May 26, 2011 – Yamazaki-san had found a place for me to store my car’s set of winter tires and we left the Board of Education to go there. It was only a short drive to get there, and it only took a couple minutes.
The street we took went past the local hospital, which looked really small, and then past a few Buddhist temples. In fact, this road had four temples in a row, which was beautiful. The last temple even had a little cemetery next to it. I tried to ask Yamazaki if all four temples were used, and he told me that they were, but really only for funerals. Makes me wonder if how often Shakotan needs to hold a funeral…
The building turned out to be an old administered building for the Board of Education. From the front door, it looked completely abandoned. Yamazaki unlocked the door and we hauled my spare tires inside. Even though it was a beautiful sunny day, the old building exuded an old creepy vibe, which I usually get from an empty school. As it turns out, the building had originally been the elementary school, before 1976 when the current school was opened. Even though the place was clearly not being used, be still removed our shoes on at the door, and put on the customary visitor slippers.
Yamazaki and I put my tires in the boiler room. He warned me not to forget where we had put them, lest I lose my snow tires come wintertime. After we had deposited my belongings, Yamazaki showed me the rest of the building. The downstairs was not mainly just used for storage, but there used to be a kitchen, management room, and locker rooms for men and women. Upstairs, old classrooms had bunk beds set up, and Yamazaki told me that until recently, visiting sports teams would stay the night there. A calendar on the wall from 2005 provided evidence as exactly when it stopped being used.
Back downstairs, Yamazaki led me to the back of the building, which as it turns out, is still used as a mini-ski lodge during the winter months. (Perhaps that kitchen is still getting some use after all.) There was a wide-open room with tables and a single vending machine. Further back, it was clear where the entrance was and where people could buy tickets and such.
Behind this old building was actually a small slope, complete with a towrope for ascending to the top. Yamazaki explained to me that the slope was used by children and beginners, which night skiing available on weekends. I asked how much it cost to use, and he said that a day pass was only 100円 or 200円 ($1 or $2). It was small, but super cheap. He also showed me the Lost & Found, which he called 忘れ物 (わすれもの) or “forgotten things”. There were several sets of skis and poles, and even some boots. I thought maybe they were equipment for rental, but Yamazaki explained that everyone in the area had their own skis, so no one ever rented.
Yamazaki locked the doors as we exited and we drove back to the Board of education. On the way, we need to stop at the gym (“B&G” it’s called), to return the building keys. Apparently the same people who manage the gym are responsible for the upkeep of the old school building as well.