Once upon a time, I used my winter vacations to escape to places like Thailand, India, New Zealand, and Nepal; places that, while my own home was buried under snow, enjoyed mild temperatures and dependable sunshine.
Now I seek out the snow during winter; I’ve gone full chionophile. Last year, I scrapped a three-week vacation to Laos and Cambodia to head to Hokkaido to snowboard. This year followed suit; going back to Japan to board had always been my plan. (Korea has many, many things going for it….powder is not one of them.) And while I was excited to return to Niseko, the mega-resort in Hokkaido, for a week, I was even more thrilled to go back to Hakkoda, my home mountain while I lived in Aomori. Continue reading Querencia→
What I would do for a bit of a cold snap…It’s currently about 90 degrees Fahrenheit with a heavy blanket of clouds to ratchet up the humidity, and basically the only thing I have enough energy to do is splay myself out in beached whale mode on my bed with my fan pointed directly at me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for a healthy dose of vitamin D, but I’m finding myself wishing for cooler weather.
Cooler, mind you. Not colder. Not cold, like Otaru in winter.
Otaru’s a little seaside town about a thirty-minute train ride from Sapporo, and I went there for a daytrip during the weekend I trekked up north for Sapporo’s annual Snow Festival. I hadn’t blogged about it before because, frankly, I didn’t really want to think about snow until December…Today, though, I wouldn’t be too opposed to seeing just a few flakes.
All’s been quiet on the blogging front these past few weeks. Blame it on end-of-term craziness, blame it on the three-day junior high English camp that ran me into the ground, blame it on sheer laziness/lethargy, or blame it on the massive head cold that has my nasal cavities producing approximately two gallons of mucus a day…whatever the case, I’ve been slacking immensely in regards to writing posts lately. I’ve still got loads of posts about the latter half of my India/Nepal trip, but before I forge ahead into Nepalese territory, I thought I’d insert a brief interlude about my trip up to the northern island of Hokkaido in early February.
The annual 雪祭り (Yuki Matsuri, snow festival) in Sapporo is without a doubt one of the most famous annual events in all of Japan. When it comes to winter festivals, it undoubtedly takes the top spot. Every year, thousand of visitors, Japanese and foreign alike, flock to Sapporo to marvel at the huge snow sculptures that take over the narrow stretch of Ōdōri Park for a week in early February.
Given the proximity of Aomori to Sapporo, I was determined to make it up to the snow festival at least once while living here. Yet every year when the time came around to book hotel and train tickets, one thing or another would cause me to balk and reason, “I’ll just go next year.” This year, finally, I made it up for the festival and enjoyed two days of beautiful snow sculptures, delicious food, and temperatures so cold that I rocked the “ninja-lite” look the entire weekend.
The first time I came to Japan, it was on a two-week, whirlwind tour that doubled as a sociology course under Washington & Jefferson College. Takayama (高山), a city nestled in the mountains of Gifu prefecture, was one of the places we visited, and I primarily remember it as a place of “firsts.”
It was in Takayama that I got my first glimpse of the Japanese Alps, so impressively craggy and beautiful that you can’t help but wonder, “Did I somehow get on the wrong train and end up in Switzerland?” It was the first time I stayed at a 旅館 (ryokan, traditional Japanese inn) and donned a 浴衣 (yukata, informal cotton kimono). It was the first time I wandered off down the streets of Japan, without having the voice of our tour guide in my ear or a map to tell me where I was. It was the first time I ventured into an 温泉 (onsen, public hot spring bath). Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Takayama→
It’s amazing just how happy a temperature above freezing and the sight of bare pavement can make me. For now, Aomori is experiencing a bit of a warm (i.e., temperatures above 40ºF/6ºC) spell, and I’ve been enjoying it for all it’s worth. This weather feels downright balmy.
The sounds of Aomori winter elicit extremely specific reactions from me. For example, the clatter made by a gigantic, fifty-pound chunk of frozen snow falling from my apartment building’s roof and caroming off of the metal railings of my balcony garners a mini-heart attack. The howling symphony of the wind at two in the morning, accompanied by the constant rattle of my rickety windows and creaking of the walls themselves, gets a resigned groan and further burrowing underneath my thick, doubles-as-a-soundproof-barrier duvet. The steady dripping of water from the roof gets a grin, because it means that the snow is starting to melt. (This might be my favorite sound, and thankfully it’s starting to become more prevalent.) Continue reading A Dreaded Sound and a Welcome Sight→