To put a long story short, our Hakuba stay was an exhausting but blissful 3 and a half days in a winter wonderland. Before I jump into the lowdown, I’m already putting it out there that there isn’t much to do but ski/snowboard/onsen. You can take an hour’s drive to see the snow monkeys (which we didn’t do though), but that’s about it for the entire town.
Day 7 / 0102 – A trip to white town
We started our day early to make our way to Hakuba, Nagano. Since we didn’t opt to take the shinkansen, we had a very scenic 4 hour trip all the way to the Hakuba station – it required several train changes along the way, but it was worth it.
Train views, Lake Aoki on the way to Hakuba
After a long trip to the other side of the country, we finally made it to Hakuba – a small but beautiful winter town.
Our lodge – Kamoshika Views – was located on a hill that overlooked the Happo-one slopes. So our very friendly host (and lodge owner), Rus, picked us up from the station and checked us in.
The lodge’s breakfast nook had the best view ever. Wouldn’t have minded staying in all day just to appreciate it.
Since it was winter, the sun set almost immediately after we arrived. So we drove back down to the town proper to meet up with James’s parents, for dinner and drinks before calling it a night.
(like I said earlier, there really isn’t much to do)
Day 8&9 / 0103-04 – Tripping down slopes
On our first day of skiing, we went to the Hakuba 47 Resort slopes, and on the second day, we went to Escal Plaza. I’m bunching these two days up because I essentially only got to go boarding on the first day. By the time we got to day 2, my busted knee could no longer handle the pressure. So instead of talking about what we did, I’m gonna talk a little bit more on budget – going on a ski holiday is hella expensive!!! Don’t do it if you intend to go on a cheap trip. There are multiple things you pay for – clothing rental, board/equipment rental, safety gear rental, a lift pass, and sometimes, an expensive cab ride to the slopes (when you miss the shuttle service). I spent more in 3 and a half days in Hakuba than I did in the previous days in Tokyo (minus the shopping of course). I’m glad to say though, that it was still an experience of a lifetime and I’m glad I got to do it.
Food, food, and more food though…
Not photographed here was my absolute favorite thing to do in Japan – onsen. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and public bath. The hot springs promote blood circulation and relaxes tired muscles – perfect after a long day of struggling on the slopes. For those who don’t know what happens in an onsen, I’m going to talk about how I did it.
First off, onsens are typically segregated into males and females (mixed bathing isn’t too common anymore). So upon entering the “locker” (more like baskets) area for women, I’d completely strip down, and bring only a small towel face towel to the bathing area. The bathing area is a completely open space where I’d sit and wash myself with the amenities provided – soap, shampoo, conditioner. After bathing, I’d step out into the outdoor onsen, instead of staying in the indoor onsen. I liked the feeling of having my body submerged in really hot, silky water, while being outside in negative degree temperature. Sometimes the water would be super hot, so I’d have to step out, rinse off at the bathing area, and then step back into the water. Some people can actually spend hours just doing that. In my case, I’d stay for a maximum of an hour in the onsen. There may not be anything too special about taking a hot bath, but for some reason, it was still the most meditative yet empowering experience I had in Japan.
Day 10&11 / 0105-06 – Last of Japan
On our last (half) day in Hakuba, Aunt Flow arrived a week early. I guess spending too much time in the onsen got my blood circulating pumping too much. So unfortunately, I was feeling very sick and nauseated. I was forced to take things very slowly, so not much happened. We were supposed to go back to an onsen one last time, but for obvious reasons, we just hung out at a cafe while waiting for our train back to Tokyo.
We stayed at a very hip and cute Goldilocks themed cafe called Bear Cafe.
Then we took one last stroll around the town.
It was evening by the time we arrived back in Tokyo, so we did the obvious thing and ate at our favorite sushi train, Midori Mawashi (for the 3rd time) in Meguro. Then we capped the night with Japanese McDonalds, which I must say is my current favorite.
The next day, upon waking up, we went straight to the airport and we were in transit for over 15 hours. It was a hectic day, with no time to appreciate the last of our stay, but I spent a lot of time going over all my photos, with so much gratitude. Leaving Japan was bittersweet, but our stay was still 11 days filled with great experiences to last a lifetime.
lost in time – JAPAN [1/3]: First few days in Tokyo, Tokyo Disneysea
lost in time – JAPAN [2/3]: Yokohama, Hakone, New Year’s Eve