Martin's Japan Pages

Our Man In Japan

13 February 2005

Bank-Holiday Boarding Bonanza

Friday was a Bank Holiday, but I was up early to go snowboarding with Debs. I picked her up and we went to Minamai ski slope, the same place I went last Sunday. I spent most of my time on the bottom half of teh Falcon run. It starts off pretty steep, which is good for practising turns, but flattens out into a nice long run, which is good for practising balance at high speeds.

Afterwards, I dropped Debs at Kate's house and drove back to Tokamachi, stopping at MosBurger to buy my tea. After I'd finished eating at my flat I just passed out; I was so tired from a day's snowboarding! I woke up around 9pm, so I hung out my snowboarding stuff and had an early night.

On Saturday I was up early again. Neil, Annie and Erik came round my flat at 8.30am to pick me up and go snowboarding at Nozawaonsen. It's a massive resort in Nagano about an hours drive from Tokamachi. The whole village of Nozawaonsen pretty much caters for just the ski slope the shops are all ski shops and any free land is given over to parking spaces. The traffic was quite dense so it took a while to find somewhere to park.

At the slope, Neil spent the morning with Annie teaching her how to snowboard. Erik and I bought day passes and headed up the mountain on the main Gondola. I was suprised at how big the mountain was. Every time the gondola cleared a hill, the cables went on further and further. We got to the top and Erik went off in search of in search of some challenging powder runs. I checked my map, found the nearest green run and started to board on that. It was quite a dull run. It was long and straight and also quite flat so I couldn't get much speed up. A number of times I came to a complete stop and had to unbind my back foot to kick myself along. I checked my map again and looked for teh nearest red run. The one I found was a bit like the run at Minami; a steep start that flattened out into a fast run that bent to the left (to be really geeky, the flat reminded me a lot of playing Wipeout). There was a ski lift that connected the two ends of teh run so I spent a fair bit of time here befroe I started to get hungry.

I planned a route from where I was to the restaurants at the bottom of the mountain. The route included a few red runs which, given the fun I'd just had, I thought would be easy. I was wrong. I came to the start of the red run and stood next to a sign that said 'Steep'. It wasnlt wrong, but since I'd done runs as steep as this one, I set off. The start was fine, but a bit further down teh slope, it got all bumpy and I ended up on my arse. I got back up and was thrown off again in seconds. Now, the problem wasnt so much that the run was steep, but that somehow the slope had grown hundreds of big bumps. As I sat on my arse, I looked around atthe other snowboarders to see how they were coping with the bumps. They were all on their arses too. Then I noticed the skiers. They were zipping by, quickly switching from skiing to the left and skiing to the right; They were the cause of the bumps! And with skiers making up the majority of of people on the mountain, the bumps where definitely going to stay. I had to get off this run and onto another. I checked the map and the only way off was to continue down. So I spent the next hour boarding and falling on arse until I got to the bottom of the run. I was hungry and also frustrated at the skiers who seemed to cut me up at every oppertunity.

I found a restaurant and ordered katsu curry rice with melon soda. It was nice and would have made me feel a lot better if every mouthful hadn't been watched by the man on the table opposite. I wouldn't have minded if I was with Erik, Neil or Annie, but being on my own, I felt a bit vunerable and being started at, especially in such an obvious way, was really unnerving. I finished as quickly as a I could and headed out to the slopes.

The next slope was a green run with a decent incline to it. I made my way down and was quite happy til I was cut up by a ski team. Not one person, but eight, in a line whizzing inches away from teh nose of my board. I ended up on my arse again. Cheers guys. This happened quite a few times, one of which I had my worst fall of the day. I think I hit a bit of a jump as a skier cut me up, I lost my concentration and ended up in a heap, with massive pain in knee, I bump to my head and the visor in my goggles coming loose. Good one. I gingerly made my way to the bottom of the mountain, met up with Neil and Erik and had a good old moan to them about my shit time of the red run and the skiers. It's amazing how much better you feel after a rant.

I went back to the nice red run with Erik and went down that together a few times. Erik even persuaded me to try a jump which I managed to land. It was only about a foot or two high, but still an acheivement for me. We split again, Erik taking a black run and me taking the ski lift back to the start of this red run. Time was getting on and soon the lifts were going to stop running, so I took teh gondola as far as I could and started a long run back down to the car. I planned a route of green runs this time, which for the most part were quite good. There were points where I came to a stand-still because it was very flat or where I had to slow because of a large group of beginner skiers ahead, but apart from that, the run back was pretty good. I wish I'd gone this way instead of taking the red runs before.

I met Erik at the car, we put our snow gear in teh car and headed out for onsen. As well as being famous for teh ski resort, Nozawaonsen is, as the name suggests, famous for onsen. There are a number of natural hot springs all over the village that have been turned into free public baths. We went to one that had a very impressive exterior. The inside was all wooden. There were two baths filled with the natural spring water. You could really smell the sulpher from the mountain. Near the entrace there were pigeon-holes to put your clothes and you could wash yourself around the sides of the baths. The onsen was very hot, hotter than I'm used too. I could feel my skin go all tingly as I got in. The temperature meant that we didn;t stay for long, but it did mean we were all nice a warm after a day on the cold slopes.

On the way back to the car we toured the shops on teh high street, browsing through omiyage and buying hot dumplings to eat. We got back to Tokamachi quite quickly, the roads having been cleared since the morning, and once again I passed out as soon as I got in to my flat. I'm really surprised how tired I get from snowboarding.

My knee was killing me when I woke up this morning. I cant really rest it today though. Next weekend will be the Tokamachi Snow Festival and from the sounds of it a lot of ALTs are coming to see it. I've offered my flat as somewhere to stay so I need to clean it today ready for next weekend. Teh biggest task in my bathroom, which was last cleaned on the day of the earthquake. Scummy I know, but I've been thinking that maybe if I clean the bathroom again, the world will be so shocked that there will be another earthquake. But that's nonsense really so I should get on with it.


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