Entry #3: Hakuba Dec. 31st - Jan. 3rd
So begins the telling of the final chapter in the triology that was my Christmas holidays. It's about damn time, is all I can say. Enough of the dilly-dallying. Let's get to the meat of this entry.
Kyoto came and went. If you read the previous entry you will know how wonderful of a trip that was. If you haven't read it stop now and get your scrolling finger working. I'll wait for you to finish and talk with those who are already caught up to date. So, how's things? Same here. Bought myself a new laptop. A flashy one! Acer, fast as all get-out, etc... I'll take some pictures and show it off like a newborn child. Oh, sorry to cut this short but everyone's all caught up. Pretty good trip, right? Well, guess what? This one is even better!
I got back from Kyoto at around 6 PM on the 30th of December, travelled home, changed my suitcase full of dirty clothes and souveniers to some less dirty clothes and warm clothes. had a drink with the roommate, showed them some pictures and slept very little. I was up at 6 AM catching the train and all night I tossed and turned worrying about missing the bus and messing up the entire remainder of the holidays. I made it to Shinjuku with plenty of time to spare, got my ticket all set, had breakfast at McDonald's (no matter where you are an Egg McMuffin still tastes heavenly after very little sleep) and jumped on the bus. Four hours later I was off in beautiful Hakuba, filled with mountains and several feet of snow! Oh, I saw snow in Kyoto but it barely stuck around to make a Canadian's wish come true. Now, I was surrounded by so much I was actually starting to be sick of its cold. Not really though. After waiting a bit at the bus stop I came to realize that I was probably at the wrong stop since Rina said she would pick me up within a couple of minutes. She called me and I made the revelation much to Rina's chagrin. She rolled around to where I foolishly got off the bus and she introduced me to her sister. Then it was off to her house.
Now, Rina's parents own a quiant B&B in the hills of Hakuba. It is beyond beautiful and they were nice enough to house me for 4 days. They even gave me my own room in the hotel! And fed me! It was fantastic. Rina showed me around, made mention of a few things we may do over the holiday and then immediately put me to work. I cut seeweed into tiny strips for the soup course of tonight's meal way better than Rina! Rina wanted to compete so I did what every guy does when challenge: beat the living pants off of her! Oh, there was no contest! Rina, if you are reading this I apologize for rubbing it in so much but even you gotta admit how bad you got beat! Hahahahaha.
Anyways, after relaxing in the lounge and a few games of chess (a couple wins and a loss, well played Rina!) dinner was served. Now, let me tell you about this first meal because I have not been fed like this since my last family meal back home. 6 courses rolled in and 6 empty plates rolled back out. Starting with a fantastic appetizer, pumpkin soup and salad the main dishes began to roll through. First came a fantastic white fish with lobster sauce and then came a SECOND main! Lamb with black truffles! Good gravy I haven't felt full since leaving home. The final topping came out in the form of homemade mint ice cream. All the while Rina and I played our on-going game of What If... for almost the entire meal. I found out many things that night with the main point being that the argument between hairy vs. smelly still rages on. After a bit more relaxing in the main room we rang in the New Year watching the different temples in Japan unfold their festivities. Around 1:30 I drifted to bed and crashed.
Day 2 brought about the promise of cross-country skiing. Now, I haven't cross-country skiied in well over 3 years and it is definately not something that came back to me like riding a bike...well, if you consider my history with bikes maybe it did! All that crashing and so forth. It was painful and tough as hell but it was fun and well worth the sights. I got some amazing pictures of Rina and I on the mountainside in our crazy get-ups and such. After a bit more skiing we came to the final descent to the bottom of the mountain. Downhill is not even close to my forte so I unsnapped the bindings and jogged/hopped down the hill. Sore beyond all belief but feeling more relaxed than I have felt in a long time we made our way back to the house and relaxed a little more. A couple games of Chairs later (like Jenga but with plastic chairs) we had the traditional New Years meal of sweet preserved fish and meat. More relaxing, more chatting, another game of chess (another sweet victory) and it was time to call it a night.
Day 3 was highlighted with a trip to Nagano and Zenkoji Temple: one of the largest temples in Japan. There were several unique features of this temple: there was this large, octagonal pillar that, if you spun it once, and by spin I mean push with all your might, you would get the same enlightenment as reading the full teachings of Buddhism; there was also an underground path in the main temple building that was pitch black but held within it a metal key that if you touched it, you were given instant access to Heaven (look out Heaven, Don found the key!!). After a fortune that stated I would be prosperous all year, we headed out and found a great noodle restaurant, did a bit of browsing at shops and headed back to the hotel. Since we were all pretty beat we once again crashed in front of the TV. Now, the rumours about Japanese TV are all 100% true! We watched some crazy variety shows, the Hakone Marathon and a wonderful show called Run For Money, in which 12 people are let loose in Shibuya and are chased by suited hunters. $3 was added to the pot every second for a full hour, which is about $10,000 (I think...can someone do the math for me?) The show finished, 1 AM came and reared its ugly head and we prepped for the journey home.
We left Rina's house the next day and drifted around downtown Hakuba visiting the Nagano Olympics Ski Jumping hill, ate some octopus balls (octopus cooked in a cheese sauce and rolled into chicken ball-like form) and hit the bus only to find out that Rina and I were to be on different buses. After 5 hours on the bus back, a finished book and several text messages about who we were stuck beside on our bus later we made it back to Shinjuku. Rina and I parted ways and I headed back home and finished my holidays at home.
And so ends the trilogy. So let it be written, so let it be known.