I am now sitting in a pile of pillows in a hostel common room in Australia’s Blue Mountains, watching some germans cannoodle and listening to what should be someone’s private conversation via skype. But let me take you back to the start of my trip.
I arrived home to Pennsylvania after an amazing year in New Zealand last October, where I stayed for a few months until my brothers wedding. I booked a flight to Sydney and got my work visa, planning on repeating my NZ experience in the land of Oz. Some of my fellow
liftys from Cardrona started planning a snowboarding trip to Japan, leaving from Sydney the day after I would be arriving, and somehow talked me into coming along. Logistically, this made no sense at all. Oh yeah I’ll be totally fine to fly 34 hours to four countries and three continents in three days. Jet lag? Nah, I’ll just snowboard through it! Gear? Sure I can fit all my snow gear and 15 months worth of stuff for my time in blistering hot Australia on my back! Money? I’d love to sell my kidneys on the black market in Tokyo! Despite all odds, I survived the trip.
We did our snowboarding in Niseko, which is up in Hokkaido. “We” being me, Elise (Australian) and Katie (Scottish). We also met up with Brad and Brendan, all of us having met each other working on the slopes in NZ. The powder was incredible, waist deep between the trees and so light you moreso floated down the mountain than anything else. Well, most people did. I am a skier, but since Katie had an extra snowboard I figured it would be cheaper and easier for me to just ride her board. Why was Katie traveling around with two snowboards you may ask?
I think now would be an appropriate time to tell the rad story. Let me clarify, while the story is in and of itself rad, by the “rad story” I mean to explain the history of how most things in my life have become centered around the idea of “getting rad.” Ah, the beginning of it all.
So as liftys back in NZ, we often found ourselves working at inconvenient spots on the mountain when extreme weather conditions may otherwise have inspired us to stay home. One day, Katie and a few of the other lifty girls were trying to make their way back to base in 100 km/hr winds. Getting back included one particularly tricky cat track that most snowboarders dreaded in the best of times. This cat track wasn’t just a random flat and winding run like you may be thinking, surrounded by snow-covered alternative routes. It was instead more like a road in rural Greece, if you go off the edge you are surely tumbling down a Cliffside. As the girls were having some difficulty getting anywhere in the winds, they stopped at one point along the track to rest and regroup. Katie decided to unstrap her bindings and sit on her board, but before she got the chance to sit down a huge gust of wind came and blew her snowboard off the side of the mountain.
As liftys need to have boards or skis to get around for work, the Cardrona workshop said they could hook Katie up with a major discount from their distributor for a new board. She could pick her size and style, but she couldn’t choose the graphics. Enter: The Rad Board. Katie’s new board arrived as fantastic as could be. Complete with pictures of a moose smoking a cigar, Iron Maiden mix tapes, a skeleton head with sunglasses, and a picture of the snowboard, on the snowboard, it also screams in bright neon letters “Let’s Get Rad!”
The awesomeness of the board, along with the ridiculous nature of how it came into our lives, turned “Let’s Get Rad” into the lifty mantra for the rest of the season. A large group of us even had shirts made in different neon colors bearing the phrase. When we went to Japan, Elise decided to get t-shirts made that would say “Let’s Get Rad” in Japanese letters. The letters were pronounced “Rado Eyo” which when translated back says “Rad will be obtained.” Pretty much the best thing ever. At the end of the season, when a lot of the snow had started to melt, Brenden miraculously went and found Katie’s original board on his lunch break, hardly a scratch on it, leaving her with two snowboards and an awesome story to tell. Now back to my trip to Japan.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to find Japan was not as Westernized as I had expected it to be. It was a nice change to have a real culture shock. Once we were at the resort in Niseko it was not as hard to find English speakers to help us get around, but our journey to, from, and in between proved to be much more difficult. Elise, Katie, and I stuck out like Richard Simmons at a Republican Convention with our blonde hair, bright ski jackets, and ridiculous amounts of gear as we tried to make our way around on the public transportation of Tokyo, where we spent a few days after our snowboarding adventures in Hokkaido.
The best way to explain Tokyo is the simple phrase “head explosion”. Basically, extreme over stimulus from all of the lights and people and random toys spinning about in circles in shop windows makes you feel like you are having a bad acid trip. We spent our days aimlessly hopping on and off metros, wandering the streets like lost puppy dogs, eating mystery food purchased from department store basements next to trash cans in the street because we didn’t know where else to go, and repeating the phrase “It’s hard to tell.”
“What do you think this is?”
“It’s hard to tell.”
“Is this a brothel or restaurant?”
“It’s hard to tell.”
“It’s hard to tell.”
You get the idea. Outside of Tokyo central, we also checked out some interesting street markets, bathed in smoke at a Shinto temple, and sat down (on the floor) for an authentic Japanese meal of Sashimi and mystery meat. We tried to cram as much sightseeing in as possible in the short time we had, but the trip was mainly for the snowboarding (which I highly recommend!). I will have to go back again and spend some more time really soaking in the culture.