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Table of Content for japan2017:

More pages: January 2017 February 2017




2017/01/28 Winter and Snow in Japan: Nagano's Hakuba and Yudanaka + Shibu Onsen
π 2017-01-28 00:00 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips
After multiple trips to Japan during the spring/summer, it was time to go to Japan during the winter to see the winter festivals, and do some snowboarding in its legendary dry snow. So, Arturo and I made plans for this trip, and our friend Regis joined us.

This started with a longish trip: SFO to Narita, skyliner to Ueno, shinkansen to Nagano, and bus to Hakuba:






In Hakuba, I found Atarashiya Ryokan a short distance from the main bus stop. It was a nice traditional ryokan with breakfast and dinner onsite, and where it was good that I was able to speak some Japanese, because their English was close to non existent :)



Atarashiya Ryokan was walking distance from Happo One lifts, which is good for the 2 days we went there:




>>> Go here for my snowboarding report of Hakuba's Happo-One and Hakuba 47 <<<

After 3 days in Hakuba, we took a bus to a subway/train to Yudanaka, and we stayed at Ryokan Hakura which was excellent and where Onozawa-San took good care of us, and thankfully also spoke better English than I spoke Japanese, making things a bit easier for us :)
The first 2 days we took an early bus from the station to Shiga Kogen to go snowboarding (report here)


the train to Yudanaka was a bit slower and less luxurious than the other trains we took, but it got us there
the train to Yudanaka was a bit slower and less luxurious than the other trains we took, but it got us there

Our rooms at Ryokan Hakura were half western, half Japanese, which was a nice mix
Our rooms at Ryokan Hakura were half western, half Japanese, which was a nice mix

We got to enjoy a very yummy dinner in our Ryokan after our first day of skiing
We got to enjoy a very yummy dinner in our Ryokan after our first day of skiing

the road to shiga kogen's remote bigger resorts was time consuming, nice curved bridge here
the road to shiga kogen's remote bigger resorts was time consuming, nice curved bridge here

At end of the 2nd day, we went to a walk from Yudanaka to Shibu Onsen around sunset, which was a bit of a trek, but a nice city to visit:










the 2nd night after skiing, we had dinner in a local restaurant
the 2nd night after skiing, we had dinner in a local restaurant


Our last day, we didn't have to leave so early for the ski bus, and were able to have breakfast in our ryokan, which was quite good and [Onozawa-San very nicely drove us to Jigokudani Yaen-Koen (Monkey Park)|] and then to the train station (which was welcome considering that my luggage was not fun to take uphill in snowy streets):



Onozawa-San giving us a farewell
Onozawa-San giving us a farewell

Next, was a trip to Hokkaido's Niseko.

2017/02/03 Jigokudani Yaen Koen: Yamanouchi's Monkey Park
π 2017-02-03 00:00 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips
Most people who go to Yudanaka/Yamanouchi do so only to see the moneky park. In our case we were there to go snowboarding, but it would have been a mistake not to go to the monkey park of course.

Our last morning in Yudanaka, after a nice breakfast at Ryokan Hakura, Onozawa-San nicely drove us to the park entrance and we got up there bright an early before everyone else, which is good considering how packed with tourists it got by 10:00 when we were about to leave. Thankfully it also opened 10mn early (08;50), giving us a bit of extra time. This also includes a 20-30mn hike on a snowy path from the winter entrance.

The monkeys are of course incredibly cute, and we found plenty of then in the natural onsen in the morning, as a way for them to warm up:



hot vent in the snow
hot vent in the snow



the onsen was full
the onsen was full






amazing it can stay in a branch like that
amazing it can stay in a branch like that

2017/02/03 Winter and Snow in Japan: Hokkaido's Niseko, Lake Shikotsu, Otaru, and Sapporo
π 2017-02-03 00:00 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips
After a good time in Yudanaka/Shiga-Kogen and seeing the monkey park, it was time for another longish trip: a small train to Nagano, Shinkansen to Tokyo Station, JR train to Kanazawa, airport train to Haneda, plane to New Chitose Airport not too far from Sapporo, shuttle to rental car, and then longish drive at night (thanks Arturo) to Niseko, with some roads closed on the way (no thanks to Google Maps for sending us on them):


Good Bye Nagano
Good Bye Nagano

Haneda
Haneda

Fuji-San, at sunset, lucky shot from the plane
Fuji-San, at sunset, lucky shot from the plane

Lots of driving in Sapporo to get some remote resorts (Rusutsu, Kiroro)
Lots of driving in Sapporo to get some remote resorts (Rusutsu, Kiroro)

Many deer walking on the road, our rental car had a deer anti collision device for night driving
Many deer walking on the road, our rental car had a deer anti collision device for night driving

Mt Yotei was a nice volcano visible from all around. Some people hike it up for back country skiing
Mt Yotei was a nice volcano visible from all around. Some people hike it up for back country skiing


We ended up driving a fair amount, the car came it quite handy:

Outside of Niseko, we went to:

  • Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
  • Otaru Snow Light Path
  • A Quick Day Through Sapporo
  • Sapporo Snow Festival
  • 2017/02/04 Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
    π 2017-02-04 00:00 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips
    After our first day skiing in Niseko, I figured it would be a great idea for us to go to the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival since in weekends they would shoot fireworks in the evening. While the festival was fun and worth going to, going on a saturday night was a very dumb idea because many people did the same, and cars backed up in the only street to get there until there was an ever growing traffic jam for the last few miles of driving, which I guess was due to the parking lot having fully filled up.
    Thankfully I was able to use openstreemap to see a side street getting into the town (google maps failed to show it) and talk a traffic guard into letting us take it. From there, we got to the festival within minutes when the normal road was not moving and probably backed up for another 30mn or more. Advise to others: don't go on weekends, the fireworkds were not exactly special and not worth the traffic jam at all. A weekday without traffic is likely a better idea.

    The festival, though was fun and pretty, too bad it was almost a 4H drive (return) from Niseko, and the bad traffic jam...
















    See more images for Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival
    2017/02/08 Otaru Snow Light Path
    π 2017-02-08 00:00 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips
    After Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, we still had to visit Otaru Snow Light Path, which was a short drive from Kiroro Snow World where we had a great day snowboarding.

    We had a very quick look at Otaru while we still had a bit of daylight left, including the local (small) museum, mostly centered around trains:




    cool to see snow all the way to the ocean
    cool to see snow all the way to the ocean

    We then went to see the Snow Light Path festival:





    I love you too Arturo :)
    I love you too Arturo :)












    See more images for Otaru Snow Light Path
    2017/02/09 A Quick Day Through Sapporo
    π 2017-02-09 00:00 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips

    Since we were going to Sapporo for the snow and ice festival, we left early to visit what we could during the day. We started with Shiroi Koibito Park, a chocolate cookie factory that pretends to be the charlie chocolate factory with oompa loompas, and while it is touristic, it's funy and pretty :)










    Next, we went to historic village of hokkaido, which was a mix of old and new buildings, which felt a bit weird to me. I'd say it's not an essential visit, but it was nice to see with the snow:






    Next door was the historical museum of hokkaido, which I found much more interesting:


    interesting that Hokkaido lies more south than Paris and gets so much more snow
    interesting that Hokkaido lies more south than Paris and gets so much more snow


    the Ainu people lived in Hokkaido for a long time before the Japanese came
    the Ainu people lived in Hokkaido for a long time before the Japanese came





    And eventually we got to our hotel in Sapporo and stored the car in the car elevator :)


    many spots for many cars
    many spots for many cars

    We then headed to Odori Park and the TV tower for some views:





    we then took the stairs down
    we then took the stairs down

    In the evening, we walked around town a little bit and went for more tower views:






    and for fun we took the subway back to the hotel
    and for fun we took the subway back to the hotel

    Of course, the main reason for going to Sapporo was the Sapporo Snow Festival, which is on its own page

    See more images for A Quick Day Through Sapporo
    2017/02/09 Sapporo Snow Festival
    π 2017-02-09 00:00 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips

    Of course, we went to Sapporo for the snow and ice festival, so here are the pictures:











    awesome lighting effects
    awesome lighting effects












    See more images for Sapporo Snow Festival

    More pages: January 2017 February 2017