Away from the neon lights of Tokyo city, are Japan’s untamed wilderness, forested islands, billowing volcanoes and massive mountains. And, on our fifth day in Japan, that’s where we were going – the mountains.
Japan’s largest island is Honshu. It’s home to almost 103 million people who cram into its cities surrounded by uninhabitable landscapes. Spanning about 300km, the towering Japanese Alps and its 3000m peaks dominate the landscape and bisect the country.
Cold winds from Siberia pick up moisture over the Sea of Japan and drop it as snow during the winter months, (December – March). Drifting to almost 20m deep, it can bring the ski resort of Nagano to a standstill.
Snowboarding in the Japanese Alps
After our day trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park, we stayed at a traditional Japanese ryokan (inn) in the tiny alpine village Akakura Onsen in the Northern Alps (Hida Mountains) for three nights.
Our arrival coincided with the end of the Japanese ski season as well as a fresh dump of snow, so Dan, Simon and Dave spent two and a half glorious days enjoying fresh powder on fairly empty ski slopes. Check out the video (above) Dan put together on his GoPro.
(Because it was the low season, lift passes were only ¥2,500 per day per person and snowboard gear hire was about ¥5,000 – ¥6,000 for three days.)
Relaxing and replenishing in a traditional Japanese ryokan
Dan had researched the area well, making sure our accommodation, Kougakuro, was located about a five minute walk from the nearest ski lift and only a short shuttle bus from many more. But, the womenfolk had other ideas about how to enjoy ourselves in the Japanese Alps…
Our quaint government listed Japanese ryokan featured large Japanese style rooms, a roaring fire in the common room and an onsite onsen – the perfect invitation to enjoy a few relaxing days on our whirlwind journey through Japan.
Needless to say, I spent the next two days warming myself by the fire and catching up on some reading and writing while it snowed relentlessly outside. I really only ventured outside into the small village in search of food – specifically picked food, plum wine and gyoza – and to pick up supplies from the small corner store.
We also learned how to onsen like a local – a very naked experience!