I start this blog cautiously optimistic that the worst of COVD-19 is behind us and that society is ready and able to move forward in coexisting with COVID-19. We, humans, are social creatures, and by our evolution, we want to gather, socialize and be together in groups. It is for these reasons that a collaborative approach to problem-solving and learning works so well for us at OYIS.
The last three years have been challenging for the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic as we have been asked to isolate ourselves from our families and friends. The new norm of communication has become video conferencing. While we have found many new ways to leverage video conferencing to better society, it has been a challenge. We are now learning about the long-term impacts on society due to schools and businesses being closed, physical-distancing guidelines and isolation. People with mental health concerns have become especially sensitive to these changes and started to disconnect from society and get trapped in a world of self-isolation.
About 6 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, my family decided that we would start doing outdoor activities together as we felt we were all getting way too much screen time. We started with walking and hiking in our local neighbourhood and mountains. One of our favourite hiking areas is the Minoh Falls route, as you can walk up from the Minoh Hankyu Station to see the waterfalls and explore multiple trails from there. As a family, we found this to be very enjoyable as it helped us to develop more opportunities to have family conversations about what was going on at school and how our kids felt about the pandemic. Many of these conversations led to my wife and I talking about what kinds of things we did with our families as children as we did not have iPhones and Netflix. We both discovered that our families used to spend much more time outside or playing board games as a family. This strategy was great for the spring and fall, but, due to the cold, we soon lost interest and enjoyment during the winter months. Therefore, I needed to find a new family hobby.
I would have to say my experiences of snowboarding in Japan have been amazing. Many of the local mountains near Osaka are smaller than the ones I am used to in Canada, but after a long day on the slopes, the hot spring or onsen experience in Japan makes it one of my favourite places to snowboard in the world.
There are three options for getting snowboarding gear in Japan. Which one you choose will depend on your commitment to your new hobby. Basically, you can buy the equipment or do a daily or seasonal rental. I recommend doing a daily rental if you have never been snowboarding before. You can rent everything you need at most resorts directly at the bottom of the hill. This option is excellent as you don’t need to bring heavy equipment or bags with you to the hill. However, it also means you may be renting a funky bright orange ski suit.
The second option is to do a seasonal rental. This is a great option for someone new who wants to go more than five times a season. Many seasonal rental websites will let you rent higher-end equipment than you could rent directly on the mountain. This is an excellent solution if you have a car with a ski rack or just want to ship your equipment directly to the mountain via takkyubin. Many of my friends will send their snowboard equipment directly to their hotel if they are at the resort overnight. Shipping services in Japan are very reasonably priced and reliable.
Luckily Japan has extensive public and private transportation services. There are multiple options to get yourself to the resort. Many tour companies have snowboarding packages that will arrange to bring you directly to the hill from many major train stations in Osaka. The only issue with this option is you spend a lot more time in transit than just renting or driving a car.
I recommend renting or taking your own car if you want the most convenient option to get to the resort. If you decide to take this route, you should apply for an ETC card, and make sure the vehicle you are using has an ETC system, studless snow tires and snow chains in the trunk.
The ETC system allows you to use the Japan tollway system smoothly without having to stop at each gate to pay in cash while giving you access to multiple toll discounts depending on the tollway and the time you are travelling.
The COVID-19 pandemic has probably been one of the most challenging experiences many of us have ever faced. If there is any silver lining to the last several years, it has been that we have been given time to really understand what we value in life. For me, that is spending time outside with my friends and family and being able to foster face-to-face relationships but professionally and privately. I look forward to being able to see all of you, and your unmasked faces, on campus next year. Have a wonderful summer!