Japan Day 4 – Hokkaido

Woke up parched again, but knew that the cold, fresh air would quickly bring me around, and made breakfast this time.  We chose a Japanese restaurant, and had a typical Japanese breakfast of rice, miso soup, fish, vegetables and green tea.  Crystal, feeling brave, grabbed a pot of natto, the sticky, foul-smelling fermented soybean food that nobody really likes but eats out of respect to tradition (like brussels sprouts).  She turned her nose up in disgust upon opening it, and the stench put me off my food.  She gingerly lifted some of the beans out with her chopsticks and lifted them to her mouth, leaving a silken trail of fine goo behind.  Her reaction was enough after it passed between her lips.  Not a fan.

Our bodies really ached today, and it took a while for us to warm up on the slopes.  I felt as stiff as a shirt left out on a washing line on a bitter, icy night in north England, but warmed up after a few runs.  After a curry rice lunch on the East Mountain, I left Crystal to get her confidence on the Easy Trail.  I headed off with Alex and Junko to tackle the slopes of the highest mountain – Mt Isola.  Here were a number of fast and challenging slopes – Heavenly Ridge, Heavenly View, Tiger…and many more with interesting names.  Alex led the way down, followed by me and Junko.  The runs were long, fast and very enjoyable indeed.  The clouds had come down in the morning, so you couldn’t see much in front of you.  It was like driving in thick fog – exhilerating stuff.  At one of the ski lifts Alex pointed out a jolly fellow he called ‘Mr Genki’ who operated the lift.  He was a ridiculously happy fellow, yelling “hai! Dozo!”  with gusto.  Somebody that happy must have a dark side,  I thought.  I told Alex he probably beats his wife at night, and he responded by imagining the darkness behind Elvis’ gaze (the really happy chap with the permasmile who works in the Japanese BBQ place.)….funny if you’d been there.

After working our way up and down Mt Isola and East Mountain, we arrived back at Easy Trail. Crystal had improved a lot by now, so I took her up to the top of the mountain and down an intermediate slope.  We caught the last cable car up of the day, and then we went back to West Mountain for a few runs down White Lover and finished.  Onsen followed, and after 3 days of snowboarding, it never felt so good.  That evening we headed to the Japanese BBQ restaurant for a rendevous with ‘Elvis’ and his permasmile.  He was as grimacingly welcoming as ever, and we got some pictures with him for the memories.  He was inspired by an Osakan comedian I can’t remember the name of, and made us all do his ‘thumbs up’ gimmick.  The food was great, and Alex and I made full use of our 2 hours of nomehodai, knocking back the Kirin with steady and assured ease.  Out into the bitter cold once more, then to our rooms via the hotel reception, where I managed to find the word for ‘humidifier’ in Japanese and borrow one for the room.  Another excellent day and night over with….Alex announced in the restaurant that he had just experienced a ‘moment of pure elation’….and I’d have to concur.

Author: Neil

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