Before going to Vietnam, I had made plans with Saori, Ru and her husband, Futoshi to go snowboarding on the 4th. When I woke up that morning, it was cold and rainy in Murakami. Wakabuna, one of the closest ski resorts (only 30 minutes away!!) was our destination. I thought for sure there wouldn’t be enough snow on the mountain, but it was crazy!! After going through a tunnel from Murakami to Sekikawa, there was snow – and lots of it!! We ended up snowboarding, slalom snowboarding, skiing, and short skiing until the lifts shut down for a total of 7 hours!! Futoshi took pictures and video of Ru and I snowboarding. I now know that I look like a freak when going down the mountain, flailing my arms when turning. Oh well, it was TONS of fun and I can’t wait to go again!! Afterwards we went to an onsen, and then out to eat some delicious cheeseburger with rice!!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Back to Japan Land
After over 24 hours of travel, I found myself back in Murakami. Just because the Vietnam Vacation was over, didn't yet mean that my winter break was completely over though!! After throwing down my dirty stinky backpack, I ran into the shower and back out to the city. I was off in the cold to Gakkoucho Niban cho to celebrate my grandma’s 87th birthday and with the second of the three days of New Years celebration they do here. As usual, she made me eat all the food she receives from people that she can’t eat by herself. I was then able to get her to go to Hakusan Jinja to pray with all the other people who missed the 1st. The tradition is for people to throw all of their previous year’s good luck charms into the huge bonfire, and then buy new ones to keep them safe, happy, healthy, and lucky. (hey Schrocks, I’ll be sending the safe driving good luck charms home soon) The first jinja (Shinto Shrine) we went to was super crowded so she took me to a smaller one later, getting lost along the way. You’re supposed to throw money into the wooden box (obaachan says since we’re poor it’s OK to throw only 15 yen in, but some people throw up to 10,000 yen), clap twice, and pray. I never know what to pray for when we go to these things. I think most people have some standard Japanese way of really formally saying ‘thank you for the previous year, please and thank you for this year.” I love sleeping at her house. She always has the word’s most comfortable futon fully equipped with a heated blanket set up for me. It had been a couple of days since I had actually slept lying down, so that night I slept from 7pm to 7am!! Before leaving the next morning, we went to the cemetery to pay some money, light some candles, and pray to our dead relatives. It was nice to participate in these Japanese religious customs with my grandma.