Hah hah, aren't I just hilarious? I think it's my aching muscles talking.
Well, today I headed up to Hakuba for my first ever attempt at snowboarding. I went to bed early last night (that means midnight) but woke up every 90 minutes or so through nerves and excitement. I was going to catch the train at 7.45am so got up at 6am. At 7am, Yasuko rang to say she had just woken up and would drive up to Hakuba instead. This was grand as when I opened the door I was met with a nice new layer of slush and snow to wade through. Yasuko picked me up at 8am and we headed up to Matsumoto. The weather was not looking good: a mixture of ice, rain and snow, and low cloud. Hakuba is 6000ft above sea-level, so I was worried about being able to see where I was going.
We got to Matsumoto just after 9am and met Saya, a teacher from the Matsumoto school, who had agreed to accompany me on my snowboard adventure. She brought some rather delicious custard and chestnut filled goodies with her, plus green tea, which Yasuko and I munched upon merrily. After getting a little lost, we eventually found the right road to Hakuba and sailed in at 11am, two hours before our lesson was due to start.
We announced ourselves, signed a piece of paper saying that we didn't mind if we died, and proceeded to get kitted up. Snowboard boots are simultaneously very comfy and extremely prohibitive. There's so much ankle support that there is no opportunity to move around once you're in them, which my knees discovered a little later on. We kicked about a little more and then eventually headed over to Happo One with our instructor.
I felt a little nervous about getting on a board, especially when I found out just how much gravity has an effect when you're standing on a slope, strapped to a piece of wood. However, I eventually lost my fear of falling over and managed to get the hang of heel turns, and just about figure out toe turns. Learning this stuff is extremely tiring. Your muscles are not at all used to being treated in such a manner and traipsing back up the hill, digging your board in behind you with each step, is one of the more painful and tedious ways to spend time. However, going downhill is great fun, even when you get scared, or hit an edge and go flying over to eat snow (which is remarkably refreshing to munch on, as I discovered during a little break we had). Whilst I seemed to fall in a particularly unladylike fashion, Saya perfected the art of toppling to the ground gracefully, almost like a ballet dancer with one leg in the air behind her, arms outstretched. All this was done with one foot strapped in. For the last half hour of the lesson we strapped both feet in. Here is where it gets tricky. Shifting your weight from one edge to the other is a little difficult to get the hang off and often results in rather amusing shifts from standing to sprawling. Still, it's merely a matter of practice, something which I definitely want to get more of before the snows disappear.
I came away from Happo One glowing with the exhilaration of having done something I've wanted to do for ages, having throughly enjoyed myself in the process. My glow was further enhanced when Saya and I decided to ease our aching muscles with a trip to an onsen in a nearby hotel. I've almost got over my issues with public nakedness, which is good as this onsen was busy with people doing exactly the same as us. I curled up in an extremely hot bath for about 10-15 minutes until my heart started pounding and I felt light-headed. Onsens are "subarashii".
Afterwards, Yasuko met us outside the hotel and we got takoyaki, something my students recommended to me before I came here. My friend Janan has also made it clear that she loves the stuff, so in order to make her England-bound self jealous, I took photos of me and some octopus balls.
You can check out my photos of today's events here
I'm going to bed now, and when I wake up tomorrow, I expect to be unable to move. I will be taking to bed with me a copy of greygirlbeast
's Tales From The Woeful Platypus
, so that I spend the day reading weirdness and saying "itai!" alot.