Due to the amazing time I’ve been having here in Niseko, its taken me a little while to update here, so firstly I’ll apologize for that.
Moving on, I suppose I’ll start from the beginning.
With a stunning combination of dumb luck, cross-culturally understandable hand gestures, and one very well-designed airport, I somehow managed to catch my absurdly tight connecting flight from Tokyo to Sapporo.
As I jogged through the airport from Terminal 2 to 3, my eyes widened to take in the differences of the new society I’d landed in. Flashing lights which inexplicably beeped as I moved past them, smiling security officials in bowler hats who obligatorily bowed as I navigated endless labyrinthine halls, and of course the anthropomorphic anime badgers who stood guard alongside customs agents, warning me of the many dangers of importing foreign seeds.
All of these things quickly drew into focus the very new reality of my situation, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Who knew culture shock could be this adorable?
I finally reached the Jetstar check-in desk, and found my way to the departure gate. Greeting me there were these two handsome gentlemen, fresh from a few days in Tokyo, they immediately informed me that we can in fact, drink in the airport.
Spenny on the left, Kia on the right. They’re much more sophisticated than they appear, I promise.
On our bus from the airport in Sapporo, we not-so-unexpectedly ran into a large family of Australians. Puzzled grins flashed across their faces when they found out where we’d come from. “Why come here when you have such great snow back home?”
A fair question, and one which I had fielded several times at home already.
Aside from the numerous other factors which drew me here, Japan boasts some of the best powder skiing in the world. At first the comments from our Australian bus-mates had me worried, that the destination at the end of this long journey would be underwhelming.
I was wrong.
In the 4 days that we’ve been here, it hasn’t stopped snowing for more than a couple hours at a time. The runs are well designed, chairlifts plentiful and staff relentlessly helpful in spite of the very obvious language barrier.
But all trips face adversity, and at one point during our mountain adventure, the headstrap I’d been using to film with my friend’s GoPro fell off, and my mood immediately plummeted from elated to devastated. I immediately hiked back up the mountain to search for it, but was painfully unsuccessful.
Kia felt my shitty mood was worth documenting, I respectfully disagreed.
However, in a most welcome twist of fate, this mysterious and kind gentleman returned the GoPro to the nearest information counter, leaving only this brief video as evidence of his identity! (We think he looks like Spenny in the future, a la Hot Tub Time Machine)
If anyone knows this man, please comment his contact info so I can thoroughly thank him and buy him a beer!
One of the final, slightly awkward details I should mention revolves around our first experience using the traditional Japanese Onsen (Hot-Spring bathing facility) at our hotel, the Niseko Northern Resort AnNupri.
Me and Kia went in first, rocking the traditional, Western garb of swimming trunks and bodily shame, we were soon to realize why the hotel’s two onsen’s were separated by gender. As we walked in, we were promptly greeted by the shocked, disapproving stares of no less than ten fully naked Japanese men.
I’ve never felt more ashamed for being fully clothed in my entire life.
Flash forward to the next day.
This second time I went to bathe, I proudly walked in, naked as a chipmunk only to find that I’d stumbled over the second faux pas of onsen etiquette, bodily modesty. You’re supposed to bring in a hand towel to hold around your bits, draping it over your head as you bathe, and using it as a impromptu loofah when you ultimately hit the adjacent sitting showers.
In spite of these these trials and tribulations, I’m proud to say, that by the 3rd and now 4th day, I have become fully trained regarding the ins-and-outs of proper onsen manner (This is despite my tattoos, which are apparently still massively forbidden in the more rigidly traditional onsens located throughout Japan).
The final detail I’ll leave you with relates to something I’ve been afflicted with on many trips before: Ludicrously vivid dreams. The sudden and massive change of setting which comes with travelling tends to paint a bizarre picture in my subconscious, and this time was no different.
During my third nights sleep here in Niseko, I was entertained with the outlandish tale of an old blind master, who took it upon himself to teach me the traditional techniques of what I can only describe as “musical martial arts”. I should specify, this is’musical’ in the sense of using physical vibrations from sound to chop bricks in half, not some “Enter the Dragon” / “Grease” mashup.
The morning after my first day of melodic martial training, I awoke to find my new master murdered in his bed chambers, assassinated by a soldier from a rival Dojo. Recruiting the assistance of a nearby giant psychic bird (Think, “The Dark Crystal”), I was “Ayahuascally” shown, through mystic ceremony, the location of my mentors monstrous murderer. With this new information, and the heaviest of hearts, I rode off across the rocky bluffs of this strange new land, seeking vengeance, and the next chapter in whatever story I was attempting to tell myself.
The helpful creature from my dream (“The Dark Crystal” by Jim Henson)
Whatever this dream says about me, I am not quite sure … but I’m choosing to take it as a positive sign for the future of my adventures.
Tomorrow we fly to the rocky bluffs of Hakuba, in the Japanese Alps. Hope everyone out there listening in the wide-world is journeying well, and I’ll try to update here sooner rather than later.
Until then, stay strange.