Yesterday, marked せつぶん(節分)(The division of seasons), the day before the beginning of spring according to the lunar calendar. I got to school, and found this on my desk:
So basically, this is how it goes: Someone in your house puts on this mask (the Spring Demon) and everyone in the house stands in the entryway with peanuts (or beans) and throws them at the demon inside the house. (Wouldn’t wanna be that lucky son of a gun, eh?) The beans, or peanuts, represent expelling the evil spirits and bringing in good fortune. People throw the beans at the demon while they chant, “Demons out, happiness in!” Or something like that. Demons are bad, mmmk? So why’s this one so cute? I was told by a teacher of mine that this ritual is often done by little kids in Japan, and they don’t want to scare the poop outta them, so instead, they make the demons have cute faces! Apparently this one is a chick. I asked my sensei friend why this lady has a mustache, and he just said, “I don’t know. Maybe demons are ugly, and women with mustaches are ugly… so she has a mustache?”
Anyway, while tons of people in Aomori-ken rejoice at the news that spring has finally come, I silently weep inside my beautifully comfortable home, gripping my snowboard boots and begin analyzing my time bending skills to figure out how to make my winter last as long as possible.
Either way, in case you need further instruction on who throws what at who, they provide you with cute little illustrated directions, as they always do, here in Japanland:
Like I said before, winter and summer are my favorite seasons. Winter has brought some of the best friends Kyle and I have made here in Japan, straight from the icy parts of Iwaki-san, Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort. Every season we ride with our little crew called “Naturarhythm”, Shinji, Waka, Wani, Toru and Suguru. Some crazy dudes that throw down harder in the park then I have experienced so far in my life. We just all basically push each other to be better riders as much as we can, and celebrate each other when we accomplish big things on the snow. It’s really rad. But, there are no other ladies in our crew. In fact, I’ve been searching high and low for a cool and fun chick to ride with since I got here. And this is where Yuka comes in.
She is young and crazy. She is a BLAST to ride on the hill with. She tries any trick, and pushes me to be a better female rider too. She’s a perfect snowboard companion. I love riding with the Naturarhythm dudes, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about riding with another girl that gets me super stoked to try new things on jumps and rails. I’d met her last year, but we’d never really said more then a couple words to each other. Finally, we friended each other on FB and the magic happened! She told me she started studying English more so she could talk to me, and she hoped that someday she could be almost fluent. Now, when we ride the lift, we have mini English study sessions. It’s pretty cool. Two weeks ago we took 1st and 2nd in a nighttime rail jam at our resort, so it was a good start to a great friendship!! 🙂
They built us a little snowman and wrote Kyle’s name in Katakana. How cute:) Kyle has definitely enjoyed riding with these guys, and feels like watching guys who’re older than him kill it in the park and throw themselves off giant kickers, reminds him that he has a lot of “time” to just get better and better at snowboarding. It’s what we do… every single Saturday and Sunday, and sometimes even during the week after work:)
I also really love the stuff we can see around town. This is just your ordinary shrine along the side of the road. I mean, it’s pretty in the other months too, but it’s totally breath-taking with snow on it. I see them all over the place. Last winter I realized that I was spending more than 7 bucks a day taking the bus to work. I also realized that I was exercising much less in the winter since it was impossible to ride my bike on ice and snow. So, the best possible answer to my predicament? Get my lazy butt up earlier and walk! And as much as I LOVE getting up at 6AM and leaving my house with darkness still hovering at 6:50, it’s worth it. My walk is 3.7 miles to school, I weigh 128 pounds, I walk this distance at around 3mph. SO, calories burned from walking 7.4 miles a day at this pace!? 502!! So, I save money and stay healthy, all while seeing awesome sites like these little shrines on my way!! TRIPLE WIN!
I just think that winter forces us to get out of the house, and be creative with our time. I don’t have time to get the gym now, so I adjusted my life a little. It’s easy to be anti-social and stay cooped up in the warm area of our homes, which can also be totally fine, but without company it can be a really lonely place to spend your life. It’s cold where we live, and there is a ton of snow. But I love it, and beyond snowboarding there is so much to look forward to. I feel like,the time spent with groups of people seems few and far between in the winter, when getting out of your house and onto the icy roads can be a chore. But when we do, it’s like a huge happy reward!
In fact, this weekend was a perfect example.Remember Sho Narita? The first friend we made here in Japan? He recently followed his dream of owning a pub with a music studio and area for live music. It’s called Robbin’s Nest, located a few blocks from Hirosaki station, and has been open for a few months now! His hope is that it can be a place where both Japanese and foreigners can come and share life with each other. That his place can be one where it encourages Japanese to use their English more, and English speakers can enjoy speaking Japanese. So far, it has been a complete success. I have a few new Japanese friends who read Robbin’s Nest’s FB page just to find out if there are any special events they can come to and meet new kinds of people. It allows the truly shy Japanese person with a reason and a way:) It’s a really beautiful thing. On Saturday night, we celebrated Jake and Travis’ birthday, two ALT’s from the Hirosaki region. We had a blast, and I even invited Yuka and her man to come and hangout. She said she had never spent time with foreigners like she had that night, and was so excited for the opportunity. So, hats off to Sho! Your dreams are coming true! Here is my favorite picture from the night, and quite possibly from my life here in Japan so far:
So, Spring? Hold your friggin horses for a while. Winter makes times like these feel a little bit warmer than they already are.