Taming the Zao Monster

This past weekend I, along with a bunch of other TUJ students, went to Yamagata to hit the slopes at the Zao Onsen Ski Resort. I only went skiing a few times in my life when I was a kid; this time I thought I’d take up something new, snowboarding.  We took a six hour overnight bus ride to northern Japan.  By the time we arrived it would be nice and early, and we would be some of the first people to ride on the fresh powder.
When we finally got to the resort and got all of our equipment, I and my friends Brian and Kevin decided to get on the gondola and head straight for the second peak.  On that long, long gondola ride up the mountain I began having second thoughts.  The snow was coming down so heavy that I could not see more than five feet out of the window.  Maybe I should have did a few runs on the bunny slopes before trying some serious snowboarding!  I eventually composed myself.  But when I finally got on the slopes, I lost all my concentration.  It was like the board had a mind of its own.  I had no control over where I went, or how to slow down.  I must have fell over ten times in that first run.  Back down to the first peak for me.  I left Kevin and Brian to practice on my own.

The first few hours on the easy slopes consisted of me falling, falling, and falling some more.  About to give it up entirely and call it a day, I happened find friends and in a guy name Alan.  He was passing through Yamagata that day, with a group of colleagues involved in tsunami relief and community service.  Sort of like what Habitat for Humanity would be in America.  Now I didn’t feel so bad when Japanese children raced down the slopes backwards with their parents.  Alan was falling down just as much as I was.  We practiced together for the rest of day, as well as practiced our Japanese on the lift back up the slope.  At the end of the day I parted ways with him and his friends, still not any better than I was before at snowboarding, yet happy that I got to talk to Americans not living in Tokyo.  Foreigners tend to only inhabit the metropolitan areas here in Japan.
The Snow Monsters at the Peak of the Mountain
The next day my entire body was killing me.  It even felt sore to walk!  But it was our last day here; I couldn’t sit around and do nothing.  I made my way back to the top of the bunny slope and proceeded to fall the rest of the way down again.  “I’m done with this” I told myself.  My friends Sophie and Blake saw me sitting in the snow.  Blake boarded over to me and gave me the most obvious yet most enlightening advice that I had got: “Balance.”  From that point on I did not focus on where I wanted to go, I did not focus on how fast I was going.  All I focused on was remaining balanced on my board the entire way down the hill.  From that point on, everything clicked.  I was cruising through the slopes, flowing with whatever the mountain presented me.  I realized I was trying too hard to control everything.  It was almost as if I was trying to control the mountain itself.  Instead I learned how to flow with what was given to me, and adjust what problems may arise.  Therein lies the control.  Never I did expect to ever learn a life lesson from a Mountain.  じゃあ また
Photos Courtesy of TUJ OSS

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