I've long since figured out that "kanchushuie" means"Polar Dip" but this year I've been really busy. …2 jobs, a new dog to walk, new husband and a house still in a state of disrepair and upheaval and to top it all off with subzero and near subzero temperatures that have been hovering around these parts for nearly a week… All of this combined and I just didn't have the heart to throw myself in the chilly waters this year. But…
Despite these horrid temperatures, true to ironman fashion, the swimming club Iron Men showed that they truly are just that! They went ahead with their polar dip yesterday!!! (the University students up in Matuse cancelled theirs).
DH is not officially part of this club though he and I have participated in the dip for 3 years. He knew he'd be obliged to do it and this year the club had even prepared a red "fundoshi" (traditional Japanese underwear- well not red). You know Japanese men don't generally look like tough guys but when they put their minds to anything they truly have the "right stuff".
Unlike other dips which are in the ocean (usually a lot warmer) these guys go in the river (yesterday it was 4 degrees- the air was 3) and they don't scamper in splash around and scramble out. They get in up to their necks and swim about 100 metres!!!
They start with a warm up of running and jumping for around 10 to 20 mins. given the temperatures yesterday even we spectators were jumping to keep warm. Then they scamper into the van to help each other put on this fancy underwear. Remember it IS traditional and all Japanese men now are used to slipping into boxer shorts. Wrapping a fundoshi around so that it will not fall off requires a little time.
They pose for the cameras and give a big "Heave Ho" and run along the banks to plunge to into the icy depths.
This year for safety's sake they only swam about 50-75m. It was just too cold to risk being in much longer. For the first time even all the women swam the same distances the men (maybe because the biggest chicken was on the rocks taking photos this year!)
They scrambled out and started racing for the tub.
The club prepares a tub full of hot water and totes it in on pickup. Now how's that for ingenuity?! In the meantime, there's a pot of hot stew on the campstove, a bonfire burning and sake awaiting the brave bathers.
Once fully clothed again, they start navigating the morsels to their mouths with shaking hands. You can only hear the chattering of teeth and the excited chatter of the events which just took place.
Eventually talk turns to the evening's plans.
Several hours later the dippers planned to gather again for more merriment, this time fully clothed in a warm pub. They reserved hot "nabe" -fish, meat and vegetables boiled in a broth in a ceramic dish right on the table.
In the hours in between we opted to soak in a nearby hot spring. Although my friend and I found it wonderful to spend a cold winter's day soaking in the hot water I'm sure DH appreciated it more!