Thursday, 24 February 2011

Video: Myoko ski lift

The lounge position.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Student light project

I really enjoy the projects my school's art teacher creates with the students, and so I always go to see the exhibitions the students hold. This month was a light project, and as always there was lots of really beautiful creations. Here are a couple...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Takamori decor

Bridge decor.

Graveyard decor.

Cafe decor.

Tasty decor.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A carpet of white

The drive/parking area outside my house.

View from my front room. There are rice fields under that snow.

Nothing escapes the snow.

Digging out my car in the morning.

On the way to work... notice the droopy trees. This road is lined with them, and after heavy snow they sag right down to the road. Some days it's like driving through a tunnel of leaves. When the snow melts they spring back up again.

Blind curve. Not the place to slide the car.

Orchards in my village.

Icy hands.

My tree at school.


Monday, 14 February 2011


Spider-Ben and Jake lead the way.

The best thing about winter in Japan is the snowboarding. Certainly, sitting at home slowly freezing to death isn't much of an option, making the choice rather easy. This weekend we headed up to my favourite Japanese resort, Myokokogen in Niigata, the prefecture to the north of Nagano. To say they get a lot of snow is an understatement. Most of the roads there are flanked with 12ft drifts of snow, shifted off the road every day by huge snow-eating machines.

Spider-Ben losing momentum.

My boot considers the ride down.

We headed up on Saturday for a two-day trip, staying in Landmark Onsen Cafe, the lovely place we stayed at last year. On our first day of snowboarding the visibility wasn't fantastic but ok to board in. Unfortunately we managed to miss our last shuttle bus back to the cafe. Cold, hungry, alone and scared (slight exaggeration), we sat huddled in a rental shop pondering an hour walk back in a heavy blizzard. Much to my delight and our saviour, my brain wasn't as cold as I thought and was working quite well. I spotted a staff shuttle bus in the carpark outside and went over to him to see where he was going - if we could reduce the distance to our lodgings from within the comfort of a bus it would have been preferable. I explained we missed our last bus and needed walking directions to the cafe and he looked at us if we were crazy. Then we experienced, yet again, the incredible kindness and helpfulness that I love Japan for most: he offered us a lift home with the staff. An hour later we were sat roasting in an onsen, then an hour after that we were filled with ramen and chilling out at our lodgings for the night.

Trees trees trees.

Snowboarder style.

The following day visibility was amazing and we had an amazing time. I managed to master toe-edge (it's been a long wait since last winter) finally, as did Ben, and we snow-surfed that mountain to our hearts content.

The icicle of Damocles: 6ft of impending doom.

I think this shrine is closed for, er, some time.

Digging the car out after a long day of boarding is what I really look forward to.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Winter cometh!

Well, winter has arrived with vengeance, and depending on who I speak to it could be colder or warmer than last year. Not that helpful, really. Regardless, it's damn cold. After three days in a row of finding my shower head cracked, it finally dawned on me to remove it at night and keep it in my bedroom. It quickly solved the problem (I had to repair it three times though), but not the one of the shower itself freezing, unfortunately. Every day I go to it and must "defrost" if carefully before I use it. A burst pipe in a wooden house would be quite inconvenient.

Ajimabashi across the Tenryu river.

My toilet freezes too. And the pipe to my washing machine. I couldn't quite believe it was that cold until I bought a thermometer and realised my bedroom was around -6 degrees every night. Lovely. I had to laugh one morning when I went to the bathroom and found a four-inch icicle hanging out of the tap.

Snow-covered rice fields in my village.

Nevertheless, when it snows it warms everything up, and the snow is, as always, very pretty.