... not to say that this Monday, 20th of December, didn't work, per say - it was, more or less, a standard representation of all my Mondays in Japan thus far. There were classes to teach and meetings to attend. There were trains to catch, and many a Japanese verb to be absorbed. What this title is meant to convey is that holidays are imminent, Santa has boarded the sleigh, and all desire on my part to function as a desirable and worthy employee have flown the whatever. I wouldn't want to give you the wrong impression though - I haven't been slaving away to any particular degree, I simply feel that I have clocked enough hours in 2010 to satisfy karma, and it's time for some R&R (Rice Wine and Restaurants). Tomorrow's post will likely be entitled similarly, with a "Tuesday" substitution. Creativity only flows so far.
This weekend was just gone was spent at the abode of my errant manfriend, who is currently earning his keep nurturing the young minds of Niseko. He is also nurturing a healthy ego, given that the question he is most commonly asked by his winsome charges is "How big is your penis?" It seems that the black man stereotype pervades all four corners, and the blurred boundaries where Sri Lankan meets African American don't seem to matter much when tens of small Asian fingers are groping for your long-john clad package.
I departed on Friday afternoon, directly from school, which involved the carting of one small but densely packed suitcase through the slushy, awful streets of Motomachi (yes, I need a suitcase for one weekend's visit, no I didn't wear all five dresses that I packed, no, no lessons have been learnt). Manfriend is lucky that I love him. The train ride was uneventful (Aside: was totally, utterly engrossed in newest over-priced book purchase, The Windup Girl by Paolo Someone (odd name, but he never gets anyone else's mail) - 'tis a Brave New World for our braver newer world, and comes highly recommended) and it didn't seem like long before I was in the arms of Manfriend in the cold streets of Kutchan (actually, we restrained ourselves 'til we were indoors, Aravin being loathe to publicly disclose both length and girth to the inquiring public). Kutchan is the main township in Niseko, though the majority of tourism occurs in nearby Hirafu ('coz they've got the slopes. Dude). It is small and perfectly formed, and the snow didn't cease during my whole visit. Aravin's apartment is much the same as the suburb in which it is located, so it is lucky that his only piece of furniture is a futon. His apartment is an accurate reflection of everything you've ever read about Japanese living - this kitchen is in the dining room is in the bedroom. Nonetheless, the smallness makes for easy heating and the lack of furniture forced us to remain in bed. Don't cry for me, so.
That night, we partook of Genghis Khan in a nearby restaurant, then of vodka in an adjacent bar. Everything about Kutchan has that kind of indie/local feel that can never be imitated. The staff were friendly and receptive to foreigners without being overwhelmed, and it was a wonderful feeling, after the lengthy commutes I face daily, to know that we were dining a stone's throw (and I really, really do throw like a girl) from bed and warmth and sleep. I am a city girl, no doubt, but my laziness likes the life lived within a kilometer diameter. It's the Wellington in me singing for its supper (Matterhorn, preferably).
Saturday, we did stuff. For reals. We walked in the snow. I bought some gloves (snow is COLD). I saw my first ski slope (still immune to the charms of slope-schussing, but am aiming to fix this. Sometime). We explored Hirafu (which is to say, we walked 100 meters down a hill, found an Italian restaurant, and ate feta for the rest of the afternoon). Hirafu is a unique area in Japan, described as being the place where the Japanese go when they want to experience a foreign country, but don't care to actually get on a plane/learn another language/experience Western racism firsthand. Hirafu is a key destination for skiers and boarders and, to my horror, Australians. All the staff at the Italian restaurant were Italian. All the walkers we passed on our brief sojourn outside were Australian. And I spent a full ten minutes in the company of a fully Australian family in a bus stop, at the conclusion of which encounter I was ready to put my face to a barbeque (my brain just made some connection with Australians and barbeques, sorry if this is too graphic, what with the mental image of my eyeballs melting through the grill and whatnot).
The night was spent in the company of Alistair (and an extensive collection of his friends), a JET local to Niseko, celebrating a birthday (you can tell we're heaps close). We ate, we drank. A nomi/tabe was provided at Wild Bill's and I got to play my first game of pool in 4 months (I lost, but I'm pretty sure that Aravin cheated, and there was an earthquake and I broke my arm). After dinner, we indulged in yet another uniquely Japanese celebration of drinking culture - a night at a club, in which one paid a $30 door charge in exchange for free drinks 'til dawn. I fail to understand how this is even legal. After the first half hour, everyone in the club was totally soaked and thoroughly inflammable, as people (Australians) embraced the concept of "free drink", and expanded it to include "free tequila power shower for all and sundry".
Sunday arvo, I trained back on in to the Big Smoke, and here I am, blogging away once more. I'm a little jaded right now, suffering from a Clothing Failure (one of the worst kinds of Failures). I wore my favourite boots to school today (ones which fulfill the dual Japanese requirements of being both waterproof and easy to remove (their penchant for the removal of footwear is wearing)), but said boots chose this Monday of Mondays ("tell me why...") to fail at the former requirement. My socks were soaked before the end of the driveway and I had been properly introduced. Thus, when I got to school, I carefully arrayed both socks and shoes (aside: the Japanese word for "socks" literally translates as "under shoes". Genius, no?) in front of the heater and left them there for some three hours. When I returned from class, my JTE met me with a concerned expression and the intriguing words "Are your boots ok? Their mouths are open?" Fearful that my boots had succumbed to temptation and eaten my socks, I investigated, only to find that the temperature and veracity of the heater, combined with the cheapness of the boots had resulted in the unfortunate parting of the upper of my boot from the sole. They looked exactly like overheated dogs, with tongues hanging loose. It would have been amusing, had it not been so heart-breaking. It is REALLY hard to get size 8 shoes in Japan.
I swore. A lot. Everyone else in the office was unsympathetically amused.
After brief contemplation and a failed experiment with staples, I took my now dry but utterly useless boots to the janitor. With some gentle mime, he managed to understand my predicament, and I am now the proud owner of two carefully superglued boots.
I'm also the new owner of a pair of $200 Timbalands with leopard-fur inners (they're a size 7.5, but toes are overrated). Today's wisdom: boots from the Number One Shoe Warehouse are not worthy adversaries of Sapporo Snow.