the same gender (follow the red signs for girls and blue signs for boys), but still, a pool full of naked people. And, if you are like me, where you are the only female in your family, that means that it's not an opportunity for a family outing... not that that is necessarily a bad thing. "Relaxation" is not really something I think of when my kids are around.

Additionally, there is the problem of sporting tattoos. Many onsens forbid tattoos because they are associated with the Japanese mafia and other gangs. As you would suspect, Japan is more conservative when it comes to acceptable appearances... mini skirts and young adult females wearing school girl outfits aside.

When my Japanese friend Naomi (who is married to an American, but they are not affiliated with the base, and their three kids are fluent in both English and Japanese) invited our family to a "hot springs gym" in the mountains near Hiroshima, she was quick to note that bathing suits are required. Really?! Very cool... and such a great alternative for Americans! So... after explaining to the spouse what we were doing (note that I did not ask if he would like to go... he would not like to go, but he is going) and not being given the look of death (surprising, but I will take my victories where I can get them), I accepted Naomi's invitation and prepared to go hot springing. Now, cameras are not actually allowed in the pool areas (Big OK people like me are fine with that), but I did try to get some pertinent shots so that someone trying to replicate our trip could do so with ease.

The place is called Kurhaus Yunoyama and is run by the city of Hiroshima. Here is the website... if you use Google Chrome as your browser it automatically translates the page for you. Here are the directions for how to get there from MCAS Iwakuni (thank you, Naomi). They are very accurate... we had no trouble finding it. Also, as you get closer to Kurhaus Yunoyama, you start seeing signs like this:

And this:

We packed light for this trip... we each had our bathing suits to change in to and we brought a "bagged" lunch that we got from 7-11 on the way. Rodney had a t-shirt to wear so he could cover up the tattoo he has on his arm. Of course, I did not think to take a photo of the front of the facility, but here is the photo from their web page:

The pools are almost entirely indoors, so this is a place you can enjoy all year round, in any weather. A photo of the front door with the hours of operation and admission cost (info is also on their web site):

You take your shoes of once you get inside, and place them in a locker. Lockers become a theme at this place. Lots of lockers. You put your shoes inside and take the key to the front desk so they can hold it for you. You do not need to remember the locker number you have because it says so on the key. And the employees remember to give you the right key. Foolproof! This concept blew my kids' minds for some reason and they were reluctant to give up their key before memorizing the locker number it went to.

At the front desk, you hand them your shoe locker key, pay for your family and are awarded with a plastic purse for each person in your party. These bags come with a towel, a wash cloth and another locker key. One type of bag for girls, another for boys.

So, that's the first-floor lobby. There are two more floors:

We headed to the third floor to the "lounge" to eat our lunches. There is also an udon (noodle soup) restaurant up there, but the hours of operation aren't necessarily the same as the gym itself, Naomi said. It was open the Saturday we were there. There are also plenty of vending machines around.

After fueling up, it was time to hit the water. The Japanese are not concerned with the 20-minute wait-to-swim-after-you-eat rule. But, I figured once we got the tour of the place from Naomi and her family, and got changed, it would be about 20 minutes. Besides, I wasn't planning to do much swimming... more relaxing.

So, on the second floor is an actual gym for those who like to work out before the soak. And a napping room. And locker rooms. This floor is also where the warm/hot baths are, as seen through this nap room window. No one was napping, so we weren't disturbing anyone. Each hot tub arced around a pillar and each pool had a different sort of bubbling or whirling. Each served a different purpose. There were also wooden sauna boxes )you sit in it and your head sticks out so you can breathe) and a traditional sauna (where breathing s tougher).

To the right of the hot tubs above is a staircase down to where my kids spent the afternoon: the bathwater pool, complete with water slide(behind those support beams), which is about 100 feet long. I went down the slide about 10 times and loved every moment of it. The water was warm, but not as warm as the therapeutic tubs on the second floor.

But, first we had to change... standard locker room and you get a key on a (pink for girls, green for boys) rubber bracelet to wear that corresponds with your locker. There were also lockers as you entered the locker room, out in the hall. You pay to use those, but if you brought more stuff than will fit in the two lockers you were allotted, you have the option to rent one of those. Plenty of locker opportunities at this place!

The women's locker room also had hair dryers, brushes, various toiletry items, etc. I heard that the men's locker room wasn't quite as well equipped, but still had the essentials.

The shower for after the hot tubbing. And bath in case you hadn't bathed enough. Conditioning shampoo, face soap and body soap is available. To assuage any fears you may have, everything in the place was very clean and no one came home with a fungus or disease....even though we did not wear "shower shoes." The spouse was very reluctant to go around barefoot, but he remained unscathed.

So, once you're changed in to your swimsuit, you head for the pools. There is a shelf for you to leave your plastic bag of towels on. 

And then head out this door... note that bathing suits are, indeed, required.

Shower before you go out...

And then go out to the hot tub pools through this doorway. I could not take my phone any further.

As I mentioned, the hot tubs are each designed for a different health benefit (douche bath, anyone? And it's not what you're thinking...). The list of them is on their web site. There is a certain order to use them in depending on whether you want to lose weight and have nice skin, ease away aches and pains, if you have a circulatory problem, if you are a senior citizen, etc. Unfortunately, these "maps" are all in Japanese, so Naomi had to direct me where to go so I could enjoy the "lose weight/have nice skin" circuit. It took about 45 minutes to complete and included 3-5 minutes in different hot tubs, some time sitting out of the tubs, and time in the saunas.

Rodney enjoyed the hot tubs also, and spent some time in the outdoor pools, so he could go from freezing cold showers to warm soaking in a pool. I am not a fan of that procedure. I like staying warm.

The kids turned pruny in the big pool and probably went down the slide 50 times each. I spent some time down there myself, and then soaked a little longer in the hot tubs.

After about three hours we (meaning the spouse) were hot-springed out, so it was time to go. We said good-bye to our hosts, and I bathed (actually sitting on those little plastic stools. I needed one about three inches higher, I think), changed and joined the men to head downstairs to turn in our plastic bags, towels and locker room key. The kids were pleasantly surprised that we did, in fact, get our correct shoe locker keys back.

As we piled in to the car for the hour-and-a-half drive home, we were very hungry, so we decided to make a brief pit stop at the little coffee shop that you can't miss when you drive to Kurhaus Yunoyama. It's less than a kilometer down the only road you can go on.

It has an American log cabin theme, and while the menu is in Japanese, the lady who was working spoke English well enough to explain the menu to us... two of the items being cakes she bakes herself (these are in glass cake plates on the kitchen bar)... which were delicious, I might add.

 My iced tea...

Xan enjoying Coke in a wine glass.

Will enjoying his Coke in a bottle

We also had a Japanese hot dog plate and homemade waffles - which were great... I only wish they had come with maple syrup. Rodney said the coffee was very good. The snack really hit the spot after swimming. And just a word of warning: Even though I did very little physical activity, the warm spring waters sapped my energy and I was exhausted by 6 p.m. that day. I think I went to bed at 9:30 that night. And slept like a log. We had a great time... the boys want to go back, and the spouse even said he'd go again. That's a coveted Rodney Guthrie Two-thumbs Up!

A big thank you to Naomi and her family, who were not only kind enough to invite us to go with them, but were great about answering all of my questions. I really appreciate you guys!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Nagoya Fertility Festival: Bananas, sake and hair... oh my!

Please note: This post is rated PG-13... and maybe even R, depending on how sheltered you are. So, please keep this in mind as you progress through this post about a Japanese cultural tradition: the Nagoya Fertility Festival and Parade.

Yes, as you may have heard, there is an annual penis parade in Japan. Actually, there are several of them, in different cities, but the one the MCAS Iwakuni tour company does goes to is the Tagata Shrine in Nagoya, about 7 hours away from Iwakuni. And the March 15 festival is not simply a 6-foot long phallus marching through the streets, although that would be worth seeing. Or, maybe not, because I have encountered some 6-foot tall walking human "phalluses" I hope to never have to deal with again.

In this case, the festival is a centuries-old Shinto tradition to celebrate and pray for fertility. And, obviously, when talking about human fertility, the penis is an integral part of that. There are other "fertilities" that you can pray for, as well, including healthy crops and successful businesses. Since I am happy with the two sons I have, and the spouse has been "fixed," I certainly did not want any extra reproductive fertility magic bestowed upon me, so I focused on the successful business aspect. But I know of two people from base who went who do want to get pregnant. I will not name names, of course, but I am eager to discover if attending this festival helped them achieve their fertility goals.

So here is what we encountered:

We left base on a tour bus at 4 a.m. so that we could be in Nagoya in plenty of time for the parade. Yes, that was early fr me, but I was intrigued enough to get me and the spouse up at 3:15 a.m. for this adventure. And we did... arrive in plenty of time so that we could do some serious shopping before the parade began. First up: candy phalluses. You need to purchase these early for the best selection, our tour guide told us. I am always on the lookout for the best selection of candy penises, so that was definitely our first stop. What can I say... I like options.

I bought some for the whole family... I sent some to my parents, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my eccentric aunt who now has them displayed on her "family shelf" at her home in Nevada. The candy penis and vagina are next to the plastic reindeer that poops out brown jelly beans, which my brother gave her years ago. And, that, my friends, is my family in a nutshell. But, Rodney appeared to be excited about my most recent purchase, so he fits right in.

These candy items cost between 200 and 800 yen each, depending on what you got. There were 5-inch phalluses alone, some packages with both a penis and a vagina in them that said in Japanese "Good luck having a baby," and some other collections that included one vagina and two penises. Make your own conclusions because I came up with several. This was actually the only place I saw vaginas anywhere that day, despite the fact it takes two to tango. It was wall-to-wall penises, but vaginas were relegated to sugary sweets.

If candy suckers weren't your idea of fertility, you could also get chocolate-covered bananas with marshmallows, with strategically-placed sprinkles. You choose brown, pink or white. Or, get wild and try all three at once.

Or, you could get fried balls.

These ladies chose bananas as their treat of the day:

I wanted one, too, but the line was about half an hour long, and I had a 13-foot wooden phallus to find. Priorities, you know? But there were plenty of other goodies to purchase, including wooden phalluses, good luck charms, and a wooden board to write your wish or gratitude on to hang at the Tagata Shrine:

I did buy an English information sheet about the festival for 100 yen from the information booth, and I am glad I did. So much of the ceremony and history was explained. I will share some of it with you as this blog progresses. First of all, the idea of the phallus leaving one shrine and traveling to another is the idea of male traveling to meet up with an awaiting female. Like we have time to sit around and wait for him to show up whenever he feels like it, right ladies? The phallus, the info sheet explained, is not a god (hear that, boys?), but  is actually an offering to the deities of fertility. I guess no one was willing to make a live sacrifice.

The parade starts at a shrine abut a mile away, the Shinmei shrine in even years and the Kumano shrine in odd years, after a gozensai, or ceremony of prayers for the safety of the procession. Since 2014 is even, we made our way to the Shinmei shrine to watch the parade procession line up. This took about a half hour to get all of the players in place... after all, you don't want to go off half-cocked and screw it all up. There are 150 people involved in the procession, not including the security personnel that use rope to keep the crowds back.

While we waited patiently, we ran in to this guy... who I cannot explain. He did not speak English, so I have no idea what his motivation was.

Or, what her motivation was...

And finally, after about a half hour of waiting, the parade procession began. First there was this scary guy on elevated wooden sandals. At first I thought he was a herald who sprinkles salt along the way, like an ugly, sunburned flower girl, making the parade route symbolically pure. But it turns out, he is a simply a deity responsible for casting a legendary woman out of heaven on to Earth. Hmm... sounds like a dubious reason to celebrate, being a woman and all, but, then again, I was at a penis parade.

Next is a 7-foot-tall banner of a phallus... just in case you were wondering what the parade was all about. We especially enjoyed all of the veiny and hairy detail the artist put in to the painting. Excellent work... I do wonder if it is a self-portrait... but I digress...

There were also some gentlemen who appeared to be important, but I am not sure what role they played in the penis parade. They were very serious about their job, though.

Next came the village dignitaries, wearing robes reminiscent of Buddhist priests. They were very proud to be there and stopped so we could photograph them.

Next up were a group of women carrying 20-inch long phalluses. Each of these women was 36, the supposed unluckiest age for women. Thank God I passed that over a year ago, Bullet dodged! This lovely lady was a great sport and posed for my camera.

I think she was used to her picture being taken, though, because earlier, I found these guys

taking pictures of these girls, and she was one of them.

Up next were the musical instruments. There was a variety of musical instruments playing a very depressing, going-to-the-gallows "ancient court music" tune. You'd think a male traveling to a female would be happier. Maybe she's ugly and a paper bag is not part of the procession. I don't know.

Next up were sacred trees called sakaki, adorned with paper amulets. Up until about 30 years ago, Japanese would crowd around these trees and tussle and fight to get one the amulets for good luck. But, being the peace-keeping people that they are, that part of the parade has been prohibited. But, fortunately, there would be ample opportunity to jostle others soon.

Next up: Liquid courage. A ceremonial barrel of sake rolled on by, followed by very accommodating ladies who offered up glasses of the fermented rice... for free.


Two portable shrines followed the sake... one symbolized a visiting "husband," and I am not sure what the other symbolized.

Then, the sight we had all been waiting for... and immediately turned our iPhones to... the main event!

The 13-foot, 620 pound phallus arrived, draped in purple and carried by men who are all the age of 42, a time in a man's life that is seen as... needing assistance when it comes to virility. Because new materials are considered most fertile, a new phallus is carved each year. I cannot find any information as to where the old phallus goes... someone may have an odd collection in their backyard. I will keep a lookout.

I want to make sure you get all of the angles.. as did the gentlemen carrying the phallus. They bounced around in a rhythm and spun the phallus in circles. It was explained that it is customary to stir up human energies, to stimulate the effect on the fertility deity they are honoring. Okay, if that's what you'd like to call it...

Once the spinning was over, the wooden penis progressed down the parade path, on it's way to the Tagata shrine. It would take it an hour to go one mile.

I know it seems cliche' and a potential "that's what she said" joke, but after the penis passed, the celebration was pretty... anti-climactic. The spouse and I headed back to the main celebration area, found a steak restaurant across the street from the Tagata shrine with a Western-style bathroom (a very hard thing to find in the area and I do not squat well), and had a meal there. At the restaurant, not in the bathroom, of course.

The phallus arrived while we were finishing our steak... and then it was time for the mochi throwing. Which, apparently, was big news for the local television station.

I had learned my lesson about mochi throwing, having been hit in the nose with one of these harder-than-they-look rice cakes at a celebration a month earlier. But, it was Rodney's first time to try and catch the good-luck rice cakes, so we waited for the mochi throwing to commence.

And waited... for 45 minutes. So, I got bored and started snapping odd photos. Here was one of the oddest:

And, finally, the mochi took flight, being tossed out by local dignitaries. The jostling commenced and we were so tightly packed, that anyone who fell was quickly covered by other people. I did not fall, I just ducked to make myself slightly lower than the average Japanese person so they would be the ones to get hit with a stray rice cake, not me.

I did my best to dodge the mochi, but was still dedicated to taking photos...

Once Rodney caught two mochi, we line-backered our way through the crowd to the back of the melee. And since the Japanese don't play American football, they were caught unaware and we managed to get through quickly and unscathed.

Below is a photo of Rodney with his mochi... I am hoping that he was not made fertile by catching these.

The information sheet I purchased said that this ceremony, the honen matsuri, is a "solemn" ceremony. Despite the music, the crowd did not appear to feel solemn. I am also not sure who attends this event each year. There were a lot of foreigners, plenty of Japanese kids and generally Japanese people of all ages in attendance. I asked my Japanese friends if they had ever gone to a fertility festival... many of them had no idea what I was talking about until I showed them a picture of the phallus. Then they giggled and shook their head. Hmm... interesting. And here I thought it was like participating in Easter egg hunts or attending the local Nutcracker performance in December. Or maybe like an annual visit from the tooth fairy, but instead of teeth she built her castle out of ... mmm, yeah. But, apparently not.

While I am glad I went, and think anyone in proximity to Nagoya on March 15 should take the time to see a 13-foot phallus and tiny candy vaginas, it is not necessarily something I need to go to again. After all, why press my luck and maybe end up with a third baby? I really don't want to have to change diapers on a regular basis again and have nothing but well-carved log of Japanese cypress to blame.