Except it’s raining. Hard. But, (ever the optimist) by the time this post is finished and live, I hope the snow will have returned and I will have skied some nipple deep powder. I am very happy to see the Alps have been blessed with a lot of snow – enjoy it whilst it lasts oh Europeans, I hear it’s on its way back to Japan any day now.
And, it HAS snowed hard since I wrote the majority of this post, and yesterday was the biggest dump of the season with the piste-bashers unable to reach the higher slopes. I skied from just after 9h until 16h, and then thought night skiing would be a good idea. Needless to say my legs felt like jelly and skiing through the trees, in the dark, was just asking for trouble, so I bailed for beer after a few runs.
This month we have been to the Sapporo Ice Festival to see some of the impressive ice sculptures carved out of blocks of snow and ice. These were pretty big and often created as part of a presentation, with film projections and music. There were also some classy Japanese girls prancing about in next to nothing on stage whilst we (well, I was…) were dressed up in so many layers we looked like Michelin men; Sapporo is COLD.
It was really cool to get out of Niseko and see some big city lights, and of course eat some more Ramen.
We also went to the Otaru Light Festival on the eve of Valentine’s day. This wasn’t actually a festival as we discovered, but a parade of candles in snow lanterns and other mini snow sculptures, with lights on the canal which made for a very pretty and romantic setting. We then ambled the streets of Otaru and found ourselves in a Karaoke type restaurant, where the boys took advantage of the ‘all-you-can-drink’ and we had some pretty tasty food. Karaoke is still on my to do list – it’s a BIG thing here. I can’t sing though, so I am struggling to find people who’ll actually come with me. *Sigh There was no singing in Otaru.
Whilst on the subject of food, our pay day trip to Kutchan to eat at the Sushi Train and then have Yakitori was an interesting experience. We embarrassed Eri profusely by popping a GoPro onto the train that proceeded to do a loop of the entire restaurant, including the kitchen. It made its way back to us before we got told off – win! Unsure of the prices, my stack of plates got quite high and I felt pretty fishy once finished. For the second meal of the evening (as you do) we went to have Yakitori. This was the menu – read it carefully.
This is what we ate.
And this was the Cod’s Milt (sperm) as a free appetiser – need I say more?
Eri and I have consciously made an effort to cut down on buying a pastry nearly everyday, however I have been teaching a couple on a twice weekly basis and Deirdre (special mention!), who skis like a demon, made me a splendid cheesecake, which I demolished in no more than 2 days. Winning!
Deirdre also taught me how to wish our Chinese clients a happy New Year over the beginning of February for Chinese New Year. If you wish them well, are not married, you get ‘lucky’ money. I made a bob or two that day and encouraged the instructors to do the same with their clients and, once they turned up (time keeping is something the Chinese, I believe, are working on) they earnt themselves some extra yen. Great tradition!
This month I have also seen some familiar faces – including a friend from university who I bumped into randomly on the slopes and another who I had not seen since I left Hanford, my prep school, at the age of 13. I had time off, the snow was great so I showed her and her boyfriend, a family friend, around the resort. After telling her, apparently, to ‘go faster, go straight, turn less’ (come and have lessons with me…!) she smashed through some of the gates and we skied some of the deepest powder all season. From declaring “it’s so deep! And people like this???” by the end of the run she had a big smile on her face and was loving it. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the buzz I get too, from helping people enjoy skiing.
Training is going well for the Nagano Marathon. I’m clocking up the mileage on the snowy roads after another session with Niseko Physio (when my poor left bum cheek went black) and progress has been good. My friend, Kim, has had her knee surgery. They unfortunately found a tear in her meniscus to repair as well as repairing the ACL, but at least they have found it and she can now focus on getting it strong ready for next winter. This would not be possible if it were not for the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation who are financially supporting her. The foundation provides financial support for alpine professionals requiring surgery and can not afford it and who are consequently out of work – maybe even that ski patroller or paramedic who had to get you off the mountain after an accident on a ski holiday. I am running this marathon for myself, but also to raise awareness of this foundation and to try and raise some funds to help support people who are trying to pursue careers that I am, and many of you I know, are lucky enough to be living.
If you would like to donate please click here and quote ‘R Hallewell Marathon’. Thank you very much.
The next few weeks may be a little quieter work wise again, but my parents are coming to visit in March (need to think of a title for my next post – suggestions are welcome) with my adopted Aunty Jane, and there are still a few things to check off my bucket list, as well as planning for my adventures travelling around Japan in the spring.
Lastly, for a giggle – here are a few photographs of some of us ‘eating sh*t’ (excuse the language) or/and just enjoying submerging ourselves in the snow.
Checklist post crash: 1) laugh 2) take a photo 3) ask if they are ok 4) maybe help them up.