Snowboarding in Hakuba, Japan

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.12.22 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.29 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-07 at 4.51.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.16.10 PM I really admired this guys style… clothing wise anyway, I didn’t get to see his skills.  Either way, it’s a really sweet outfit.  The Japanese fashion on the mountain is really cool.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.15.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.14.22 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.14.10 PM  Selfie sticks are everywhere… Then again Mike and I were shooting with my massive Canon.

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I had this deep fried chicken burger (which was full of actual real chicken meat, both dark and lighter) for lunch (my vegetarian diet has literally gone out the window).  It was GLORIOUSLY moist, and crisp.  The seaweed and light sauce made it rich and unique.  I couldn’t finish it, and I now have major indigestion… thank god I’ve got some medicine here to help sort out my tummy troubles, as I’ve been burping up a storm since lunch.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.39 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.17 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 3.13.08 PM

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We chose Hakuba for a few reasons when we decided to take this trip to Japan.

  • There are 5 ski hills that we can choose to go to (a shuttle leaves a few times each morning and comes back midday, and later in the afternoon).
  • The snow here is insane.  Each year Hakuba is covered in about 14 metres of snow.
  • The area is not flooded with Australians, which makes our experience feel more authentic.  There are a few other regions in Japan that are more touristy, but this one at the moment is mostly frequented by Japanese people.
  • The area is very close to some special creatures which we’ll have the luxury of meeting on Monday/Tuesday (can you figure out who we will be meeting?)
  • It’s not very hard to get to from Tokyo.

Have you been to Hakuba?  What were some of the highlights for you?

UPDATE:

I have been belching like a man for 8 hours…

 All photos of the lady in the white jacket – Credited to Michael Cresswell Copyright – 2015

Oops. Wrong number!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.21.20 PMThis is the view from our hotel room.  Ah-ma-zing.

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Beside our hotel is a man made creek.  It carries the melting snow from the heavily snowed in town… we’ve seen many men fishing here.  This man had just caught two fish when we exchanged greetings for this photo.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.14.56 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.08.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.07.50 PM

The other day due to the slight language barrier, I found myself stranded at the local grocery store.  Not only was I completely  overwhelmed by the sheer volume of packaged goods (everything is processed and preserved – which actually answered the question Mike and I were asking one another in Tokyo – How exactly does Japan feed it’s people with very little crops growing at the moment?).  Preserve everything!

Now that I had the answer to that important question…

I’d forgotten to bring a telephone with me.  Eventually I decided I’d try the pay phone.  I looked at a few symbols and decided that the one that looked like a car must definitely be the number for a taxi.  I listened to the phone ring and suddenly a male voice was speaking to me very quickly in Japanese.  I told him in English that I was needing a taxi, and that I was at the supermarket.  There was a pause, when he repeated the word “taxi”.  Yes, here I thought we were on track… until I looked more closely at the sign.

I had dialled the police.

I think I said sorry about 6x before I hung up the phone.  Mike laughed at me later when I told him what I’d done.

Tokyo, Harajuku & Hakuba

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These girls helped us figure out how to pay for our train tickets.Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.48.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.48.15 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.48.06 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.47.56 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.47.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.47.40 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.47.34 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.47.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.47.03 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.46.48 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.46.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.51.56 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.52.25 PM

Tokyo has opened our eyes to the conveniences of Japanese life…  It is very easy to eat, play, sleep, and travel.  We were situated in an urban region just near the city centre (close to the snowboard/ski strip as we needed to buy some gear – if you bring your passport when buying equipment you can get 10% off).

Everything is built up in this city.  The skyline isn’t overly dramatic (architecturally) however it is consistently tall at least 100 km from the city’s heated centre.  We were expecting insane crowds and confusion… but this was not the case at all.

Conveniences:

  • Heated toilet seat with bidet (hilarious and had both Mike and I laughing as we tested it out)
  • The mirrors heat in a square where you might stand and apply makeup after a shower (leaving you with a fog free space to study your face from).
  • You can adjust your shower height (this is brilliant).
  •  Some fast food noodle bars have a machine which you kind of use like a pop machine to order your meal.  It gives you a ticket and then you give it to the matron to shout the order to the chef.  They don’t have to wait for payment… it was brilliant.
  • There literally are pop machines on the street every other block.  They dispense cold and hot beverages…which is a little weird but so convenient!
  • Meals order come out within minutes.  We found the Japanese eat very quickly (which was fine with me, I eat like a vacuum).
  • The trains are colour coded, and numbered so you can easily figure out where you are.
  • Entertainment, there was a massive baseball and roller coaster park only 1km walk from our hotel…we rode an insanely tall ferris wheel which towered over every building for miles.  I also had a mild panic attack! hahaha I’m terrified of heights.

Day 2 Mike guided us very easily from the centre of Toyko to the popular shopping destination: Harajuku.  We spotted a few men and women who were dressed in more colourful outfits, however many of the people that headed to this region were actually wearing designer clothing.  The place is literally crammed with european designer labels.  It was in Harajuku that we visited our first temple.  At the entrance there were hundreds of barrels of sake, and inside we were able to get a glimpse of a traditional wedding.

We spent a lot of our time walking around shopping and eating for 3 days.  Our meals (sorry I’ve not yet taken any photos – I’ll get some over the next few days) were portioned in huge bowls which could easily feed 2 people.  Needless to say I’ve been only able to get halfway through my food.

Yesterday we boarded an express bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano.  The train I think travels around 300km per hour.  It’s been raining, but the temperature is very pleasant and the journey was very fast!  The city sprawls and sprawls, then suddenly you see mountains.

We took an hour bus ride from Nagano to Hakuba and were then dropped off at our hotel.  We’ve got a lovely view of the mountains from our room.  The hotel features a public onsen (Hot spring pools) which we both experienced separately yesterday, as they are specifically for men on one end and women the other.  You have to get fully washed and naked before you are able to enjoy the hot thermal water…  I chose to sit outside in the snow with the hot water keeping me warm… It was so relaxing to see the snow drifting down.  If you get the chance you must try an onsen.

There is more to write but I’ll save it for later.

Thinking of you all,

Holly & Mike

Hello from…Tokyo!

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Mike and I have now been in Tokyo for nearly one day…  We’ll be in Japan for 3 weeks to snowboard, rest, eat plenty of amazing food and enjoy the mountain terrain in Hakuba.

We’ll be travelling from Tokyo to the mountains in three days, and will update you when we arrive.  I’m sure I’ll have taken a million images by then!

We’re keen to find out why it is, that some of the populations wears these face masks, and a large percentage do not.

Have you been to Japan before?  What were some of the highlights of your trip?  

Does anyone have an idea why some people choose to wear these masks?

Speak soon,

Holly & Mike

ps: We (disgracefully) do not know the language (only a few words).  Despite this the Japanese are so patient and kind to us.