Following on from a highly enjoyable trip last year attempting to visit the lesser known powder magnet resorts around Hakuba, it was back to tick off and find a few more gems in the Nagano-Niigata-Gunma crown. Plan was fairly simple: couple nights in Tokyo, shink to Nagano where I would pick up my wheels and spend the first week based out of Myoko, then venture round to Yuzawa/Minamkami for the remainder of the second week. Leading up to the trip I was fairly excited to experience and 'really' explore the area but the unusual weather that transpired this past season over December and early January for the central Honshu resorts definitely had me questioning whether I had made the right choice. Nevertheless, not one to back out of prior accommodation commitments, I decided to suck it up and just make the most of the trip whatever the conditions/snowfall that eventuated. With 12 different resorts hit over 12 days, I can safely say that I had no regrets. PART 1: TOKYO Direct flight from Brisbane to Narita using the (new?) Qantas route @ $850 for a full service airline with 30kg baggage allowance was a no brainer. Such a great experience too not having to transit through Sydney or an Asian hub. Hallelujah! Daytime flight was very smooth and landed 30mins earlier than planned in Narita which was was a win. I was subsequently outside customs before our actual planned arrival time . Once I picked up my snowboard bag, it was a quick jot down to drop it off at the black cat services, pick up some cash and then down a couple levels to sort out my train ticket into Ueno on the Keisei Skyliner Express. I also made the most of the Skyliner + Metro pass deal (open to foreign tourists) which you can pick up at the service centre when booking your seats. I think it was Y4700 for the return trip + 1 day metro pass = good value in my books. Holy wow is all I can say about the Skyliner. 41mins and I'm in Ueno - no fussing around here. If you don't have the constraints of a rail pass, then this is definitely the way to travel from NRT into Tokyo. Had 2 nights in Tokyo and I stayed in Sutton Place Hotel located near the main JR terminal in Ueno. It was a fairly basic no-fuss Japanese business hotel that came with a light breakfast each morning and from memory was about Y7600 per night. No complaints really other than the fact that my room stunk like an old ash-tray . Had a quick looksie around Ueno that evening after checking in but I was fairly stuffed from the day's travel and had a pretty early night. Having ticked off most of the major Tokyo bigger must-do's on previous visits to this metropolis, it was tough choice as to where I wanted to spend the next day exploring before heading off to the mountains. I really wanted to give one of the theme parks a go and was initially planning on heading out to Fuji Q Highland, but the 2hr+ journey each way was not really all that appealing. In the end I settled on Tokyo Disney Sea and was eager to see what the place had install for me. It was an early start on a Monday morning as I took the local rail/subway network out towards the Disney theme parks. Didn't really take into account that I would be negotiating public transport peak hour, but it was enjoyable to experience the daily commute of the Japanese workers. It really didn't take more than about 40mins from Ueno, and I had arrived at the JR Maihama Disney resort station. A quick 10 minute walk along some of THE most perfectly manicured roads and I was inside ready to get into it. For a Monday morning, I was hoping the theme park would be deserted, however I was VERY wrong. School and tour group central. Nevertheless, I tried to make the most of the place and slowly worked my way round the huge complex. The major rides had queues of about 30-45 mins which wasn't too horrible, but I was kind of disappointed with the length of the actual experience once you got in. All over in less than 5-10 mins. The fast track system was also a schemozzle! Scanned my ticket to pick my first one up and it told me to come back at 6:40pm that evening!! Stuff that. Once I had ticked off the major rides of the resort by about 1pm, I felt like I had my share of entertainment for the day. Highlight was probably the Journey to the Centre of the Earth ride and maybe the Aztec roller-coaster. This place is genuinely amazing for kids with so many dressed up charters just walking around the park taking photos, but I was hoping it would be aimed more at an older market (say similar to California Adventure) which I don't think it made it to in my books. Typical theme park prices for food too so I made tracks shortly after lunch time back into western Tokyo to check out Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya for the rest of the afternoon. Later that evening as I made my way back towards my accommodation in Ueno I also ventured out via Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree which was amazing at that time of the evening as the sun was setting. A nice little ice skating rink and light display out the front was also enjoyable to experience, as too was the amazing shopping complex at the base of the Skytree. The following day, it was again a quick check-out and a walk literally across the road to the JR Ueno shink station to pick up my ticket and rocket out towards Nagano. Arrive 90 mins later and with a little wander round to the Nissan rentakar next to the station, it was hello to my transport for the next 12 days. Input the address into my car's GPS for Myoko and I was off to the mountains. Conditions were cold and clear - bring it! More to come!