We have it easy in Australia, not having to deal with snow. Here in Hokkaido, just functioning in any normal way requires daily snow shovelling. Kids learn this early. Pass any local pre-school and they are busy digging with their snow shovels. One day, if they show promise, this can lead to any number of job opportunities.
Out of the many varieties of snow shovelling that go on, my favourite is the rooftop shoveler. These daring men wander around on steeply pitched roofs with no safety protection. The other day, we watched a man standing on the edge of a roof about fifteen metres above an ice-filled canal. He steadily worked his way along, swinging a mallet to dispatch the icicles which hung from the roof. It looked like the momentum of his swing would be enough to launch him into the canal at any moment.
When you’re ready to take a break from shovelling snow, you can take your pick of any sport, as long as it involves snow or ice. Ice-fishing is big over here. Every frozen river or lake is dotted with little tents. These are wind breaks where the fishers sit all day long; pulling up fish through a hole they have drilled in the ice.
If you’re not into ice-fishing, skiing or ice-skating there is always alcohol. A plastic four litre bottle of whiskey sells for around twenty dollars. That’s a whole lot of whiskey, but then the nights are long in Hokkaido.