A snow holiday and the starting point of our adventure.
It was the early days of the new 2013 year, we were at Melbourne brunch and I was working double-time on the Great Love.
I wanted to travel, a life shake-up, and my skinny latte – I ordered it 10 minutes ago.
I got him over the line on snow. A snow strip to start and London to end. We could figure out the middle part – I didn’t care – I had him hooked at snow.
Japan, then, was the first stop on our adventure and still the best place I have ever visited.
We were there for a whirlwind and mind-blowing week-and-a-bit and the one thing it did, amongst the many, was left me wanting more: more snowboarding, more hot springs bathing, more sashimi, more of the people, more of the country.
We touched down in Tokyo and were immediately swept up by that magical bustling city, and our friends Jez and Jake. Particularly Jez. No offence Jake.
We checked into a hotel which had the most outrageous of small rooms and completely bogus pillows and headed out to drink beer in the ice cold eve with Jez and Jake.
Having been in the capital for a number of days, the lads were like locals and took us to a ramen eatery at which English was off the menu and the most delicious ramen was the only thing on it.
I selected ramen. It came out with pork pieces atop and just one slurp of the broth and it was clear hogs had gone into its making. It was the first of many meat meals and a surprising uncover about Japan: outside sashimi it was a difficult place to be pescatarian. Regardless, the ramen was next level.
We wandered the streets that night, taking in the people, the neon lights and weighing up karaoke bars. At midnight the boys had a swing at baseball in an inner city cage. If I recall correctly, the GL was the clear best.
The next day Jez and Jake were headed north for Sapporo Airport, Niseko Mountain and Hirafu Ski Village. We were set to follow in another day.
On their advice we were starting our day of sightseeing at the Tsukiji Market (think fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables) which I expect would have been well worth our time had we arrived early enough to see it underway. Having missed the produce – particularly the seafood – being sold, we decided the next best thing was surely to sample it. Which we did in a nearby restaurant. We selected the one with the medium-sized line, waited our turn, perched ourselves at the bar and ordered a tray of sashimi The Lot. It was amazing.
From there we headed for a city view via the monstrous Tokyo Skytree. A broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower in Sumida, it is big. Very very big. Like 634 metres big. That height makes it the world’s tallest tower and second tallest building. I was impressed at its scale; the GL at its welding. I guess you like the things you like, hey?
From the big and well-welded Skytree we headed into Tokyo City to take it all in. The people. The Streets. The Hustle. We finished that day in a bar beneath a railway line which was rattling and lively and at which the GL could smoke inside between mouthfuls of miso soup, rice balls and egg. A very pleasant day.
The next day we flew to Sapporo having committed the very stupidest and costly of travel mistakes: we booked a 7.30am flight without first checking public transport timetables. The error resulted in a $256 cab fare. It was sickly but necessary. We weren’t missing a minute of the snow; we had a plane to catch. Needless to say, we ate light at the airport.
From Sapporo we took a bus up Niseko Mountain and arrived at Hirafu Village to bucket loads of snow. More snow than you could poke a ski at.
While on the mountain, I was determined to learn to snow board. Which is actually a very broad word and very much open to interpretation. What was my ‘learnt’ was the GL’s ‘give up’. I spent the days at the family slope and the boys somewhere in the back country. Then in the evening we went to the onsen (hot springs) before heading out to eat and drink like Queens. Hirafu was very good to us.
Hirafu was also the meeting place with our first Cool Traveller. Nissa. The irrepressible ski lodge host who was as cool as the snow was thick, a total mad dog on her ‘board though she never went out. She was injured, her belly fat from instant noodles and $1 beers and phlegm was dripping from and being barked out of her facial extremities. She was on her second season and in that -6 degrees Celsius temperature she no longer required a jacket. From Niseko she was headed to Nepal “to hike to the base camp and then India and stuff. Why? Because I can.” That was Nissa. There was also an Anthony. Who kept calling Scott (the GL) Stephen. That was funny.
From the snow to glorious Osaka with its phenomenal food and lane ways and very quirky city. We stayed in a Japanese lodge (do that). We rode bikes. We visited Osaka Castle. We wandered a blossom-less Blossom Boulevard. We viewed monkeys on a trip out of town and enjoyed the shops. Magical.
And with that glorious city, our time in Japan came to a close. All too soon. Japan had made an impression. Next stop China. Stayed tuned for more ACH Travel.
Sheena Lee C.