Okay, okay, I know I said no more posts for today, but I was just about to close my photo app and spotted a couple of other oddities. Actually it turns out neither of these are actually very funny, but they amused me at the time so maybe someone will bite.
First up, we had occasion to be in Karuizawa (軽井沢町) recently, a small town in the “middle bit” of Japan – the mountainous prefecture of Nagano to the north-west of Tokyo. Karuizawa is quite a small town, but is a popular tourist escape for Tokyo-ites in particular due to being easily accessible by shinkansen; offering a cool respite from summer heat; and some relatively nearby skiing in winter (though from my discussions with a local the skiing is perhaps better done elsewhere for anyone who is serious about it). There’s a lot more to say about our trip to Karuizawa (a wedding, great food, log cabins…) but for now, suffice to say that as well as being a beautiful environment with (frequently) snow-capped mountains and relatively unspoilt nature, there is a dispersed shopping outlet area that spreads out around the train station.
With the high elevation and being further north, there were still plenty of cherry blossoms in more or less full bloom even though ours in Odawara were completely finished when we were there (8 May). There’s possibly another reason too, which is I think these are predominantly yama-zakura (山桜) or moutain cherry blossom trees, which by their nature flower somewhat later than the “regular” paler pink flowering cherry more commonly found throughout Japan. Anyway, I’m not here to provide a botany lesson, so let’s just concede that the cherries were still glorious and attracting lots of photographers (including me) even in otherwise mundane settings like the carpark of the mall.
So to get back to what was going to be the original point of this post, I turned the corner at one part of this snaking and somewhat confusing mall to find myself confronted with a Lactation Room.
It struck me as rather odd-sounding, although it was clear what it was for, and my first thought was “What’s next, a Defecation Room?” Euphemisms were invented for a reason. When I got home though for whatever reason I typed that phrase into Google to see what the hive mind thinks of the concept of lactation rooms, and it transpires that this is quite standard terminology in American English. Thus this is not nearly as funny or strange as I first thought, although those blessed enough to hail from the land down under may have a similar reaction to mine.
Finally, to cap things off with some more almost-but-not-quite toilet humour, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this “Multipurpose table” sign. Don’t get me wrong, I understand (after some thought) why this exists and is no doubt important for those people it is designed to serve, but my initial reaction on seeing the picture was… disturbing.
And speaking of disturbing things, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt compelled to pull out a camera in a public toilet. Hmmm… that doesn’t sound right. But the point is it is even more embarrassing for me to do so now, since having migrated from an Aussie iPhone to a Japanese one earlier this year I am now stuck with the “Japanized” firmware of the phone. Why should this make any difference? Indeed. The “feature” of the Japan iPhones, along with most other digital cameras sold, is that they must emit a reasonably loud “shutter click” noise each time you take a photo. This is due to the fondness of an unreasonable number of Japanese men for “upskirt” photography, which I won’t dwell on any further, but only mention this to show the lengths I’m prepared to stoop to to garner a cheap laugh.
And, okay, one more for the road. All this chatter of toilet pictures reminds me I did in fact whip out the iPhone on another occasion even more recently after a much needed use of the facilities. In this case it isn’t funny so much as quaintly Japanese. This was at a hotel in Hakone and the bathroom featured a very long and solid slab of timber as the benchtop, as well as prolific use of bamboo and other timber throughout. Another nice touch was the dragonflies on the stone sinks.