The bunch of brightly dressed kindergarteners out for a day in the snow brought smiles to our faces the minute we stepped off the bus at Takino Snow World. Unlike the kids though, we adults were there to work – getting our facts in to write our stories and articles.
Lucky for us, there’s really no better way to write about something than to experience it. So off we went to share the slopes with the kids.
In the spring and summer, Takino transforms into meadows of flowers. It seemed surreal to know that while we were whizzing down the slopes and getting snowspray in our mouths and eyes, that underneath all that soft snow asleep in the earth are the seeds of crocuses, daffodils, tulips and rows of lavender waiting to bloom in warmer weather. We are told by Mr Shinji Koakutsu from Takino that in summer, the rivers and streams come alive with rainbow trout.
This is the beauty of living in a place with four seasons. People tell me all the time to stop romanticising it, that it’s not as fun as I think. They point out all the horrible stuff – shovelling snow, soaked and icy socks, black ice on roads, brain freeze, short days for winter, dreary fickle rainy springs, soggy with mud, and in autumn, the fallen leaves are an exasperating mess to clear and so on.
Yet I feel that the seasons mark time, remind us to prepare ourselves for the next stage in life, to change our clothes, our mindsets, our menus, our homes. The change is regular, cyclical and rhythmic.
It takes the unknown out of change. There are things to look forward to in every season. Living in the tropics and travelling to a different country is not the same. Often, we are just parachuted in right in the thick of the season – whichever season it may be – and we don’t experience the change.We don’t see it happening.
It is the transition I am curious about. Just like how relay runners exchange batons, how does that handover actually happen? Watching a race ‘live’, it happens so fast that you’d miss it unless you watched the slow-mo playback. Is there one specific day when it suddenly got colder or perhaps, a change in the scent of the wind, or perhaps just an awareness already in the bones, accumulated through multiple handover of seasons, that makes one realise that the seasons are changing – that summer is over and autumn is here? I wish I could stay long enough in a place like this and live slowly enough to experience what it really is like when the seasons change.
I digress. Having stomped my way in snowshoes around Takino snow world, gotten ice crystals stinging my eyes down the slope while spinning in a donut, I’d love to come back and see what it is like in a different season.
Note that entry to Takino costs 400yen in summer, but in winter it is free. Tubing is also free. Just grab a large tire, plonk yourself in, get clipped to the line and you’d be hauled uphill. Once there, position yourself in a lane, make sure it’s clear before you sit in your tire, and hump your way off. Screaming for pure joy is instinctive but you’d get a mouthful of ice – something the tropical girl like me does not expect.
Takino also has a small indoor play area for the kids. Not your typical playground, this one was brightly hued, bouncy and looked like a cheerful version of an alien lair. What a fantastic place to indulge the imagination!
Out in the snow, we tried on snow shoes. Nothing like the oversized badminton racquets I thought I’d have to wear, these looked more like giant badger traps with serrated edges and clips. Still we spent a happy half hour or so tramping uphill, sinking knee-deep (thank God for mum’s bulky water-proof ski pants!) in the snow. For the tropical hillbilly like me, flailing around in the snow was loads of fun!
It was interesting to see that you really didn’t have to go far from Sapporo to have a great day out in the snow. Just an hour outside Sapporo and easily accessed by bus, Takino is big enough to give you the illusion of being in the wide open country spaces.
To check out Takino in any season, try: