Those cloud behind me near the ground? Sulfurous steam spewing from the active volcano that is Asahidake.
It’s March 16th (I’m talking to you from the future, biches) and I am the last one from our group that traveled from the U.S. to Japan about a month ago. I can’t believe it’s been three weeks already! It feels like time flew by, I don’t know if I’m ready to go back to the states. Although, I do still have another three days here, so I don’t have to come to terms with it quite yet.
At first I was getting nervous about being the last one to go- I’m in a foreign country, with a giant snowboard bag and I hardly know how to speak the language (it’s getting better but my vocab is still at the point where the three year olds know way more words than I do. However, I’ve probably learned the most from the three-year olds so I guess I should be thanking them. They assume I know everything because I’m a big adult. Who’s winning here? Everyone).
Now, I’m excited. The main staff of Niseko Negula (the pension where our group was based from over the last two weeks) are headed to another resort on Hokkaido; Kiroro, for a few days of snowboard vacation time and they’re graciously stringing me along for the outing. I love the people here already and enjoy helping out around the place with chores. Interacting and working with everyone after the guests have all left is priceless to me. I got to paint one of the three-year old’s nails this morning (her name is Kokoro and it means, “heart”) after eating a home-made breakfast in the common room. That’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. Anywhere that there is snow you can snowboard and have fun. What you can’t find just anywhere are people of a completely different culture that welcome you into their family and home. Hanging out and bonding with everyone here is something I can never duplicate. It means so much to me that I’m getting to do this right now.
I’m already thinking about how I can come back to Japan some day…
Alright, next on the agenda- load up the cars and drive to Kiroro! Wataru also mentioned we’re stopping somewhere along the way for seafood lunch and a tour of a WHISKEY FACTORY WITH FREE TASTINGS. I had to ask him how to say, “I really like whiskey!” in japanese because I was so excited when he told me that. Whiskey daisuki des! Afterwards we’ll head on to some hotel(I don’t have my international driver’s license so I won’t be driving; that will be good) near the resort and get some snowboarding in over the next two days.
Everything’s working out and I’m so excited that I get this extra time to explore Hokkaido. Things don’t always turn out the way you think they will, but if you go with the weird flow of things it’s bound to work out fantastically in a way you never could have planned for.
I’ll be posting another entry or so on japansnoboarding.com to round out the story, but for the most part I’m going back to writing mainly on Gofer. I reposted my highlight entries from Japan Snowboarding to this blog so you can get a feel for how my life has been going since I started posting on that site.
I hope you enjoy this adventure’s story, and I can’t wait to share what happens next! (I think it’ll be pretty good.) Here’s to these awesome guys who made this trip to Hokkaido possible-
Hope you all had safe flights and I’ll see you again when I get back to the states!
I don’t know that it’s been a full 24 hours yet since I left Utah (I’m confused on how the time zones are fitting together. Sorry), but already I’ve been having the best time ever. Everything over here is so new and different to me that even the small things are exciting. When was the last time you got excited when you walked by a soda machine?
The highlights so far have to do with food. They fed us so much on my flight from LAX to Tokyo, it was like some kind of airline miracle. Then I had a “double check what you’re buying because every label is in Japanaese and what you think is a soda could be an alcoholic grapefruit drink” lesson in the Tokyo airport and slept through my flight to Sapporo to land safely in Chitose.
Next came what I was afraid would be a big hiccup- everyone I’m doing this trip with originally had a flight that would have put them in Sapporo ahead of me by several hours, so I was planning on meeting up with them and didn’t make a plan otherwise. I found out a day or so ago that their flight changed and I actually was going to have about a ful day of waiting before they landed in Japan to meet up with me.
So, it’s 9pm, all the hostels are closed, the currency exchange is closed and I have a giant board bag and not too much of a clue. I did almost get confused for some snowboard chick named Maui(?) and joined another snowboard crew, but they kind of realized I wasn’t the person they were looking for after all.
Luckily, there was a super nice information lady who spoke english, and after many failed attempts at finding a hotel she finally told me there was a place in the same building four floors up that had a ‘relaxation room’ where you could spend the night. I set off right away and was just so stoked that I didn’t have to take the train to some hotel that would still let me check in so late.
I stayed at a spa. It was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to an actual spa in the states, but I have to say I don’t know how I got so lucky to find a Japanese bathhouse that was only 3,000yen for the night in an airport. Or maybe this is something really common and average in Japan. I don’t know yet!
When you check in they ask you to choose a yukata; #1-8. I picked #3 and they handed me a bag with two towels, yukata #3, and checked my two luggage bags for me. I found my locker and then realized the area the locker room lead in to- a community bath; ie; nude hot tub area with sitting-shower partitions. I had to walk around the building a few times before I got myself to go into the locker room, strip down and walk into this community bath where I don’t know any of the general ettiquite. Do you look at the other people? Do you avoid all eye contact? Do people fully shower at this crazy shower-head stooled station? What do I do with this wooden bucket? What about this round plastic brush thing? Is that for your feet? Which one of these bottles is the shampoo???
I rinsed off, got in the water and was instantly more relaxed. It was the best thing ever. I watched the other ladies that came and went to see what they were using all of the things for. That plastic scrubber-thing; not for your feet. It’s like a scalp massager when you’re shampooing (from what I gathered) and it feels AWESOME (I took one more to use later on this trip). Also, yes; you do fully shower yourself while perched on a very low wooden stool. I think I mistakenly used the body soap for shampoo, but it pretty much does the same thing so who cares.
After trying out each of the four hot baths and then getting re-dressed I bought some weird crackers (they had the stickiest sugar between them, I couldn’t eat it, but it was funny to try) and relaxed for a while listening to a burbling water fountain made of a stone vase. I still can’t believe I’m in Japan. My trip has hardly gotten underway and it’s already more fun than I expected. And so far I haven’t left the airport. I can only imagine it’ll get better when I start doing things like, say, snowboarding.
A lady about my age sat down in the window seat next to mine on the tiny jet that was flying from SLC to LAX. She was dressed up, make-uped, in a skirt and carrying a giant fluffy pillow and tan jangly hand bag. A really friendly person, we started chatting about where we were each headed. She was a Mormon girl from Arizona on her Mission, going from Temple Square to a place in california for about four months. I told her I was headed to Sapporo, Japan to snowboard.
“I love snowboarding! But, isn’t Japan kind of far to go to snowboard?”
Sometimes I forget that not everyone in the world is living the same lifestyle as myself and my friends. When I told people I know that I was getting to snowboard in Japan they usually responded with, “Dream Trip!”, “I’m so jealous!”, “Go slash some Japan Pow, you’re so lucky!” (“take a radiation suit”).That’s the same kind of mindset we’re all in. We know Japan has amazing snow, we all believe it’s a crazy fun place to visit and we all love to travel for the sake of traveling. What we forget (like I did) is that there is a whole other world (er, worlds, rather) that think we are, basically, a little crazy.
I’m ok with that.
Going from having this trip be a possible notion, to purchasing my ticket, to waking up at 3am this morning with my sister Rachel and Tyler to drive to the SLC airport to waiting here in LAX to board a plane to Tokyo… it’s kind of a whirlwind. It still hasn’t settled in. Though I keep getting reminded of where I’m about to dive into by all the people speaking Japanese around me in the terminal. The only thing I can really understand out of what they’re saying is, “Thank you”. I guess that’s not a bad phrase to know. I could just thank everyone I met in Japan. I’m going to be this American running around with a giant snowboard bag shouting, “Thank You! Thank You!” at everyone for no particular reason. I think it’ll go really well. I may have trouble actually getting help with anything but at least they’ll find me polite.
Right now I’m a mix of excited and nervous. This is going to be my first international flight, and I have to sit relatively still for 11 1/2 hours in a middle chair of economy seating. I’m really hoping by some miracle they just HAVE to upgrade me to business or first class, though that does seem a little unlikely.
I’ll be posting as often as possible on here and everywhere else I can while I’m over there. I’ve been told the wifi is plentiful in Japan.
And now, for the next two and half hours before my flight I believe I may go find a place that serves mimosas and prepare myself to (inevitably) find I’ve been seated in the middle chair between two overly-large individuals and they’ll both fall asleep and drool/snore on me as I try to learn a few more words of japanese before I land in Tokyo.
I find myself shuffling between work and home so often it sometimes seems hard to take time to go after ‘it’. To stay in shape for ‘it’ I’ve taken up stair running at Mt. Tabor. ~636ft of heart wrenching cardio. The rationale being if you can’t get gradient on water or rock one might as well get gradient somewhere.
As February begins and new adventures start to become possible I took a moment to look back through my photo album from January. These moments capture some of the energy of 2014 so far. It’s been busy and eventful. Full of snapshots, snapchats and a few well placed mustaches.
Hey all you creative awesome people! I hope that you’ve been doing great; some of you I’ve talked to recently, some of you (sadly) I don’t know what’s new in your life. But, hopefully that will change soon!
The last couple of years I’ve been thinking about my life and how it compares to what the ‘norm’ is for someone my age in the US, and sometimes I get freaked out. What am I doing? Traveling? Snowboarding? Working minimum wage jobs and moving every six months? Barely making it paycheck to paycheck? Occasionally putting groceries on my credit card I still really really need to pay off fully?
And then I talk to people outside of my regular life, outside of my circle of friends, and when I tell them what I do they always say something along the lines of, “You are so lucky! Do that as long as you can.”
Ultimately I come back to this: How I’m living my life is not within the average, but it’s because I have that little bit of drive to live differently that I can love my life and make what I love work in my life.
Ok, so what’s the point of this? For a while, I’ve also been thinking about how lucky I am to know so many amazing people who also have decided to live in a way that trends away from the average. I’ve thought about how you all have awesome stories that you share with me, and how fantastic it would be to get them all together in one place to share with a bunch more people.
I’m not a blog genious (yet. Just like I’m not a helicopter pilot…yet.) so I’m currently working off of a wordpress template, but I did put something together using that and I’ve decided to call it ‘GOFER’. Gophers are really cute, and when I googled ‘gopher’ I found this awesome Wikipedia entry-
“Gophers, because of their burrowing, can disrupt human plans like commercial agriculture, garden plots, some landscaping, and some underground cables.”
It then continued on to say this, which I just thought was funny (and educational!)-
“Gophers are generally timid but may attack if provoked. If deprived of their normal vegetarian food supply, gophers have been known to resort to cannibalism.”
Gophers disrupt what people are trying to do. Rad! They dig around and operate in communities. Also, they’re vegetarian! (The cannibalism part was something I couldn’t find a connection to…)
Anyway; here’s my point- I want to make this happen. The whole backbone of this ‘collective blog’ would be each of you; my friends who are going out and making things happen. Each person would post entries a time or two a week and together it would create this fascinating collage of people doing rad shit. It would give us all a connection of inspiration too (I hope). You don’t all do the same things (some of you are super driven about similar stuff) but it’s all a bit different and each person offers their own perspective on it all.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all stay tuned and follow the stories that come out of this collective.