Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We were supposed to go to the Tokamachi Winter Festival, but went snowboarding instead ...

Japan is a country that prides itself on having the number one this and that, and tends to rank anything and everything that can be put in order.  For example in Japan, the #1 most delicious beef is raised in Kobe, the #1 tallest mountain is Mt. Fuji, and #1 best rice comes from Niigata.  Japan has the #1 best snow powder in the world.  Within Japan, Hokkaido’s Niseko Ski-jo is the best.    Hokkaido also has the #1 best Snow Festival, followed by Tokamachi’s yuki-matsuri.  In an effort to save $1000, I opted out of the trip to the northern most island of the country, and instead drove a couple hours southeast to Tokamachi.   Since we were so close to Nagano and the Joetsu mountains, might as well snowboard while we were there, right?!?!

After my hip hop dance class, and the debut of my  #1 favorite super sweet purple and black and white cow print Nike shoes, I met Jenelle in the city, and we road tripped it to Tokamachi.  We hadn’t even escaped the city limits when we found ourselves in adventure #1.  Some ‘yankee’ or ‘young trouble maker’ blocked us in the 7/11 parkinglot.  When Jenelle gave him a dirty look, he reluctantly backed up to let us out, but then proceeded to follow us out of the lot, onto the road, then onto the bypass, and nearly on the expressway!!  There was no doubt about the fact that he was tailing us, changing speeds and lanes just as Jenelle did.  If it weren’t for some tricky thinking when the bypass and expressway split, he probably would have followed us all the way to Tokamachi!!

Marshall graciously let us, Laura, and Mark crash at his place on Friday and Saturday night so that we could get up and out early.  I had been looking forward to Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort in Nagano ALL week, and it did not dissapoint!!  We couldn’t have asked for better weather with powder snow falling in the morning, and the sun shining through after noon.  It felt like a Christmas Winter Wonderland with snow covered trees and mountains all around.  Marshall couldn’t wait to show us his favorite ‘natural half pipe’ powder run ~ a run through a tree-filled ravine that, despite being roped off was fairly popular among the skiers and snowboarders who were equip with the right kind of powder-specific gear.  The powder was REDICULOUS!!  It HAD to have been well above my height of 63cm.  The first bit was wicked fun, bumping and jumping, having virtually no control and narrowly missing collisions with trees until I fell … and sunk.  Marshall and Mark had a bit more control over the powder while the powder had complete control over Jenelle and I.  Trying to just stand up in that much powder was near impossible as my arms went straight down, rolling around sunk my body in further, and even if when I did find a way to beat the odds and get up, my board was completely covered that I’d fall and have to start the whole process all over again.  Jenelle struggled through the powder that was directly under the lift and had to deal with the applauses and laughs from the audience above, while I slowly slid and rolled to the bottom of the ravine.  There were points that I really thought I was going to suffocate and perish.  I never thought I would be so happy to feel hard snow under my board until I miraculously made it out of the quicksand-like snow trap.  It was a great experience that I never want to experience again.  After a necessary lunch maybe-free coffee, we goofed around on a few more runs, onsen-ed in Nozawa, and slowly made our way back to the end of the snow festival.

Whoah, back up!!  When I dropped my car off at Ruu and Futoshi’s, they completely shocked me with an early birthday present – a PERFECT pair of orange-lensed, anti-fog snowboard goggles!!  The whole world looked clearer and brighter with the goggles ~ THANK YOU THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH!!!!  No more tears ;)

The Tokamachi Snow Festival, from what we heard from people who actually watched the show was ‘wicked.’  We were still able to see the sculptures and the empty stage, eat winter matsuri food, Korean BBQ, and meet up with friends later so it was alllllll good.  The streets were super slick, and at one point Jenelle slipped and fell, Mark went to help her and fell, then I laughed and fell.  We all fell the same exact way, loosing traction in the feet, trying to run in place to get a grip until plopping on the behind. 

After sleeping in a little, and enjoying Marshall’s home cooking, we met Ruu, Murayama, Casanova, and Dave at Joetsu Kokusai for MORE boarding!!!  The weather was unusually warm, and the views from all around the mountain were gorgeous.

That, and we had to go on another adventure to relocate Jenelle’s lost phone.  We went back to the Korean BBQ place, and as Jenelle was inside looking for it, I was outside calling it.  The first try didn’t go through, but a man answered the second call.  ‘Huh?  Um…where is this phone?”  “It’s at the police station.”  You know you’re in Japan when you loose a phone in the street, and someone brings it to the police station.  Furthermore, you know you’re in Japan when the description we gave of where it was lost (maybe where we fell on the ice) didn’t at all match up with the report, but were still able to get it back, no problem. 

Dinner was delicious and hilarious as usual.  Futoshi prepared nabe, cobb salad, sweet soy sauce potatoes, amazing fish, sashimi, beef, and vegetables while we were on our way back.  Jenelle and I picked up a chocolate chiffon cake that later went perfectly with the Godiva Coffee - which helped keep me awake for the drive home.   

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