Saturday, February 6, 2010

Alpine Country

If any of you talked to me last week (on Facebook or wherever) you will know that I was feeling particularly homesick. I was staying at a place where virtually no one spoke English, I had no luck getting a Visa and I was feeling a little alone and pointless in this alien world called Japan. One night I spent about 40 minutes trying to get a phone card to work to call home, then I finally got it to work only to find it would only last 7 minutes. I was standing in a phone booth in Kyoto in the middle of the night blubbering into the phone to my mum. She said it would be a good story to tell my kids.

But after that, all the job offers started flowing in. I got two offers of work at the snow and two working in Osaka teaching English. I ended up taking the one in the Japanese Alps at a ski lodge in Hakuba called Aqua Alpine. I get to wait tables and pour drinks at the bar, get cheap accommodation and food and then in the afternoons I get to hone my snowboarding skills. But more about that later.

Before I took the job I travelled down to Hiroshima, a pretty cool city in its own right. On the way I stopped at Himeji to see Himeji Castle, a cool building that the whole city basically grew around back in the 1800s. People are so much nicer in these smaller towns! I hadn't walked 200m from the station when an old man struck up a conversation with me about Australia. In Hiroshima I went to the Peace Memorial Park where there was a building still in the condition it was in on August 6th 1945 when the Americans blew Hiroshima off the map by dropping an atomic bomb. I went through the museum and unlike the Vietnam War Museum, it was very balanced and presented Japan as being just as responsible as America in the events that lead up to the dropping of the bomb. The museum was more about trying to stop the development of nuclear bombs and trying to achieve peace. It pretty much dobbed in all the countries that still possess nuclear weapons (you could imagine which ones they would be) and had a lot of stuff about the after effects, etc. While looking at the Children's Peace Monument I got hassled by some lovely ladies from Jehovah's Witness. You can't escape them.

Then I caught a ferry to a little island called Miyajima which was a cute little place. There were deer everywhere hassling people for food and a floating temple on the shore. I wanted to do a hike to the top of the mountain on the island, but I ran out of time as it takes 4 hours. That night I had the best meal in Japan so far. Hiroshima is famous for its Okanami-yaki which is a type of savoury pancake cooked teppanyaki style. They cook the pancake then just heap a whole lot of stuff on top - cabbage, noodles, squid, prawns and bacon all with delicious sauces and spices. It was so good. And the guys who cooked it were a lot of fun, trying out their English on me. I washed it all down with a glass of sake for a perfect Japanese meal.

The next day I went back to Kyoto, before heading up the mountains to my new job. The train ride was amazing, as was the fact that trains even go out there. They must have to clear the tracks of snow ten times a day. It was snowing when I arrived and everything was covered in a thick layer of white powder. When I woke up the next morning and looked out the window, it was cool to see the snow falling down, and I felt like a little kid waking up on Christmas day, even though I've only ever known hot Christmases. This place is owned by Aussies and partly by Steven Bradbury, the guy who famously won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics by letting everyone else fall over. Most people that work here are also Aussie, apart from two Japanese girls I am sharing a room with. I help them with their English and they help me with my Japanese :) Not that I need it up here, the place is overrun by Aussies.

I went snowboarding for only the second time in my life yesterday and it was amazing. Everyone at the hotel rallied together to lend me some gear and I got out there and did the Beginners run about 5-6 times. By the end I wasn't falling over quite so much and was pulling off some nice turns. I could get good at this by the end of March!

So that's where I'm at right now, and I will probably stay here until the end of March before flying to Malaysia. I will have to upload some snow shots onto Facebook at some point.

Keep the messages coming, I love hearing about what you're all up to!

x meg x


  1. Glad to hear you got a job~! Be careful with snowbroading so you don't hurt yourself like I did. My tailbone is still smarting 3 days later (>.<)

  2. My tailbone smarted for weeks! I'm so glad to hear this, Meegs, I hope you have a ball and get to see a few things in the meantime. Can't wait to see you in about six weeks. Sounds like you're actually doing better than me right now :)
    All my love, Jacq xoxo

  3. Hi there. Jarome just told me of your blog...great to read bout your adventures. memories you will keep for life! Sounds fab! We're bout to try to water ski on pondage,sort of something different, but nothing to write home to mum about. lol!....I have a friend with a daughter who teaches english in Kyoto, i think. Could get a contact for you if u want. reading any books??...hehe.. luv julie

  4. hey julie! yeah, it's a fair bit of reading haha. I think i am right for a job now, which eases the burden a bit. finshed shantaram before i even got to japan, which is good because it was too thick to carry around! reading a japanese author now, really weird book.

  5. i assume you picked up a murakami book then? :)