Saturday, December 24, 2011

Slippery grips

I have discovered the all-time greatest invention in the world.

... if you live in a snow filled city with an ethos that suggests snowploughs are for the weak.

It is true that the heaps of powdery white flakes in Sapporo interspersed with trees covered in Christmas lights have a story book beauty. But no Disney princess ever stepped outside to slide across the street on her backside and break every bone in her skinny body. After a month of snow, I concluded that this was the most unrealistic part of fairy tales; Cinderella should have attended the ball on crutches and the Sleeping Beauty laid in traction on her bed.

The main roads through Sapporo are scrapped by snowploughs yet, compared to Canada, still seem buried for a large part of the day. I'm unsure whether this is a reflection of the relative quantities of snow in Sapporo versus Toronto or a nature-produced traffic calming measure encouraged by the Hokkaido government.

Pavements, by contrast, are not cleared at all. There is no obligation by home owners to clear the walkway in front of their house and --with the exception of the fronts of some businesses or apartment complexes-- the snow mounts up to form a bumpy slick causeway.

There isn't an easy solution to this. While I lived in Canada, I was legally obliged to clear the pavement around my apartment. This was a good (if tedious) idea in principal, but I often found that the thin layer of ice that would appear a minute after clearing was more deadly to traverse than the snow. Indeed, the hardest area on which to walk in Sapporo are the clearer roads which often are covered in black ice. Typically, within this category, the most treacherous surface are the white lines of the pedestrian crossing; a fact that makes me convinced all the city officials go to the southern island of Kyushu over the winter.

Work has become a dangerous expedition. Lunch, doubly so.

Then I saw the solution. Hanging up in the University's bookstore were a pair of crampon-esque attachments. Consisting of studs affixed to a rubber strap, these snap over the soles of your shoes to provide a better grip on snow covered surfaces. Amazingly, not only do they fit my shoes easily, they also make a significant difference, halving the time it now takes me to get anywhere in the city.

Admittedly, there is not much that can help you with ice on roadways, but for the slippery snow piles on the pavements they are unbeatable.

I was so much in love with this clothing addition, I've brought them to India. You can NEVER TELL when you might need such items. Armageddon? Bring it on.


  1. Sounds like a brilliant idea. Although I haven't heard of problems with snow in India.

  2. No... India was perhaps a little unnecessary! But I head onto Canada before returning to Japan, so they might be useful there.

  3. OMG I need these so badly! i have been looking for them all over sapporo since i got back and i can't find them anywhere!! please tell me which campus to find them on before i break my neck.

  4. They're in the CO-OP shop at Hokudai. Do you know the campus at all? If so, ignore these directions since they take you on an inefficient route that is just easier to describe!

    Go out the north entrance of Sapporo Station and take an immediate left. There's a convenience store right there that is... not a Lawson or a 7/11... I think it's a Sun-something. At the end of the street, turn right. You'll see Yodabashi camera on your left. Go up two blocks and the campus will be on the left. Go in the main entrance (it lets cars in too) and walk up the road to the roundabout. Turn left and you'll see a building that has a cafeteria and a barber (look out of the stripy barber sign) in it. The CO-OP is the building to the left of that one. It has an ATM outside it. The shoe grippy things I saw hanging up near the cashiers.

    If those directions completely fail you (perfectly possible!) then I'm back Jan 19th and I'll mail you a pair!

  5. It's on this map at the bottom

  6. OR We can just Meet In Real Life! And have an exciting friend date!

    P.S. really loving the india posts.

  7. Well, that's a dangerous idea right there. We should totally do it!

    (And thank you! It's super rare I backdate a blog --I'm actually now in Canada for a week-- but India was one of those place I really wanted to record. You know... for when Hollywood is screaming for my auto biography to turn into a 100 billion dollar movie and I can just hit 'print' on the blog)