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Saturday, Aug. 2, 2003


A day at the beach -- Japanese style!

Today, we're going on a trip. Are you ready? OK, here's a list of things we'll need: a large vinyl ground sheet, portable picnic tables, a tent, boxed lunches, a cooler for the beer and a thermos for the cold tea. Have you guessed where we're going yet? No, not camping. A few more hints. We'll also need umbrellas, not for the rain, but in case we should have to leave the tent in our swimsuits. We'll also need large, blowup animals. Have you guessed where we're going yet? Yes, the beach! And we're going Japanese style.

You see, going to the beach is no simple matter in Japan. It's an event that requires hours of planning and is so exhausting that going to the beach has become a once-a-year event. No wonder adults look back on their childhood trips to the beach with such nostalgia -- they were such rare events.

Where in the West we consider a swimsuit and a beach towel sufficient to go to the beach for a day, in Japan, the idea is to take as many things as possible. It might even be merely an excuse to clean out the storage area of the house, which as far as I can guess is on top of the roof next to the satellite dish. Where else could they store those plastic, foldup picnic tables and eight-pole "sun tents" that everyone seems to have?

Getting onto a ferry to get to a beach on an island is no excuse not to bring all that stuff. As a matter of fact, since we're going to have to walk a kilometer to the beach after we get off the ferry, let's bring more stuff! We're going to earn this day at the beach, darn it!

It's a bit of a hard schedule, but please follow these rules. If you follow them closely, you'll be very glad you went to the beach, got it over with, and won't have to go again till next year.

Rule No. 1: Rather than using that ferry time to admire the beauty of the surrounding sea or to teach the kids about the different islands from the deck, you should be inside the ferry inflating your blowup toys. You should have as many large blowup toys as possible that take up any extra space in the already crowded ferry. If you have an inflatable ring (and everyone should), wear it when getting off the ferry for protection from the crowds.

Rule No. 2: Once we set up the tent on the beach, we will never move from that spot! No walking down the beach or exploring the other offerings. And for God's sake, don't go perusing the restaurants and parasol rental booths only to find out we didn't need to bring all that stuff.

Rule No. 3: Japanese people don't use sunscreen until after they're burned, so save yourself the expense of having to buy sunscreen by using a regular rain umbrella if you find you must walk in your swimsuit from the tent to the toilet. You did pack umbrellas, didn't you?

Ok, ready to leave? Go over that list again. Do we have everything? Wait a minute. Did anyone look at the weather forecast? What? A 10 percent chance of rain? Oh well then, let's stay home instead. After all, we can always go to the beach next year.

E-mail: amychavez2000@yahoo.com Web site: www.amychavez.com

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