A taste of skiing in Hakuba
I had heard amazing things about the Japan Alps and wanted to go see them for myself so ended up settling on visiting the town of Hakuba, made famous as the host for Ski Jumping during the 1998 winter Olympics. Man that jump is high!! Just looking at it made me feel nervous.
It was still too snowy to do any real hiking which left us with very little else to do but go skiing. I have never skied before in my life, although I have always wanted to give it a go. I had signed myself and my husband up a half day private skiing lesson for complete beginners. It had been one of the worst years for snow in Japan, we had been told, but this actually worked in our favour as instead of using the boring beginner slopes at the bottom next to the school, we were taken right up to the top of the mountain for our lesson.
The afternoon was spent in and out of the natural spring bath at our very comfortable family run Ryokan, Siramasu-So before a traditional dinner in our yukata. A perfect combination after a day skiing.
The not very snowy Snow Monkeys
Breakfast the next morning, like most of our meals in Japan, was partly tasty, partly not and entirely weird. Today was definitely my favourite breakfast of the trip though with only the miso soup being a bit too much for me to stomach at 7am.
While we waited for our bus out of Hakuba, we made the most of the public natural hot spring foot baths in town to try and ease our ache legs.
Our final stop before heading back to Tokyo was to Yadanaka to see the Snow Monkeys. It was a bit of a detour and in hindsight one that we felt wasn’t worth it. There was nothing to do in the town except see the monkeys which involved a 30 minute walk along a drab and unattractive path. Once you reach the monkeys, you pay your fee and go into an industrial area that is covered in concrete and rusting scaffolding. The monkeys were too warm for the hot springs, although food was thrown in to try and entice them.
The monkeys were undeniably cute though. Photogenic and very comfortable getting close up to their spectators I got some great photos.
Except of the young ones. I found out quickly they really didn’t like having their picture taken….
Despite the disappointment of the snow monkeys, we still enjoyed our stop over thanks to the lovely and very traditional Ryokan we were staying in – Yudanaka Seifuso.
A family business, run by three generations, our hosts couldn’t speak a word of english but went out of their way to make our stay so warm and memorable. Watching them prepare the many dinner dishes, which they serve to their guests in their separate rooms, I realised how much hard work they put into running the place.
A final farewell to Tokyo
For our final 2 nights we returned to our starting destination, Tokyo, which in just 12 days had turned into an energised city in in full bloom. Walking through Uneo park, under the canopy of pink amongst the excited locals all looking for a picnic spot, was a sight not to be forgotten.
I quite like to finish my trips with a bit of luxury so had booked the Odaiba Hilton Hotel which sat in Tokyo’s newly built up bay area. It was a fun ride getting there on a nifty driverless train.
It’s not a cheap hotel but is oozing luxury. We had been receiving 5* service all holiday, even in the cheap places we stayed, but at the Hilton it was the best I had ever had. The real selling point of the hotel was definitely the spa area and it’s outdoor jacuzzi that made the most of the hotels amazing views overlooking the Rainbow Bridge and beyond that, Tokyo’s skyline.
We spent all afternoon relaxing here and then after dinner went straight back again so that we could see the view again at night.
For our final day we went to DisneySea and after 2 weeks of busy sightseeing it was the perfect way to end the holiday. We had so much fun walking around the park taking in the huge sets, riding the most high tech rides I have ever been on and enjoying the evening light show.
With an early flight booked to take us home the next morning there was nothing left to do but have a cocktail (or 2) in the hotel bar before hitting the sack.