Monday, September 12, 2005

Adventures at Lake Biwa

Last Sunday I made plans to go to the Ocean with some Japanese friends from Spanish class.

Gifu, where I live now, is one of the few land-locked prefectures in Japan. But no matter where you are in Japan, the Ocean is always somewhere close. Even from Gifu it is only about 2 hours. In fact, Japanese friends are always shocked when I tell them I never saw the ocean until I was 19.

We met first at a friend’s house, loaded up his car with food and barbeque supplies, and headed out for the ocean.

We were already driving, when someone said, “I’m getting hungry already. Isn’t there some place closer we can go?”

And so, we decided to go to Lake Biwa instead.

Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. It’s not quite as big as the great lakes, but from the shore it looks just like Lake Michigan. In fact as I was swimming in the lake, the only thing to remind me I wasn’t back home were the mountains in the background.

In fact because of the similarities to the Great Lakes, Shiga prefecture, which boarders Lake Biwa, is sister state to Michigan. Omihachiman, in Shiga prefecture, is the sister city to Grand Rapids. I have yet to go to either the prefecture or the city, but I did see a sign for “Center for University of Michigan Studies building” on the way to Lake Biwa.

Anyway, I had a good swim, we splashed around in the water for a while, and then we came in to do a barbeque. And it started pouring rain. Wouldn’t you know it? Murphy’s Law I guess.

It’s funny how we react to rain sometimes. I had no problem getting wet when I was in the lake. In fact, the warm lake water was a nice change from the cold mountain waterfalls I was used to swimming in down in Oita. But for whatever reason, I found the rain completely miserable. Someone had had the foresight to erect a tent awning over the barbeque to keep out the rain, but as the rain started pouring down harder and harder the awning didn’t do much good at all. In the end we decided if we were going to be wet anyway, we might as well be wet while swimming in the lake. We packed up the barbeque set, and jumped back into the water.

We were swimming around for another hour or so until it stopped raining. It was good fun. I tackled one of the Japanese guys, and we were wrestling around in the water, and one of the girls made the comment about how grown men always look like children when they play, which I suppose has a lot of truth in it.

The car ride back was a little uncomfortable because all of my clothes had been soaked by the rain, but I managed.

Link of the Day
More listening picks, for those of you who like me to like to listen to something while surfing the Web.

This is a bit old, but in the NPR archives can be found a very interesting program on the age old political science question: "Why Socialism Failed in the U.S"

And from the BBC, a lecture entitled "Rhetoric that Binds and Blinds", which is a comparison of modern terrorism with the leftist terrorism of the 70s. (Text version also avaliable.)

I didn't agree with everything in either program, but very interesting listening.

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