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Japan

Great day at Iwatake

double black today

overcast -2 °C

Got rang up to see if we were coming down for breakfast – need to go to bed earlier. Feed up well in preparation for the day’s skiing. We make enquiries about other resorts and settle on Iwatake (it’s relatively easy to get to). We rush through to make it to the bus on time. Iwatake is a bit smaller than Happo, not as high or long, but we find some good runs that work well for us. There is also a bit of untracked powder about 200mm deep if you head off track. We spend the morning on the front of the mountain, mainly on the black runs to the left where we can work on a bit of technique and speed. Last run of the morning is a race to the bottom which I lose after taking a close look at the local powder. We join the 98% Japanese clientele for lunch, which is good and filling, like most of the meals we have had.
This will keep me going for the afternoon

This will keep me going for the afternoon


View from Iwatake

View from Iwatake


In the afternoon, we head over the top to see what it is like over the back of the summit and the answer is: deserted. We head down the first run, which is pleasant enough but not taxing. We check out the other runs on the way up the chair. The black run Route A, looks okay so we will try that. The top is a bit tight for space, but then it opens up before a sudden drop into a narrow steep gully which widens out for a bit of manoeuvering before choking into another narrow point. G goes through cautiously but without issue, and down to the bottom before he gets bogged in powder. Pretty pumped with that, we look at the double black and think, it doesn’t look that bad, but there must be a reason it’s a double black, but we can see it and it looks okay, so they mustn’t know what they are talking about, let’s go down. So down we go. The top is unremarkable and smooth, then we get to the point where it heads down. We look over the edge, then lean out, then lean out a bit further – now we can see why it is double black. It is very steep, and plenty of moguls that were not apparent from the chair. Oh well, can’t go back now – not without losing piste cred. Down we go and G handles it well, a couple of small stacks when the board jars out from under him, otherwise all good.
Who me?

Who me?

Bogged

Bogged


To add to the first double black, G wants to head to the board park, where he gets to run his first bench before scoring some (minor) air of a series of jumps. He is well pleased and we head down the back again to do the last of the runs there, before repeating the black, which he hits more confidently this time. As we hit the bottom, we realise we have 20 minutes to get up to the summit and right down to the mountain base to catch the bus. This sees some of the fastest boarding and skiing of the day and we romp it in, with time to spare for a cocktail on the terrace before it is time to go.
The onsen really refreshes after a hard day in the snow

The onsen really refreshes after a hard day in the snow


The soothing waters of the onsen do their thing again, and I could just as easily go to sleep at 5:30. But we are booked in for dinner, so off we go. We share our table with a father and daughter from Sydney, play some cards and chat. G is jealous as F’s state school has a snow sports program thanks to one enthusiastic teacher.
Back to the hotel. It is not snowing tonight, but was a bit this morning. All in all, we have had a great day at Iwatake.

Posted by lostagain 03:49 Archived in Japan Tagged skiing Comments (0)

Skiing at Hakuba Goryu and Hakuba 47

with more snow

snow -5 °C

This time we do not ignore the alarm as we had an appointment. We were down for breakfast and ate our fill before getting changed and out the front by 8:30 to catch the bus to Hakuba Goryu. Hakuba 47 and Hakuba Goryu share a mountain, and there is plenty of variation available. We start with a 2km long gondola ride to the top. The visibility is low today, with low clouds and continuing snowfall throughout the day. There are some great long runs again from top to bottom. Route 1 near the bottom has a thin covering of powder over a very hard packed base, so it takes us by surprise a bit, and G goes down hard a couple of times. Head up the Hakuba 47 gondola, and muck around on that side of the mountain for a while before lunch.
After some pizzas that make PML look good value, we head back up to the top and go down some of the high runs on the Goryu side. The Dynamic course is a good challenge and has some tricky bits too. The cover that has and is falling has been chopped up to make it a bit more of a challenge, but still the quality of the snow is great for us to behold. We head down to the bottom, onto the gondola and up again. A few repeats up the top on Alps 1st then it is over to 47 to go down route 2 (black) a few times as a warm up to repeating route 1. G is not going to let it have the upper hand. So a determined effort gets us to the bottom with no falls, even with the cover on the ice being pretty thin by now. He even throws in a couple of runs on the bottom section off lift line D to make sure it was not a fluke. Tired and happy we get on the 47 bus back to Wadano and Hotel de L’aile.
Yet again we soak our weary bones in the restoring waters of the onsen, sharing it for the first time with some of the Japanese skiers who flock here for the weekend. We deliberately avoided Happo One today (and tomorrow)as we have been told it is packed on the weekends. Mind you, Goryu’s crowd was a pale imitation of a Hotham Summit Saturday, and 47 was less again.
Fresh from the onsen

Fresh from the onsen


Dinner was back at the Hakuba Hutte, again simple and filling and very nice. Mainly rice or noodles with a small bit of protein, but all very tasty. Went to bed a bit later than we should have.
Sumo TV

Sumo TV

Posted by lostagain 03:44 Archived in Japan Tagged skiing Comments (0)

First day on the slopes

And loving it!

sunny -2 °C

Into our hotel and look around, then rug up a bit and head off to the base of the Happo One ski fields to do a recce for tomorrow. The place looks magic with all the snow covered houses and the trails and roads cut out of the drifts. Get our heads around all the tickets etc, then head off to get our rentals. We have looked at 4 places, and the gear in Spicy Rentals looks to be good and every one seems to be the same price. Decked out we deposit our stuff at the hotel, then head outside again. We start up a snowball fight, which I stop because I am losing (and because G got me out there saying we were going to build a snowman) and it is getting dark – it is 5pm. This is the major shock coming from Melbourne where it has been 9pm before it gets dark. So we wander off down the street for a look around and see what is available for dinner. See a few possibilities before we settle on the Hakuba Hutte which importantly takes credit cards. We order up and are quite surprised by how much we get – but it is the first substantial meal since breakfast. Not much protein is supplemented by a lot of carbs – just the thing.cricket practice - honest

cricket practice - honest


Wadano scenery

Wadano scenery


Head back up the hill and get changed into the yakuta to get into the onsen. Do the full body wash and rinse off before hopping in the hot bath – which is way too hot for us. However there is another bath outside in the snow. The snow is way too cold, but the outside bath is just right, so in we hop and isn’t it great – really relaxing and soothing.
Now we are ready for sleep and it comes pretty easy, it has been a long day.

Alarm goes off at 7. We ignore it and get up at 8. We go down and have a filling breakfast to get us going. On the lifts before 9. The tickets here are in the form of little credit card things that you tap on a sensor that lets you through the gate. But you need a way to present it to the gates without taking it out of your pocket each time. Luckily it can be read through a pocket, so we just have to contort our pockets up to the sensor each time. The first run is just a green to start us off. Unfortunately it is just a trail, so no practice until the bottom. Next we get a bit more adventurous and head further up the hill, going down skyline which is nice and open, and by the time you head down to the bottom, a long run. And so it goes on.
Hakuba from Happo One

Hakuba from Happo One

The snow is hard packed for the most part, but still lovely and dry underneath, despite the sun coming out today (first time in a fortnight). We get a few more runs in before a light lunch. Next we head right up to the highest point of the resort, and then head all the way to the bottom. This takes us into mogul country, and they manage to trip up G a few times which makes him pretty shitty. We are not talking when we reach the bottom, nor for the next couple of runs. Soon he is out of it and determinedly leads us back to the mountain peak – it won’t get the better of him. So we get down again, this time including a fair swag of the 1998 Olympics downhill course. I swear it doesn’t look that steep on TV, but when you are there...
The range above Happo One

The range above Happo One


By 4:30 we are plum tuckered, so it is back to change, but I need to get more cash so we need to get into town. No buses to be seen, but I know the way, so we will walk. We slip and slide 30 minutes down the road to Happo and the tourism man points us towards the 7-11 where the ATM spits out yen for me. Now we start the walk back – no buses around for another 45 mins. Taxi time back stops G from killing me. An ordinary but cheap meal gets us filled up before we hit the onsen again, then a bit of rest before bed.
Bar flies in Wadano

Bar flies in Wadano

Posted by lostagain 03:32 Archived in Japan Tagged skiing Comments (0)

To Japan for a change

Travelling from Melbourne to Hakuba

overcast 2 °C

Left work and we were all gathered at home soon after 2pm
Manage to chew up a lot of time stuffing around checking up phones and what may be compatible in Japan – finally 2 of our collection seem to fit the bill (CDMA 2100 3G is the only network frequency in Japan) but we will not know until we try. Using the Travel Sims again, they were economical for us all through Europe last year.
Check, check and double check we have the main items, and then head off at 4:05pm, 5 minutes behind Marko’s schedule. Even with a bit of traffic and getting petrol we were at Tulla by 4:50. As we were doing a domestic check in first, that took all of 3 minutes and we were left 2 hours to wander around the terminal. Changed some cash, had some chips, and triple checked we had everything.
A sad farewell as we said goodbye to L at the gate. We’ll be back soon! The flight to Sydney with the flying kangaroo was comfortable and uneventful. Went into the transit lounge for a long wait for the bus across to International (no Marko, it was free) which gave us a few quick moments to confirm with L we were on our way before we were called up.
We are at the back of the A330, well second last until the entertainment does not work, then we get moved back so we have got a video each. Again a comfortable flight, try to get a bit of sleep.
All the airports look the same

All the airports look the same


We land after an early breakfast, and into Japan for the first time! Narita is easy and quick to get out apart from 20 minutes in immigration. Dozens of rugged up Aussies ready to hit the slopes. Downstairs to the JR station and swap our voucher for a JR East rail pass (4 day flexi) and book through to Nagano.
We are on the N’Ex to Tokyo station, with a view on the east Tokyo suburbs. They are very different and mainly built in greys and browns. At Tokyo we have a few minutes looking for an ATM. When we find them, the 7-11 Bank rejects me, but the J Post bank is a winner. On Anne’s advice, I am keeping the cash reserves up high, as the ATM’s are hit and miss as to whether they will shell out.
This is my shinkansen

This is my shinkansen


Onto the station to meet our Shinkansen – the Asama 513 to Nagano. To G’s disappointment it is not a platypus, but he gets over this quickly. There is plenty of room in the carriage, and the seats are comfy. Not unusually, we leave right on time and the early part of the journey is moderately slow until we get outside Tokyo suburbs. As soon as that is behind us, the driver opens up and the scenery whizzes past at a huge rate. Seats are spacious and comfortable, they recline and can even be spun round so you can have groups facing each other. Soon we reach Nagano- it is snowing!! I follow some instructions off the net to go to bus stop 6 to get the Hakuba bus. At stop 6 there is no sign that mentions Hakuba, so I check all the other bus stops, no mention there either, they all seem to be local connections. So we head in and ask at JR car rentals, and the kind man directs us to the other side of the station. So if you are heading to the ski fields of Hakuba, Shiga Kogen, Myoko Kogen, go to the East side of the station. We have a fair wait, but we meet a local origami teacher who gives G a paper crane!
A good day for cycling

A good day for cycling


The bus trip is mostly uneventful, that is we fell asleep – me because I was tired and G because I drugged him for travel sickness, expecting a windy drive over the hills which never eventuated – its lots of tunnels cutting through the mountains. Out of the bus at Hakuba Happo, we go into tourist info who call up our hotel to come and pick us up – just as well, because the snow has started to bucket down.
It's snowing in Nagano

It's snowing in Nagano

Posted by lostagain 03:22 Archived in Japan Tagged skiing Comments (0)

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