Disaster will strike. Sometimes, she will be meager and weak, approaching slow and predictable from a distance. Sometimes she is a tiger. Often, in-between a type of rolling inconvenience of lost luggage or missed flights. Ours arrived as the gray haired medium.
The train chews through encrusted track and I’m kept awake by an ill timed coffee and the sounds of small children. Exhausted and awake. Not a good way to start an 8 train journey. Even the steady snores of the old man next to me, his rhythm of snorts, are nearly enough to put me to sleep. Nearly. So I decide to write, cramped though the quarters may be, as a chance to record the last week and reminisce. I can hear the Canadians in the back, cracking beers. Its going to be a long night.
The Ice fest in Hokkaido is internationally recognized, but my expectations remain non-existent. Typically, this type of personal oblivion requires a gag order issued from my mind to my ears. I didn’t even know the festival was on, making what we found was simple and stunning. Massive palaces located in a maze of traditional fare.We zag our way from seared pink beef, to crapes, pocket filled fish and saki.
The Train stops abruptly, faster than I thought possible. The impact and the squealing even wakes the old man. We hit something, and it was big. I could feel the vibration through my feet. A hurried explanation in Japanese came over the intercom, which kept it a mystery to the passengers in car 7.
The ice below our feet fueled our hunger, the whole festival seemed to be one large slippery metropolis of food. Oddly, the marketers found it the perfect environment to incubate cigarette brands and warm holiday vacations.
The Old man wakes up next to me. He starts with a spuddering chuckle. I look into his thin eyes and see the joke but I do not understand the punchline. He asks me about Niseko, or at least that is the one word I catch. I say “yes” and “ski”. He continues to chuckle, as he puts his gloves on. I can already feel the heat radiating off of him. His laughter must come from the cold. How do you even begin to write about the divine? That is the challenge of capturing the snowboarding in Japan. I imagine it the sacred domain of poets and songwriters. My pen, and its dury spout of late, is unskilled in capturing elation. Especially on a crowded second train at 3am.
Snowboarding in Rizutsu after the ice festival belonged in the realm of divinity. It broke our early, and unfortunate snowless curse. A friend suggested that powder snow is actually 97% air, making it the closest thing to riding clouds known to man. In Rizutsu, we rode fields of overcast from the sunny side.
The old man wakes again, with a jack hammering noise, he randomly points his gloved hand at me. “Samuri,” He says pointing at my bicep. Apparently, he’s a real jokester. My veins are probably protruding because of high blood pressure and nothing to eat. “Tapu-Tapu,” I respond, which is what I think is “Im fat(full).” After Sappuro, its the most true statement I can muster in Japanese.
Somewhere around 4am, Eddie and I hit our travel rhythm we explode from our sketchy train, with renewed excitement. Five hours down, 10 more to go, but we don’t know that yet.