Thursday, 16 February 2012

Travel Log: YETI Ski Trip, Hakuba, Nagano-prefecture

Welcome to the Travel Log. Here I will be making short reports on my journeys around Japan. I hope to travel a lot more this year after not doing very much in my first year on the JET Programme. I hope I can offer you some tips to help your own travels run smoother.

Not too long ago, some JETs from Shizuoka (myself included), Chiba and Aichi prefectures joined together for the annual YETI ski trip to Hakuba, a ski resort area in Nagano prefecture. Being from Australia, I was naturally excited to see some real snow having rarely had an opportunity to do so. This was a promising prospect when I arrived at Gotemba train station on a Friday evening (the rendezvous point for the car pool) to find the town had experience heavy snowfall that day. Gotemba is only about 30 kilometres from my nick of the woods so this was very surprising. On a side note, Shizuoka has been experiencing one of the coldest winters on record (just my luck) and I have been able to experience substantial snowfall on the Izu—a place where it should not logically be able to occur—twice now!

So the car pool took about 6 hours to drive from the south coast of central Japan to the north coast, including the time it took to sought out a misunderstanding at a toll booth when we apparently forgot to take a ticket from a ticket gate at the start of our journey. Naturally, we collapsed into bed that night.

Saturday, we hit the powder. After discovering that the ski-gear rental guy didn’t even have big enough shoes for me (size 27 Japan), I had to go with my too-small boots half done up. I later discovered that they were so tight on my feet that welts appeared where it rubbed the next day. I just thought I would share that with you. BUT NOTHING COULD DIMINISH MY DESIRE TO SEE SNOW!!

So we spend the morning frolicking, taking skiing lessons… I gave it my best effort but ultimately concluded at the end of the day, after hurting my back during a fall, that skiing wasn’t for me. Whilst others found it exhilarating, I found it nothing but terrifying. So I headed back to our resort. It wasn’t all bad though. When I got back I was given a free pass to an awesome onsen nearby so spent the afternoon relaxing in a natural hot spring. It’s a peculiar experience sitting in a pool of almost too-hot water while snow gently settles in your hair.

I had given up on skiing by the time everyone set off for the slopes on Sunday so I read my book and took a walk before we piled into the car and headed back to Shizuoka. Another 6 hours in a southerly direction and we were home. I was tired, I hadn’t showered, and I had spent a large amount of money to spend the night at a resort only to sleep on a futon both nights and receive cold dinners. Did I have fun? Not really. And if I am perfectly honest, that was down to poor organization of the event itself, the aforementioned welts and the presence of too much alcohol on Saturday night. ‘But there must have been at least a highlight!’ I hear you thinking… well, the snow was really spell-binding. I really couldn’t stop looking at/filming it (I will probably post some footage later). And the onsen was very relaxing. Do I recommend Hakuba? Definitely. Will I ever go again? NO. Skiing is like climbing Mt. Fuji; do it once and its amazing, do it twice and you are an idiot.

Do you have any snow-related disaster stories?

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