It looks a lot easier on TV than in real life.
First, let me say I come from a land where we rely on snow machines coughing up anemic half-hearted puffs of ‘snow’ to get our snow kicks outside shopping centres – in the tropical heat. And I, being the stickler for authentic experiences that I am, refuse to set foot in any artificial environment designed to milk the most dollars out of those desperate to experience sub-zero thrills without the risk of frostbite. So I admit to zero snowman-making experience.
But then, having been bred on various assortment of snow propaganda on TV, I decided I would not leave Hokkaido (so much REAL snow!) without making ONE snow man at least. Plus, after watching it on TV how hard can it be?
Let’s just say that my first few pathetic attempts at making one ended in what my teenage kids love to derisively describe as an “Epic Fail” – complete with de rigeur roll of the eyes.
First, you cannot roll snow into a ball. Believe me I tried. At least not that day when nice sunny weather had melted the edges of snow into ice crystals that refused to stick together no matter how much I pushed and patted them. After numerous attempts, the best result was no larger than a sepak takraw ball, not the grand big ones you always see – on TV.
Thankfully, Japanese logic and precision processes saved the day and I finally got my snow man. Here’s how to make one – Japanese-style!
First, scoop snow up with big HEAVY shovel.
That’s not me by the way, but my fellow journo who went at it with gusto. Nothing beats doing it to write about it authentically. All in a day’s work. Richard just rolled his eyes and puffed away on his cigarette.
Next: pack in the snow into two halves of a bright orange plastic orb. Guaranteed to make symmetrical snow bodies and heads! Be sure to give recalcitrant snow a few good hard whacks to really pack it in or you’ll find the orb disintegrating when you try to dislodge it from its plastic shell.
Then, put both halves of the plastic orb together and smack it hard together on the ground like so:
Voila – a snow ball!
Now that you’ve finally got perfectly round ONE snowball, repeat steps to get second ball. By this time of course, you’re wondering why people didn’t just make snowballs in t-shirts and shorts – all that hard work really makes you sweat under all the layers!
When you’ve got the second ball, combine head with torso, stick in the plastic ribbons and cork decorations thoughtfully provided by the folks running the joint and ta-dah – a snowman! Or to be precise in my case, a very pretty snow-girl. Okay, so it’s not quite as big as those I saw on TV, but still, better than nothing!
Follow all the instructions right and you get a community of perfect, small, symmetrical snow-people that all look alike, adhere to the same size and yes, conform to the same standards with differences being only in the details. Very Japanese.
Lessons learnt: (1) Only in Japan is the art of snowman-making distilled down to precise processes that come with useful tools and clear instructions to achieve technical perfection. And uniformity! They need to work on larger orbs but then again fitting head to body with large orbs of snow might be a problem. And finally, (2) I no longer believe everything I see on TV.