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Follow That Smell!

I was driving to the city of Ota, Gunma yesterday, As it was a warm day, I had my windows down. All of a sudden, my car was filled with this SMELL. There must have been a farm nearby that had horses. While the smell was not exactly pleasant, it made me feel a bit nostalgic.

Our family used to live very close to 窶伉ォ窶藩懌?ケ」窶拵湘ェ (Ashikaga Keiba-jou, a racing track), referred to simply as Keiba-jou and several times a day, depending on the direction of the wind, we'd smell the horses (well, horse manure to be exact). A lot of people, upon visiting farms, say "How can anyone LIVE here with this SMELL!?", but the rest of us know that once you get used to it, or you are born into it, it's not that big a deal.

As a child, I used to go to Keiba-jou quite often during the summer months. Not for the horse racing but for the public swimming pool they had inside the track. You reach the pool by going through a tunnel that ran beneath the track. The admission, if I remember correctly, was \50. Once inside, we would change into our swimming suits in the changing area. Our suits had small sewn-on pockets inside on the side where we'd put \100〜\200 to buy snacks. Then there was an area where you walk under a shower, then a small tub of heavily chlorinated water that you were supposed to dip yourselves in for 30 seconds.

The main area had two pools. One regular pool, and a kiddie pool where many of us younger kids who were not quite ready for the big pool could splash around. As a matter of fact, even after I was old enough for the big pool, the very first thing I would do was to go into the kiddie pool and pee. That feeling of release was just so great. I am sure many of you remember that feeling. By the time we reach gradeschool age, we KNOW we are not supposed to go in the pool, but at the same time, we also know that we can get away with it. Just act natural (no looking around to see if anyone's looking your way, or trying to disperse the pee water by disturbing the water around you using your hands & feet!) and no one will ever know.

The big pool was pretty deep (for younger kids) so I would stay near the edge holding onto the ledge. My brother would pull on my legs dragging me underwater away from the edge, ignoring my protests. I would tell my father later on that my brother had nearly killed me at the pool but his response was that that was the only way I would learn how to swim. I would tell him in tears that I didn't even want to learn to swim and I just wanted to stay by the edge! In the end, he would tell me not to go to the pool with my brother anymore. But of course, a few days later I would be back at the pool with my brother, and I did eventually learn how to swim thanks to my brother forcing me to the center of the pool.

There was a wire fence surrounding the pool area, and right ouside were a few food vendors. Our favorite was Isobeyaki, a piece of rice cake(Mochi) broiled, brushed with soy sause, then wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed. We would pull the coins out of our swimming suits, hand them to the man throught the fence, and he would hand the best tasting piece of Mochi into our wet hands. Man, they tasted good! Our mother said it was such a waste of money to buy something that could be prepared easily at home. True. But it wouldn't be the same without the ambience. The blue sky, the turf, the smell of chlorine, the wind from the Watarase river pungent with the aroma of horse manure...

Now, as I drive along the bank of Watarase river every morning to work, Keiba-jou is gone. The racing tracks and the pool have closed down years ago. They have flattened the whole place for a big hospital to be built in the near future. With it, gone is that wonderful smell filled with childhood memories. They have built a park in one section closer to the river recently, complete with basketball & tennis courtes, a baseball field and a playground for the little ones. The kids who will be playing there will only see the place as "the new playground by the river", and will most likely never know what a magical place it had been for their counterparts from a few decades earlier.


very well written ^^ it's sad to see places of our childhood memories being changed, but I guess that's not enough reason to stop community development. A swimming pool I used to go was demolished for elevated highways to go above...
haha I actually went into the center of the deep pool myself as a kid and nearly drowned, the watch guard dived in to help. ^^;
btw.. i've never pee-d in the pool.... ^^;; and sadly, too old to try that now too.. T_T
oh and, I hate cow dung more than horse manure.. i dunno what smells more.. ^^;
You've never peed in the pool... riiiiight. Seriously? I thought every child did that.

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