Japan Part Six - Ski Bunnies and Snow Monkeys

We're almost done with the Japan posts and as I think back on this trip, I realize a lot of what sticks out in my mind is what ends up sticking out after most adventures -the random moments. Like doing the Cupid Shuffle in the middle of a train station, or singing Disney Show Tunes at the top of my lungs with Sarah on the ski lifts, or watching Sarah bound into her first ever Karaoke performance, take the mic, and start dancing like she was on fire. 

(Karaoke there is different from karaoke in the U.S. You get your own private room with a waiter and you sing in front of just your friends around a table rather than getting up in front of an entire place full of rowdy strangers. We definitely had fun but it got better when the aussies who worked at our lodge showed up unanounced and joined us (while telling each other "I love them!" as they watched in amazement at us all hopping around like grasshoppers on speed.)

Another moment I remember was in the middle of our crazy luggage dragging fiasco through the snow and the crowded train station when Adrian came back to the group all relaxed and stated "I know this will sound sissy-like, but you all should walk out into the middle of the crowds hurrying to their trains -- and just...be...."

So I did. I left the group and stood right in the middle of the station and let all the people rush around me like I was a rock in the middle of a raging river. It was zen. ...and it was sissy-like. But I think that moment will stick with me too. Kind of like the moment I had in Morocco after 10 days of being stuck in a group on a set itinerary where we were finally let loose in a giant market (souk) on our own, and I let all time and space go and allowed myself to just get lost in that souk, meandering with no sense of direction until it was time to leave. I think I need to do that in D.C. more often. Maybe stand in the middle of Pennsylvania Ave and let the tourists and protesters just swarm around me...until Secret Service gets suspicious and asks me what the heck I'm doing....

Ahem.Back to Japan.

I'm trying to figure out how to synthesize my snowy experience into a short post. So here are more highlights, rapid fire:

-We skiied on the same mountain as the 1998 Olympics.

Sarah and Adrian looking very Olympic

-We skied in a cloud, we were that high up.

This was taken right before one of those guys pumped his fist in the air, smiled at us, and  headed over the crest to ski in the cloud. Magic.

-Japanese lift tickets are electronic, which left us having to awkwardly molest the scanner with whatever pocket we stuck the lift ticket in:

Lindsay getting up close and personal^

My fear of exiting chair lifts was reinforced.

So, the chair lift has always been what I get anxious about when I'm skiing. It probably stems from the time my friend knocked me over while we were getting off of one and I fell on my butt so hard that my legs went numb and I had to be dragged, half-laughing, half-tearing up off the ground before someone else came off the lift on top of me.
Sarah knocked me off the lift in Hakuba. Sigh. Looks like that fear isn't going anywhere...

-I had ski malfunctions. Of course.

I realized after we were on the slopes that once I took my left ski off -- I really couldn't get it back on. I got so afraid of it that I refused to unclip that side, even when I needed to walk up hills. Which left me hobbling, one boot in a ski, one not, using my pole like a cane trying to get over to a lift we needed.

Hot, right? What made it even more humorous was that there is music playing all over the slopes there, which I captured on video once while I was slowing inching along waiting for Sarah on one run. That video is below. So picture the scene above, with the music here:

And you get a better picture of what Sarah got to enjoy walking behind me.

-And when we finally got back from the last day of skiing that I did, I started to take my boots off -

...and couldn't.

Somehow, one of the buckles had shoved itself in the wrong way and I was left helplessly tugging until Sarah found me and joined in and finally one of the Aussies had to join in and I finally force the thing back in place so I could finally get my foot back.

So. Typical.

Anyway, after the skiing adventures ended, we took a trip to visit  -SNOW MONKEYS!

On the way there, we rode in a bus along snowy roads, and Rebecca and I entertained ourselves by giggling at the signs we didn't understand. Like:

So...we veer left....etc.?

We also saw signs before tunnels that had the word Nishi on the end, making it appear that the signs were pointing the way toward the "Tunnel...ish."

It entertained Rebecca and I at least.

The other thing that entertained us was my cobbling together a solution to my lack of water-proof footwear, which I realized too late that we needed for the monkey tour. I came up with this:

It worked. So judge all you want.

We continued on the bus, with our tour guide who looked just like Abe Lincoln:

Right? Then we finally arrived at the snow monkeys' natural habitat -- the hot springs they took over years ago.


When in Nagano....^

My heart strings just snapped into pieces

The monkeys were magical. They were everywhere, running past us, jumping in and out of their own personal hot tub, stealing hand warmers out of our friend's pockets. Adorable.

After the hot springs, we went on a tour of a large Buddhist shrine complete with a pitch-black, underground passage where people were supposed to have enlightening experiences.

I of course had to try it.

No one would go with me because it cost money and because, well, it was a pitch black underground tunnel. 

I went for it anyway.

And couldn't complete the mission. Sigh.

It really was pitch black and I had been told to just keep following the tunnel, my right hand placed at a specific height on the wall to be my guide. There was no one else anywhere around and as I got to the point where I absolutely couldn't see in any direction -- I bolted back out the way I came.

And I felt no more enlightened than when I went in. What a waste of Yen.

But the shrine was pretty anyway.

 Next stop -- Kyoto!