Niseko, Hokkaido- Part II (Heaven Help Us)

Spouse and I should have known problems were brewing from the beginning over 14 years ago. It started a month or so before Offspring #1 was born. Standing 5’4″ and never having weighed over 110 lbs I had ballooned to 165. Rolling in to the doctor’s office it appeared as if Spouse had inserted a bicycle pump in my posterior and commenced inflation. I was nothing but roundness with eyes, a mouth and two nostrils. Incessant beating and kicking from the inside kept me awake 24 hours a day and pressure to some unknown spot brought on inexplicable fainting spells causing wide-spread panic at work and emergency trips to the doctor’s office. Spouse claimed my penchant for kimchi as the root cause of the maladies both for me and everyone around me.

As labor stories are boring, the bottom line – nice pun- was that Offspring continued to insist on entering the world feet first, cord wrapped around his neck, tied in a knot. Result was a rapid entry, emergency style. The doctor’s prophetic line was, ” Ouisar, Spouse- this kid has been busy for the last 9 months.” Little did we know, this, would also become our future with Offspring #1.

Until he could walk, which he did 9 months later, we spent every waking minute walking him. He couldn’t just relax in the Baby Bjorn like a snuggly baby, he had to be rigged to face out in order to be entertained. We were the parents everyone hates on the airplane for Offspring #1 was a screaming, crying nightmare once strapped in to a seat. We could have rented him out to various terrorist investigative units. One whirl around the sky with this howling offspring and the most determined terrorist would be spilling secrets in exchange for ear plugs.

Spouse and I were branded “Bad parents” when Offspring #1 couldn’t hold a pencil like the other 5 year olds in Pre-K who hadn’t been raised by wolves. Why would he? Do you think he ever SAT DOWN to draw? Spouse and I signed O#1 up for every sport activity available, banished all forms of video games, and limited any bike or scooter to the type which required the use of one’s body as the propellent. Then came the dreaded day Offspring #1 discovered the use of a curb as a launching pad. And it’s been downhill  and airborne ever since.

As a parent, one wants to give children the world. Spouse and I are not different. Three years ago, O#1 begged to learn how to ski. Spouse and I hate all things snow. Selfishly we said no. Then he asked for a ski lesson for his birthday. That was hard to get around. Spouse reacted with lightening speed and claimed a bad knee. Damn him. The rest of us took a lesson. O#2 hated the teacher and claimed that skiing wasn’t for her. O#2 liked the concept but thought snowboarding looked more dangerous – I mean fun. Too  young to go up on the mountain alone,  I had to accompany him on his snowboarding adventures. As I threw fits over the poles or the uncomfortable boots, ran in to the kids on the bunny hill, and burned ears cussing a blue streak, he progressed along at the speed of light. Eventually convincing me to give up skiing for snowboarding due to the limited amount of equipment, I switched. Offspring #2 was bribed to try thus it became a family activity. In true Clampitt style, Offspring #1 and Spouse began to build ramps with tables, bales of hay, and shovels for jumping the stream by our house much to the chagrin of our neighbors. The following video demonstrates how effective helmets and wrist guards are in preventing yet another trip to the ER. Thank goodness this was just a test ramp.

Our snowboarding routine started to look like this:

Eat breakfast together.

O#1- Terrain Park and Black Diamond Runs

Ouiser and O#2- Green Runs

Spouse- Work Out, Hot Tub, Massage, Sauna, Read, Repeat


After a season, I progressed enough to accompany Offspring #1 on some of his runs. And it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. The onset of emotion at being invited to accompany my hormonally charged, parents are not to be seen or heard,  14-year-old was exhilarating. Then I found out his ulterior motive – to videotape his exploits in the fresh powder for the ultimate end of Facebook sharing.

O#1                “Mom- go down to the bend, then point the camera at the trees up the hill.”

This would allow me to video O#1 snowboarding around the bend and through the fresh 3 feet of powder on the corners.

I got in position with my camera pointed up the hill. I saw his helmet. I saw him start to move. I saw him start to move down the hill. I saw him move down the hill and jump off the side of the cliff. I saw him snowboard off the side of the cliff, through the ravine beside me. I saw him snowboard through trees, through the ravine, and below me. I thought about how my hands would feel around his neck if it wasn’t broken already by the time I got there.

Ouiser-       “WHAT THE HELL- is this what you do when I’m not around?”

O#1-            Unphased- ” I have accidentally done a back flip.” A confession- while                                    grinning- he was proud of himself.  He was so proud of himself he was not                           afraid of me. A first. I’m very scary.

I thought I was going to vomit. What to do? Forbid him from doing what he was going to do anyway? Then he’d just hide it and I’d be unable to ensure he got the right training or video tape and let him enjoy the moment of being able to show off for his mother. In that moment, on the that mountain in Niseko, I had to make the decision every mother has to make eventually. The time when your child becomes too big to make certain choices on their behalf. He had the training, he had the protective equipment, he knew the terrain, he understood the sport- it was time to let him do what he loved doing.

Ouiser-       “If you’re going to ‘accidentally’ do back flips, do them on the air mattress                               until you take a lesson.”

O#1-            “OK.” Best smile.

And then I lost the video camera. Somehow I headed down the mountain, on my back, head first and it fell out of my pocket along the way. Yea well, there were blizzard conditions that day so the video quality was poor anyway.

But- here are some pictures of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan.

Mt. Yotei


Niseko is famous for the deep powder snow and quality of conditions. At points during the trip we were neck-deep. Although Nagano- the Japanese Alps- was the site of the Winter Olympics, Niseko and surrounding spots in Hokkaido are the skiing/snowboarding paradise for true lovers of the sport. It attracts experts and aficionados from around the world and is said to rank in the top 2 for quality of powder. Niseko is a 1.5 hour flight from Tokyo to Sapporo then a 3 hour bus ride. Alternatively, one can take a Shinkansen (Bullet train) to Aomori, ferry over to Hokkaido and then bus or train the rest of the way.

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12 Responses to Niseko, Hokkaido- Part II (Heaven Help Us)

  1. What beautiful scenery but it makes me cold to look at it brrrr. Happy New Year 🙂


  2. Ann Chiodo says:

    LOL! I have the visual on all that! Miss you, esp on the mountain!


  3. Hi! I have been following your blog for a while now. Love your stories and photos!

    I can’t find the post now, but you wrote in one of them about Santa Claus having a blue suit. Did you ever find out why?


    • amblerangel says:

      Thanks- I’ve been doing the same and I loved the picture of your bird nests! Anyway- haven’t gotten to the root of the blue Santas. My friends seem to think it’s just a pure design decision- he just looks better in blue. I’ve seen him about a third of time in blue.


      • I found this in Wikipedia:

        “Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a jolly well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe. ”


        “In the 1840s however, an elf in Nordic folklore called “Tomte” or “Nisse” started to deliver the Christmas presents in Denmark. The Tomte was portrayed as a short, bearded man dressed in gray clothes and a red hat. ”

        But nothing about the Japanese blue robe version.


      • amblerangel says:

        I know- I can’t find any blue references either- any comments from the Japanese readers?


  4. OMG–talk about coffee-spitting laughs out loud! This may be one of the funniest things I have read in AGES! I can’t wait to read more of your blog–thank God I have now found it!

    And the photos are stunning!


  5. Ivar says:

    Hi !! Hope all is well in the new year. Truly enjoying your blog, and try to catch up every once in a while. In reference to the Blue robe Santa, and related to the comment Lisa made above regarding the “nisse” – which is our scandinavian Santa – there is also a series on norwegian TV portraying the “nisse” with a blue hat. Now I believe that this is purely from commercial interests – to ensure they can sell twice as much decorations etc. I believe I have some pictures of Håkon in a blue outfit – I’ll try and remember to send them to you. Say hello to Spouse and O#1 and O#2.


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