This post: a catch-up of what's happened since the backcountry trip all the way up to Christmas day.
Leading up to Christmas
There was a "Swingy Christmas" swing dance party with live music the Friday before Christmas. I linked to the video earlier, and here's a lovely group photo to sum things up. I remembered, approximately, two different steps, but hey, fun was had. Also, a new technique for those worried about sweaty palms - I went to the club straight from B'nuts and got pulled into dancing before I could get to a wash basin, which meant I was dancing with chalked hands.
Christmas Eve Karaoke
Just to make sure, we do all realize that Karaoke comes from Japan right? Yeah, it's kinda a big deal here. I went out to join a party that evening and oh. god. it was nothing but straight Christmas songs nearly the whole while, because being forced to listen to them for two months of the year every year since you were born just isn't enough.
Anyways, good times! Went to sleep around four, giving me just enough time to wake up for my second foray into Japanese snow sports.
Skiing at 蔵王 - Zhao
Went with mostly the same group as the backcountry trip to what turns out to be the best resort in north-eastern Japan. I didn't realize that until I came back three days later though, because we only skied half of the mountain on Christmas. Hikichi, another B'nuts fellow, drove us out there and hooked us up with free lift passes, but the passes were only good for half the mountain.
Before I just start throwing down ski pictures, here's a snowy road in Japan. It felt home-y.
Now, taking pictures while snowboarding isn't exactly my forte, but I do have some group shots on the way up in the box.
In the photo above you can see something that's pretty darn rare in Japan - people wearing helmets.
As the morning turned to afternoon a storm came over the peak and began dumping snow. There was one ethereal moment where, between the snow that was falling and the old snow being picked up by the wind, I couldn't see as much as my own snowboard. I could, however, see the bright red jacket of Kanji ahead of me some ways, and nothing but that jacket. It was pretty darn neat.
Snow quality-wise, it was a pretty good day. There were a ton of powder caches that no one seemed to get after, so I spent plenty of time floating. All of the powder coming down in the afternoon means I came home bragging about 4 in the afternoon face-shots from a resort.
On one run between lifts I decided to spice things up by getting some video of Kanji sliding about. It's hardly exciting, but woohoo, a video! The sound is unedited (read: loud wind), the second-quarter of it shakes so much that it's pretty unwatchable, but hey, here it is for the records.
After making it home I met up with a good sized group of friends who had just moved the location of their Christmas party from some british guy's apartment to a yaki-niku tabe-hodai place. So, what the heck is that, right?
Yaki-niku is just grilled meat, and this restaurant was nice in that you do all the grilling yourself on a grill in the middle of your table. Tabe-hodai (食べ放題) is just Japanese "all you can eat", but instead of a buffet you usually buy an ordering time limit. That hodai is the "all you can" bit, and it also shows up behind "drink", creating the Japanese "nomi-hodai", where you're encouraged to order as much alcohol as you can in a two or three hour period. What if something like that existed in America?
The master-of-orders at our table kept the grill, and everyone's plates, loaded at all times. My appetite after snowboarding meant I was too busy stuffing myself to take any photos of our overloaded grill, but luckily someone was keeping track of the evening and was kind enough to let me share her photos here.
On the way home in a group of mixed gaijin (foreigners) and Japanese, we got the best Christmas present of all. It was a drunk Japanese man, wildly insisting that the Japanese girls tell us how incredibly grateful he was for our coming to such a cold and far off place like Sendai, blessing the city with our presence. The girls tried to rat us out by saying we all spoke Japanese, but sometimes pretending not to has its advantages. At one point, he pulled out a ￥5000 ($60+) bill and tried to give it to us, insisting how he wanted us to try sake. For some reason, we never took it. Shameful.