This is Life

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Absolutely Unbelievable

First of all, I would like to congratulate myself on becoming an uncle again. My sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Taiya (pronounced Teya) on January 8th, the day before I returned to Japan. Thanks for popping her out a few days early, sis.

Anyway, the snow level here in Japan before I left was about 2 meters. This was by far the most snow I had ever seen in my life so you can imagine how amazing it was for me to see over 4 meters of the stuff piled up by the time I returned. Perhaps, you didn`t hear me ... I said 4 METERS!!! That is almost 1.5 stories or the height of some street lamps. The build the road signs extra high here, but they are still not high enough. Does that mean that I have license to speed because I can`t see the speed limit signs ... or the stop signs, or yield signs, or even around any corners. Driving here is a bit like being in a waterslide. You can`t see around the corners or over the edge to your sides, it is extremely slippery, and you are pretty much powerless to go anywhere but where the ruts in the road choose to take you. In that sense, I suppose it is also a lot like those annoying, boring rides at cheap amusement parks that put you in a car, which is fixed on a track and you just do a big loop until you are back at the start. I mean, I can honk the horn and pretend like I am steering or braking, but it really is just for show. So that has been interesting.

Hmm, what else? Well, I suppose I could tell you about the time I returned to my apartment only to find all of the water therin completely frozen. I am sure you have guessed that I am refering to the plumbling. I should remind you that I am also refering to the toilet. Frozen solid as a block, it was. My first instinct was to melt snow over the stove, but that doesn`t work so well if your gas has also stopped working.

I had no solution to the gas problem, but I did have a remedy for the frozen plumbing. I have an entry way, which includes my kitchen and bathroom, and it can be sealed of from the rest of the apartment by a set of sliding doors. My plan was to put my kerosene heater in there and leave it on all night. I had previously left the heater on in the entire apartment for 24 hours, but this hadn`t worked, hence the more direct measure. Anyway, after turning the heater on at midnight and then quickly falling asleep I was satisfied my remedy would work. And work it did! I awoke at 4am to hear to sweet sound of dripping coming from my front room. I was so releaved to hear this and I nearly drifted back to sleep. Before I lost all touch with reality the thought occured to me that maybe I heard too much water dripping. So, I climbed out of bed and investigated. What I found was quite interesting. It turns out that my entire front entry, kitchen, and bathroom was under at least an inch of water. It was pretty funny. Thankfully, the electric rug that lies in that room soaked up a good bit of the water, but it took about 15 towels and innummerable rings of said towels to actually get the room to very moist, rather than water-logged. Oh, by the way, the electric rug wasn`t turned on at the time, otherwise I`d be dead.

How did this happen, you ask? Well, it turns out that when I said the plumbing was frozen I meant it. The drains were also frozen so there wasn`t a single drop getting out. Ah, the joys of living in a country with no central heating.

There was a pretty big buzz about the snow in these parts because we have been on the news all around the world (CNN, BBC, etc.). I am told it is the most snow in 70 years, but I think it is the most snow since 1945, when they had 7 meters of snow. I can`t even imagine that, but in reality we are not so far from getting there. January and February are the snowiest months in these parts.

In terms of more local news, well, a guy did fall off the roof at my school yesterday. That`s right, fell off the roof. To tell you the truth, I have been pretty tempted to jump off the third floor of my school recently, but that is only because there is so much snow you can`t imagine getting hurt by the fall. In fact, maybe I will test my theory on a few students. Maybe not. Anyway, the guy was ok and I guess he didn`t actually make it all the way to the ground. He was left dangling by a rope until the fire department came to the rescue. Pretty cool, actually, unless he got hurt. Then it just sucks.

Oh, as for what he was doing on the roof, well, he was shovelling snow, of course. You see, even though they have removed the snow periodically as it has piled up, we still had 2-3 meters of it on the roof. As I mentioned in the previous entry, this stuff is not really snow, but white cement. A cubic meter weighs about 300kgs (650 pounds) so it puts tremendous pressure on the buildings (I didn`t actually measure how much it weighs, but it sounds about right*). On the first floor they put 2x6 wooden boards up in front of the windows to reduce the pressure. When I first saw them putting them up I thought that it was a bit rediculous and excessive, but in reality, it is not enough. Many of the windows have cracked because the snow has pushed the boards in against the windows.

So, what is the good of all of this snow? Well, it does provide the region with amazingly pure water and this is why it produces the world`s best rice and best sake, which are what the region is famous for. It is perhaps more famous, however, for the skiing. There are 19 ski hills within a 20 minute drive of me and I got a pass to all of them for under $150 CDN. There are also dozens more within an hour, but I`d have to pay about $40-50 for those. Most of the hills also are lit up at night so I can go after work. Now that you mention it, I am actually going snowboarding today after work.

Things to look forward to are the sumo tournament I am going to watch this weekend and the weekend I will be spending in Nagano a couple weeks from now. I will also try and write a bit about the Fire Festival that saw extremely inebriated villagers beating each other with flaming torches and pine branches, whilst simultaneously trying to ignite a giant wooden statue/structure-thing on fire. Oh, and I forgot to talk about the interesting experience I had at a slightly more traditional hotspring. Check back often and have a look-see at the pictures.

* Seriously, I did read this somewhere


At 3:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you started talking about your toilet being frozen, I really only thought of one way to unfreeze the toilet water...would've taken a lot of pee, but I think it would have worked!!


At 8:30 AM, Blogger katat0nik (JaneKL) said...

Gorgeous photos - I love your snow pics on flickr!

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha, very funny story! Cute pic of the bub as well :P

~Holly ((the girl from the plane from Calgary to Vancouver))

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