Black Diamond Lodge, Niseko, Hokkaido

Yesterday was our second full day on the slopes. I’m getting gradually better at snowboarding; falling leaf is easy but I still have trouble doing it the proper way, staying in goofy at all times. It’s just a matter of practice and confidence.

Early in the morning I went down a black diamond run by accident. When I realised what it was I sat down on my ass and slowly slid all the way down, which took about 20 minutes. This was in the very centre of the main runs, with chairlifts and gondolas and thousands of other skiiers, so this morbidly embarassing spectacle was very, very public. To cap it off, when I arrived at the bottom and was taking a photo of the ass-groove that ran all the way down the run, a bunch of Japanese kids about 10 years old skiied down real fast and came to a halt right in front of me, showering me with snow.

Laugh it up, jerks

Laugh it up, jerks

Anyway, the reason I was going down the main runs was to get into the village of Hirafu, to get some money, because I was down to my last 1000 yen (20 bucks). The only way I can get money out is through the international ATMs found in post offices. Unfortunately, I discovered that Hirafu doesn’t have a post office, and that I’d have to travel into Kutchen, the mountain’s support town. Incidentally, for a place overrun with Westerners, I have no idea WHY there is no international ATM in Hirafu.

I was waiting at the bus stop for about half an hour before Chris and Ellen showed up. I’m fairly sure Chris only came in because he didn’t think I could manage it on my own. While it’s true that I can’t usually do much, this is only because other people are always doing things for me. When left to my own devices I’m forced to actually do things and manage quite well.

STOP FOLLOWING ME I CAN DO IT MYSELF

STOP FOLLOWING ME I CAN DO IT MYSELF

It wasn’t hard, anyway – just a 20 minute, surprisingly expensive bus ride into Kutchen, and then navigating our way to the post office. Japanese urban areas heavily favour alleyways, and they’re not always easy to tell apart from the streets. We eventually found the post office, where nobody speaks English, and muddled our way through the menu to withdraw 29,000 yen. There was no information whatsoever about what exchange rate it operated on or what the commission fee was, and I left with the distinct feeling that I’d just been raped up the ass.

When we got back to Hirafu the sun had gone down and we decided to try to snowboard home, which didn’t work, because the upper slopes are closed after sunset and we couldn’t get across to the western slopes, which our lodge sits at the bottom of. So we snowboarded allll the way back down hard-packed, icy slopes to the welcome centre to wait for the bus.

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

This was where I made the first of two critical errors of the day. I’d stuffed a bunch of bus timetables and maps into my jacket pocket which I didn’t need anymore, so I took the bundle out and threw it into the bin, then went outside to catch the bus back up to the lodge. Left behind at the welcome centre, amongst the bundle of maps in the bin, was my irreplaceable $800 ski pass, which I had forgotten was in the same pocket as the maps.

The ski pass doubles as a bus ticket, so I first realised something was up when I couldn’t find it to tag off. The bus driver felt me up a bit looking for it, which he found quite amusing, but eventually let me get off anyway. I figured I’d just left it in a different pocket or something.

Panic started to set in when I searched my jacket and pockets thoroughly and couldn’t find it. I’d used it to get on the chairlifts during our night ski, so I knew I’d had it at least within the hour, and – thank God – realised it must have been with the maps in the bin.

Waiting for the bus... again

Waiting for the bus... again

The staff at our lodge phoned the welcome centre and asked them not to throw their rubbish out, so I could catch the next bus down and paw through it looking for the pass. I went down with Jamie, and when we arrived it turned out the staff there had actually gone through the bin themselves and found it for me. After I did some extensive bowing and “domo origatos,” they laughed and said “don’t lose it again” to which I also laughed and gave a thumbs up. Jamie was outside looking over the vending machines and he told me that apparently a thumbs up is “not done” here. So I guess I screwed up the thank-you as well.

Anyway, we walked down into Hirafu to meet up with the others, who were planning to go to the Java Bar for their all-you-can-drink special: 2000 yen gets you an unlimited number of drinks between 9 and 11 pm.

This was where I made my second critical error of the day. We naturally wanted to get our money’s worth, so we drank as much as we possibly could, and I downed a significant amount of Canadian Club, got completely shitfaced and threw up right there in the bar. Rock bottom!

The last time I'd be smiling for about 48 hours

The last time I'd be smiling for about 48 hours

I also threw up in the snow outside, in the bus back to Niseko Village, in the Hilton lobby where we were waiting for a taxi, and in a bucket next to my bed back at the lodge.When I woke up this morning snowboarding was out of the question. I spent nearly the entire day lying in bed feeling wretched, and threw up again in the bathroom. Forunately today was a shit day for snowboarding anyway; everyone came back to the lodge at noon, and then went off to an onsen (hot spring). I considered joining them for that but when I stood up I immediately had to sit back down and said “nope.”

The next day

The next day

So that was today, apart from going in to Seicomart this evening and doing some food shopping, still feeling pretty woozy. I’m not touching alcohol again for the rest of the trip.

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