2018 holiday letter

This year, I decided that we should answer our friends’ questions in our end of year blog post. Lauren agreed. Power to the people! Give the people what they want! Here we go…

What moment in the last year would you like to rewind back to and play again to reappreciate the experience? 

R: About a week after I arrived in Japan, I went skiing at Rusutsu Ski Resort with Mattias, Lindsay, and Jason. Even though it was early in the season, there was a ton of powder and no one at the resort. We skied until we, or at least Jason and I, couldn’t feel our legs. That day was pretty magical and I’d love for it to happen again.

L: Probably New Years. Jason and I went skiing up Mt Cypress and it was pretty fun.

What moment in the last year would you like to rewind back to and edit or erase?

R: On one ski day, I fell into a glide crack in Japan. In Japan, falling into glide cracks while you are skiing happens relatively often; the cracks are typically not marked or hard to see. But, this time, I was over-ambitious about my ski abilities and decided to go for it even though I probably didn’t need to.

L: I have no regrats!

What’s the best recipe you cooked all year?

L: South African peanut stew. [We typically do a hybrid of these two recipes: https://www.cbc.ca/food/recipes/oh-she-glows-soul-soothing-african-peanut-stew and https://pinchofyum.com/freezer-meal-spicy-sweet-potato-peanut-stew]

R: Laksa. [https://www.recipetineats.com/laksa-soup/]

Did you break any personal bests/records?  In what? 

L: I skied 2500 metres in one day at Phelix Creek with Jason. Every route and line was really good. We did a line called Return of the King that had a dodgy entrance with cornices. We were able to go quickly into the valley to get away from danger; the line had really nice snow and steep sections.

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Lauren and Virginia skinning up in Phelix Creek

R: I climbed “Old and Serious” which was my first Squamish V3 bouldering problem.

What was your favourite thing you tried for the first time this year?

L: Machining as a job because I like making stuff.

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Prototype 1: Block with hole

R: Canning! I canned twenty pounds of tomatoes this year. It wasn’t enough because we ran out in two months.

Approximately what percentage of your clothing is from Arc’teryx?

L: 98% from Arc’teryx, and the other 2% is underwear, socks and hats. And those were bought using a pro-deal. [Rosemarie thinks it’s more 85% Arc’teryx/10 % Pro-deal/5% Thrift Store]

R: 60% from Arc’teryx. [Lauren thinks it’s 60%, but slowly creeping up]

Our worst offenses of 2018:

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G3 Ion bindings get hella jammed with hella snow
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Taken by Steve at Julie’s place during Dad’s visit

As you carve out your life, what are the themes that are consistent from year to year? 

R: Experiencing different places, trying new things and learning.

L: Climbing, food, and generally being outdoors. [Rose thinks smelly footwear, increased noodle consumption YOY, and large coffee pots]

What are your core values?   

R: Y’all are a bunch of serious questioners! My core values are dependability, genuineness, and growth.

L: I don’t even know how to answer that? Maybe being outside.

All done. Thanks for the questions. This year was awesome! Here are my fave family photos from 2018:

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Family at the UBC Apple Festival in October
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Made by Danny – no explanation needed
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mandatory reflection post

I always feel the need to write a reflection post after a big trip. Not sure why I feel this way, but I’m going to do it anyway. My thoughts after my time in Japan are:

  • Travelling in Asia is less scary than I anticipated
  • Asian food is yummy
  • Japanese powder snow is nice
  • Working in a restaurant with nice people is fun
  • I want to go to Japan again (and again and again)
  • I could live in Japan for a while
  • Living in Japan for a while as a foreigner could be challenging
  • Living in Korea also seems cool
  • Japanese is hard to learn
  • Japan has a large number of great toilets

Lauren finished his school program a week after I got back. We took a couple of weeks off and went to Whistler and Seattle. Now he is working as a machinist in a small shop. So far, he lurrrrrves it.

I just realized that Lauren is wearing the same sweater in every photo. How eco.

Not sure if I mentioned it previously, but I was laid off while I was on my leave of absence so I have been applying to work at a ton of places. I’m hoping to find something outdoor gear, health, food, sports, or tourism related. This month, I have been contracting for bumble bloom (a new vegan honey product) to help with their production and order fulfillment. I am writing this post as I wait for a lava cauldron of product to finish. I have listened to a tooonnnn of podcasts. I will be giving out samples at Veg Expo which may be a good time for me to network a bit more.

I/we have been busy with taco wednesdays, climbing, skiing, repairing the car, cooking in a clean kitchen, gardening and catching up with friends.

Lauren’s mama has been visiting over the last couple of weeks so we have done A LOT of touristy activities. Tomorrow, we are going whale watching.

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Great trips always have a name. Like “10 Year Reunion Cruise!” or “Great Road Trip of 2015!”. My trip in Tokyo went through many different names:

Last Week in Japan

At first, I had no plans about what to do in my last week in Japan. I was going to go with the flow.

Okutama Climbing Trip

Kyle booked his flights to Japan and some of my friends in Niseko decided that they want to go climbing and camping as well in the Okutama region. Sugoi! Kyle is our buddy that Lauren and I met in our training course a couple of years back.

Terrace House Fan Tour + Okutama Climbing Trip

Kyle and I decided that we actually had quite a few things we wanted to see in Tokyo, so we decided to only go camping and climbing for a few days and spend the rest of the time in Tokyo, going to Fuji-Q amusement park, and visiting Yokohama.

Before everyone else arrived, I checked out the Sakura park celebrations and Harujuku. Once he arrived, I learned that all of his ideas (that I mentioned in a previous post) were all from watching Terrace House.

The first night we stayed in a Capsule Hotel. It was a very clean experience, but a bit noisy. Kyle said that the men’s floor was a snoring symphony. I liked that they give you PJ’s to wear so you don’t even need to open your bag. Overall, my experience was good and I would do it again if I was on a budget. Maybe if you stayed at a slightly more expensive one, then you would have less chances of getting woken up?

In those first 24 hours, we walked around Shinjuku, ate soba and teishoku, and visited the super arsty Sumida aquarium.

Sakura Allergy Season + Fuji-Q Planning Day + Okutama BBQ Trip

The Okutama region to Tokyo is like the Squamish region to Vancouver. The major difference is that you can take a train right to the camping and climbing, and it runs every 45 minutes. I wish Squamish had a train because taking the train was the best.

The bouldering in Okutama was beautiful and extremely slippery. We had fancy bbqs with wagyu beef and fish. We rented a hilariously tiny cabin. I spent A LOT of time asking Eileen and Jeff about their day at Fuji-Q amusement park because I was planning on going in a few days, and the park is notorious for having really long lines. I have wanted to go there since I was a kid (and Nagashima amusement park) so I made an elaborate plan.

I started having crazy allergy/cold symptoms while were in Okutama, and also a little bit worse than the allergy/cold symptoms I was getting in Fukuoka. My stomach was feeling a bit mehhhh, but ok overall.

After two nights, the group departed and we all went our separate ways. That was sad. Eileen and Jeff are now in Australia, Mariko and Phil are back in Niseko and Lindsay and Jace are now in Utah.

The Last Supper

Kyle and I took the train back to Shinagawa and checked into our hotel. We checked out Shibuya Crossing and we ate at a standing sushi restaurant and a ramen place. We then took the subway back to our hotel…. and from then onwards is where the final name of the trip was developed:

TOKYO TOILET TOUR 2018

If you are ever travelling and have the flu, gastrointestinal distress, and/or food poisoning, Tokyo is your dream city. There are bathrooms in every subway station, every konbini, every restaurant, and each floor of every store. And I went to all of them, and they were all very nice, free and clean.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to go to Fuji-Q or a bunch of other places I planned because I was busy with urgent matters.

I did drag myself to a few places like the Cup Noodles Museum (did you know they have 2 bathrooms?), the Shinagawa Aquarium in the hotel (did you know they have 3 bathrooms and 1 bathroom in between our hotel room and the entrance gates? ps how was the dolphin show? I missed it because I was in the bathroom), the doctor, and the mega Tokyu Hands store (did you know they have 7 bathrooms?).

I was also able to put my months of Japanese practise to use: TOIRE DOKO DESU KA??!?!?!?! TOIRE DOKO DESU KA??!?!?!?!

Big thanks to Kyle for a) waiting for me while I was in every bathroom in Tokyo, b) not complaining about me being a terrible person to room with in a tiny hotel room, and c) bringing me electrolytes.

I was soooooooooo anxious about flying back to Vancouver (what if there is turbulence and I can’t get to the bathroom?), but it turned out okay. PHHHAAEWFFF. I mean, PFFFT.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Tokyo.

Sincerely,

Toire-san

fukuoka

After visiting Central Hokkaido, I flew to Fukuoka to meet up with Kota, my friend from New Zealand. Fukuoka is the major city on Kyushu island (the Southern large island of Japan).

Kota and I hadn’t seen each other in 5 years! We had not stayed in good contact so we had a lot to catch up on. I stayed at his parents house and was spoiled with many delicious meals and Go lessons (thank you for letting me stay!!)

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I loved the houses in Fukuoka as they were all the traditional-style houses with thatched roofs. Also, it was warm out!

We had 3 days to look around, so we divided it into 3 themes:

  • FOREST: A shrine, calligraphy exhibit, mochi, steamed buns

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mochi machine #latergram

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  • BEACH: Beach, onsen, watching sumo

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  • CITY: Sakura, chicken hot pot, shopping, craft beer

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central hokkaido

I took a mini-road trip to Central Hokkaido with Dee, Eileen and Jeff after the season end and I recovered from bartending at the restaurant closing party. The customers we had at the restaurant was about 50% guests and 50% ski instructors from the nearby resort. Ski instructors like to party.

central5jeffWe skied at Teine Resort (near Sapporo) and Furano Resort. It was really great seeing a tiny part of Central Hokkaido. The group got really sick of me saying “I COULD LIVE HERE” every time we drove through a new town.

Teine is where they held some/all of the 1972 Winter Olympics. The resort was pretty big and much better set up than Niseko. I could live in Sapporo (look at that ocean and mountain access!). This is the view of Sapporo from Teine Resort:

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Furano resort was really great and had really great backcountry access. I can’t remember that much about Furano other than the fact that I said I could live in Furano every 4 minutes.

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There is wayyyy more that I want to check out in Central Hokkaido, including the steam vents on Asahidake. Unfortunately, the weather was not good enough for me to go so the group went without me (sad face) as I took the bus to the Sapporo Airport.

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Jeff’s Photo (I did not go here)

Eternal thanks to Jeff, Eileen and Ayami for bringing my ski gear back to Niseko, re-packing it and shipping it to the Tokyo airport. This saved me quite a few $$$.

party season

The end of the 2017-2018 Hokkaido season hit FAST. As soon as March 1st rolled around, a bunch of people had already left, the rain hit hard and the tourists left. It was time for the staff to relax and have some fun. We had a ton of parties including an all you can drink/all you can eat korean bbq meal, a helicopter tour, a big izakaya dinner, a staff dinner plus karaoke session, a restaurant closing party and an eat-everything-that-was-left-behind-in-the-fridge party.

Here are a few photos that were taken by others. Here are the staff:

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We flew into the Mt Yotei crater in the helicopter. It was extremely bumpy going in and out of the crater.

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And here is a one last picture of the glide cracks that were forming in the spring:

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higashiyama neighbourhood tour

A few people have asked me to give a neighbourhood tour. Here are the highlights:

Your first feeling once you enter Higashiyama Village/Niseko Village is probably confusion, due to the flashing light intersection on the main road. Is it a four-way stop? Does one road have right of way? Yes, there are accidents here all the time.

As you drive up the road, on your right you will pass Milk Kobo. Lots of tour buses and tourists stop here to sample all of their dairy-based baked goods. I would recommend their drinking yogurt and their roll cake.

One driveway further is a restaurant called Prativo. Prativo has a good value vegetable lunch buffet, which I would frequent every few weeks to prevent myself from getting scurvy.

Opposite Prativo is the Hokkaido Backcountry Club where you can rent backcountry equipment.

As you go further up, you’ll pass the Mexican Mule which has a weekly trivia night, which I forgot to go to the entire season even though I live right beside it. Oops.

At this point, the road splits. The bus stop to Hirafu and Annapuri is also here (free if you have a seasons pass, hour pass or an active day pass). If you go down the left road, near Snow Dog hotel, there is a really cool bar that is made out of a shipping container. I’m not sure what it is called. Would recommend.

Back on the main road, before you veer to the right, you will pass Black Diamond Lodge and Restaurant which has the best staff, and the best waitresses, and the best food, and one of the only English speaking car rental companies. (Hi)

Past Black Diamond Lodge, you can get to Banzai Chair, which is the first access point to Niseko Village Resort. The Banzai Chair opens later than the gondola, so it is usually worth making the trek to the gondola. You can ride Banzai chair for free to get to the ticket booth at the gondola. There is a big parking lot here.

At the end of the road, you will reach the Hilton. There is a big parking lot at the Hilton as well. This is where the gondola starts and where the ticket booth is. The Hilton has an onsen which I never bothered to go in because tourists.

And that’s all! There are a few other restaurants and hotels, but they aren’t really worth mentioning.