Chiaki Kato has an odd hobby -- sleeping rough. It’s not to everyone’s taste, of course, but it has this in common with other “creative hobbies” discussed by Spa! (March 30) -- it’s dirt cheap, though among the more expensive ones the magazine features, given that you need a sleeping bag. Minimum cost: 980 yen.
Most of the others are either entirely cost-free -- crushing aluminum cans, for instance, or turning pamphlets into model houses -- or very nearly so; you can take up pen-twirling for the mere cost of a pen, or public bathing for the standard bath-house admission fee of 450 yen. A depressed economy, in short, is no excuse for not enjoying yourself and nurturing your talents and inclinations.
Kato, a 29-year-old care professional, was in high school when she first experienced the joys of sleeping rough. She and a girlfriend planned a cross-country trip during which the only cost would be food. Starting out in Aomori Prefecture, they walked and walked. By the time they reached Niigata, the friend was fed up. Carrying on by herself, Kato made it to Shimonoseki at the southern tip of Honshu. “I just took to it,” she says.
Lately, more than solitary travel, she organizes “banquets” in various parks. To her, the best part is not the drinking but drifting off to sleep afterwards under the stars, with no last train to worry about. But the travel bug, awakened early in life, never quite dies, and even now, sometimes she treks alone and far afield. “Not knowing where I’m going to sleep tonight is wonderful. Arriving at some place I’ve never been to, meeting people, being treated kindly, sleeping by the side of the road and thinking, ‘A person can sleep even here!’ It’s all very moving.”
Any unpleasant brushes with the darker side of human nature? Never, she says. “Once you’re wrapped up in a sleeping bag, no one can tell your gender.”
Comedian Kotetchan Baba seems a more indoor sort. His hobby is bathing, not at home but at “sento” public baths. A car accident six years ago, and the consequent need for rehab, got him started. He never stopped.
“You go to the 'sento' and see things like a boy rubbing his grandfather’s back, or the old lady receptionist treating everyone to Japanese cakes. It warms the heart. And in the tub everyone’s naked, which means everyone’s equal -- rich and poor, Tokyo University grad and junior high school dropout.”
Crushing tin cans underfoot -- can that be fun? Toshio Abe finds it absorbing enough. We’re not even told what he does for a living, from which we tentatively conclude that his hobby overshadows his career. In fact, if you ever meet him he’ll hand you a flattened can in lieu of a business card -- fitting, remarks Spa!, for the president of an organization called the “International Can-Crushing Society,” which sponsors competitions all over Japan and as far away as Texas.
"My original hobby,” he explains, “was sea kayaking. We’d camp on the beach, and flatten our beer cans to conveniently take them home and not leave litter. We started competing with each other to see who could crush them flattest.” Over time, the means became an end in itself.
The key to successful, competitive can-crushing, he says, is “keeping a clear head. If you imagine yourself putting the boot to the face of your hated boss as you bring your foot down, your thoughts will be distracted and the result none too good.”© Japan Today