I love Japan in winter. It’s mostly sunny with clear blue skies in the city and the mountains are covered with snow. There is no bigger pleasure than having a glimpse at Mt. Fuji covered with snow on a sunny winter morning. The weekends are another story as I try to escape from the big city and find peace in the woods. It’s very convenient reaching out to the suburbs and be able to hike on the mountains. Ohh and in winter YukiGuni (Snow Country) is just an hour and half from the big city Tokyo.
This past weekend a group of us caught the six o’clock shinkansen from Tokyo station and opened our sleepy eyes in a beautiful town Echigo Yuzawa all under snow. Freezing cold in the first place but the smell of the fresh snow falling on my head made me forget about everything but left me with a beautiful serene feeling. Catching another local train to Joetsu Kokusai was easy and surprising as the train left from the platform zero “0” as I have never seen one named like that. I thought the platforms always started form number 1. Interesting…
Joetsu Kokusai is a neat little town full of ‘Minshuku’s (family run little hotels) surrounded with beautifully snow covered slopes around. This time unfortunately I couldn’t ski due to my crazy painful heel. But this gave me the great opportunity to try my new snowshoes on. I had a bit of difficulty finding a guide or trail to snowshoe in the first place. After a couple of failed attempts, in the end the helpful manager of the Green Plaza Hotel gave me the idea of walking alongside the ski trails. He made my day. The snow was so powdery that the side of the trails were beautifully covered with thick snow that I enjoyed my snowshoeing time. Snowshoeing with skiers and snowboarders gave me a lot of opportunities to notice many things that I wouldn’t have noticed if I were skiing. Such as a mom and dad teaching their little son skiing with him tied upto mom’s belly with a rope while dad is carrying the second kid in his arms as she quietly sleeps there. Teenagers joking and racing with eachother, a young guy waiting for his girl friend to make it down the slope successfully, students lined up waiting for their instructor and little kids (not more than 3yrs.old) flying down the mountain with great confidence.But the best one was the umbrella on the chair lift:)
The colours of fashion on the hills were mostly a combination of pistachio green and turquoise. Girls were in their usual lollipop colours with their matching accessories. Some guys were dressed as angry birds and kids were in rainbow colors. I love it when the slopes are all colourful. People are comfortable with wearing all the daring colours contrast to their daily dark coloured business suites.
While I was snowshoeing I had some time to give a break on one of the rest areas on one of the slopes and had the chance to reflect on how I feel in my diary. I like it when I can do that especially on holidays when I am sooo far away from daily thoughts. It makes me feel refreshed.
Some details about the snowshoes: My snowshoes are MSR Evo’s. The binding worked very well, not one time they opened. They were very comfortable and stable. The bag that I got from Mountbell worked all right. While I was walking I had it on my back, using it to carry my diary, wallet, water and chocolate of course!(incase I get lost?:)
Overall the weekend was perfect. The snow was unforgettable. The place we stayed at was nice and cozy and the people I’ve been with were amazing!
Lucky me… Next trip is on the second week of February to Niseko, one of my favourite places on earth!