Hokkaido and the northern part of Japan woke up to bitterly cold temperatures and heavy snow showers. As the “BIG FREEZE” continued to keep an icy grip on the northern part of this world, we generally struggle to cope with the changes in climate. As the winter tightens its grip, the smiles turn into frowns. Frozen lakes, burst pipes, blocked roads and head high snow makes life far more difficult than it already is. At first, it was welcomed with joy, but it quickly turns in problems. But if you think it’s been cold, count your blessings that we can still afford to keep ourselves warm at night.
Winter in Japan, especially in Hokkaido, comes at a time when we are nearing the end of the semester. It means a lot of exams, research presentations and planning for the coming new semester and of course for those final year students it meant Graduation. How I miss the hot climate of Malaysia. Every night the temperature would drop sometimes to the deep length of -15 degrees. And every morning there is so much difficulty to just get up and dress up for school.
But with difficulty there is always the fun side to it. To say that winter is the time of year that I resent the most would be a lie. Even though exams are lurking around the corner, I still enjoy the snowboard trips, the Snowball fights (Yuki Gaisen) and the occasional skating trips. As the snow continue to puke without a hint of stopping, what else we can do but to take it all in the stride. As my friend Matsui had explained time and again, Hokkaido is all about Yuki (Snow). To embrace the winter is to accept the beauty of Hokkaido.
From the northern tip of Hokkaido, the Okhotsk region that is almost entirely covered with sea ice some consisting of drift ice and rafted ice to the centre of Hokkaido, Sapporo which holds the annual Snow Festival where participants from all around the world take part in creating marvelous sculptures to be admired. And not forgetting the mountains that have the world-renowned ski resorts. Snowboard is the new sport that I have come to love and enjoy.
As the treacherous condition continue to pile up, the roads turns to ice and walking is made almost impossible without falling. My mind wandered back to the early days where I learnt to play snowboard. It is not as easy as it seems. It was not fun as I had hoped at first. I would fall, bumped, and goes crashing down to the cold icy snow after a brief summersault in midair! The first day, the seniors took me and 3 other colleagues the tip of the Suginohara Mountain. Cant remember how high it was but it was around 1400 to 1500 meters I think. The upper reaches of the slopes have a different feel to the snow. It was more powdery than the icy hard snows at the bottom. It was near mission impossible for us to snowboard the total distance of 8.5 kilometers from top to bottom. By hook or by crook we had to do it. The only way was DOWN.
Even the thought of it frightened us. I could barely snowboard properly yet they took us to that very hard course. As I was zigzagging through the soft powdery snow, I felt that I could do it. But then, there was the steep narrow slope that we had to pass without making a mistake. If we made one, the gaping endless cliffs are there waiting to greet to uninvited visitors. I was getting the hang of it, rather proud with myself. But then come the dreaded moment. I lost balance, I swayed to the left then to the right. I could not control it anymore. It was beyond my reach. The air stiffens, the image becomes blurry, and I could feel time as if freezing right before my eyes. I was heading towards the end of the cliffs. Was this the end of an adventure?For dear life, I flung out my arms, and reached for a branch. Luckily I got hold of one of them. It saved me from falling. My seniors then rescued me. This time I got lucky I guess. Praise be to God.
The one thing I learned was that, this is LIFE. The path of life. Sometimes when you think you are able to handle life problems and go on smoothly then suddenly it strikes. Without warning nor us realizing it. No matter how hard it may be, how bleak it may seem, we have to hold on and hope for the best. This is the lesson I learned. Spring is around the corner. Sakura blossoming seasons is coming. Spring bring hope for every hardship suffered. Hope is the difference between succeeding and faltering.
Verily, with every difficulty there is relief. ( The Quran 94:6 )