A Devestating Day in Osaka

May 7, 2008
By Rachel Wang, La Vista, NE

Frequently people tend to reminisce on the horrendous episodes in which some couldn’t think a day could go any worse. Many of us encounter such incidents at least once in our lifetime. Irony can turn a delightful day into a disastrous domino effect of catastrophic events in a matter of minutes. The tsunami is a great example how things can turn for the worst. In just mere seconds, innocent sun bathers, tourists, and townspeople were swept away by a monstrous wave and claimed the life of thousands. Although my story is not as tragic, it is as unpleasant. One can say that calamity can sneak up at the most unlikely times. The petrifying and misfortunate incident that I experienced took place in the Hidaka River, Osaka, Japan.

The start of my terrifying adventure began July 3rd, 2006. Osaka’s heat can be unbearably humid especially in the heart of the summer, yet the meteorologist predicted clear skies, a perfect chance to go camping. The three hour drive seemed like a worthy price to pay for a nice weekend in the woods. Ironically, we literally did have to pay when a cop had pulled us over for speeding. The short looking rent-a-cop slowly went back and forth between his squad car and ours as if making our lives just as miserable as his, being a speed trafficker. I looked at him closely as he punched in the buttons ever so slowly, taking his sweet time to print out a speeding ticket for us. I gave a deep sigh at this pitiful moment slowly taking away precious minutes of my life. I could be using these priceless minutes for something more productive, like swimming in the river or walking in the woods; anything but sitting in here. The stout man finally gave us the go-ahead and we were back on the road again.
Eventually we arrived at the campsite and the view was breathtaking. The scenery looked as if it was taken from a movie, a lonely country road alongside rice paddies followed by a crystal clear river. Serene black cows were being led by farmers to work the fields of crispy green vegetables. In the far distance the tree-covered mountains were swarmed with white specks of Japanese cranes. Their elegant bodies and red spotted heads swung back and forth across the river, trying to get a bite of the delectable fish mocking them from the safety of the water. This entire area was so peaceful, so quiet, so serene and beautiful. I soaked in all the wondrous images, but that harmonious moment was soon to be disturbed.

We had parked quite a ways away from the campsite on top of a hill. Everyone noticed the same thing, the rocks. The rocks would later prove to be quite an obstacle. We had an old fashioned tent, something similar to a tarp commonly found on the top of a swimming pool. The years were not kind to it; there were large splotches of oil on the faded yellow tarp which led me to assume it was the result of being stored in an old dusty garage. We had a dilemma; this ancient piece of yellow plastic needed to be held up with four metal rods. How were we going to prop up the tent with no sand and only cantaloupe-sized rocks? We had to improvise, although very difficult, it was accomplished by using ropes and tying it to the larger boulders while also supporting the poles. It took several attempts, for each time we propped one rod up, the other would slope downwards and eventually fall. We used towels dipped in the icy cold river to wrap our heads for protection in the searing heat. We tiredly carried sixty pounds of heavy stone back and forth repeatedly, but eventually luck prevailed. We all took a couple steps backwards to admire our accomplishment. It was rather pathetic that we took such pride from what would seem like a simple task. Nevertheless, it was finally completed.
The troublesome stones seemed to be much more than we bargained for when in the late evening all the creepy crawlers came out of the darkness of the rocks. Unfortunately, all of these pests were inching towards us in a trance for they were mesmerized by the glowing light of the lantern. If that wasn’t bad enough, five minutes into my meal I noticed a moth had flown into our soup. I looked at it disgustingly displeased at what I had seen; I gagged at the image. Not even a second later a tickling sensation was felt on the tip of my toe as I looked down to find an enormous black spider making its way up my leg. I immediately bolted upwards and frantically tried to kick it off. I was hesitant at first, unsure if my frightened actions were going to intimidate it sending it on a manic rampage to sink its fangs into my skin. I would much rather have it on my leg then risk getting bit by an unusual species of arachnid. Using a tattered dish cloth, I carefully brushed it off my legs and put it towards the river. I calmly sat back down on the rickety plastic stool only to be disgustingly disappointed at the sight of dead gnats in every dish.
Angrily I put my rough bamboo chopsticks down, frustrated that I couldn’t even have a simple decent meal. Upon thrusting the cheap sticks downwards, I cringed at the sharp pain of wood entering my finger. My aunt mocked at the irony of ‘lucky bamboo’ being anything but lucky. The splinter would stay lodged in my index finger until I mustered up the strength to use a needle and pry it out a week later.
Hoping this ordeal would all be over soon, my sister and I decided to end the day on a short-note drained from the series of events that had taken place just upon the first day of arriving. Fortunately, my sister and I were going to be able to sleep in the pop-out nylon tent. As neat as it was on the outside, there was no bedding on the inside. There was only a thin sheet of nylon separating our bodies from the bumpy, cold, bug infested rocks. We laid down layers and layers of blanket, but the painful bumps of the rocks underneath were still felt on our sore backs. However, we were still expecting a restful night of sleep. We had all spoken too soon at 3 a.m. in the morning by almost toppling over. We anxiously unzipped the tent to find that most of our belongings had been blown away. The yellow tarp was one of the victims, the same yellow tent that we had worked so hard on was slowly being carried away in the river (good riddance anyways.) The roaring winds and pouring rain reminded us that it was typhoon season. We had carelessly thrown that in the back of our minds only to be punished by being caught in the middle of one. For the sake of our safety we rushed into the SUV where four of us tried to sleep. With no windows open, the blazing humid heat inside of that car was indescribable. Four adults crammed into a vehicle over 90 degrees inside yet the cool 70 degree temperature was but a door open away. My aunt incompetently opened the door as I watched a large swarm of mosquitoes enter before she had the time to close it. I had not a wink of sleep; the constant buzzing of mosquitoes near my ears was enough to wake a deaf man. I was so drained I did not even have enough energy to raise my arm and swat at the pests. Moments later, my body was covered in itchy, swelling, hot, mosquito bites.
As soon as I saw the sun, I rushed to open the door and get a breath of fresh air. It seemed as if the storm had passed, but just to be safe, we thought it was best to pack up and leave. We hurriedly lugged our belongings back and forth from campsite to car trying to accomplish this as quickly as possible. Halfway in, the sky began to darken once again, and we knew for sure that this was not a good sign. We began to quicken our pace and escaped just in time before the storm’s second attempt to take our possessions.
Unfortunately, it was just one predicament after the other. Once we got back into the city, we were stuck in traffic and I soon dozed off, my eyes weary from the long night. A cold sweat and the obnoxious honking of cars had shaken me awake and I was upset to know that we had only moved about twenty feet from where I had originally fallen asleep. I clenched my fists only to wince at the irritatingly painful splinter still lodged somewhere in my finger. The air conditioner had also malfunctioned sometime within the hour which would explain the cold sweat that had woke me. I panted at the heat like a dog hoping for some cool air. I rolled down the windows desperate for a nice breeze but doing that was the same thing as opening the door of a hot oven and having that heated wave go past the face. Dissatisfied at this whole camping trip along with all the misfortunes that followed, there was nothing I could do but endure it.
The ticket, the heat, the rocks, the tent, the bugs, one might think I would completely erase this from my mind, but they are wrong. Although they might not have been pleasant at the time, I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. This does not mean that I would want to experience something similar to the Hidaka River Incident again. I am merely a victim of a situation gone ironically wrong, and I have first hand experience to prove it. Luckily in my case, no one was close to death as other may have experienced. We just suffered from a few cuts, bruises, and mosquito bites. It is sad to say that others may not be as fortunate. Looking back on this adventure today, I find it ironic that I have placed myself in the category of the ‘more fortunate.’

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