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Trip Report Crispy's Kurisumasu Torippu

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Crispy013, Dec 22, 2019.

  1. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Well, it's that time of year (again) for our annual pilgrimage to Nihon. This will be my 10th trip there in the last decade - I know, I'm a Japanese tragic.

    Normally most years we have Christmas with either my family over in Perth, or with my wife's family on the NSW east coast. We flagged the idea quite early in the year that a combined Christmas in Japan might be a pretty cool way to get both families together at the same time and throw in a little snowy trip away from Australia's typically stinking hot summer.

    There was little objections and after confirming we could snare some accommodation in our favourite Hakuba lodge, we had locked it away with the whole family by April. This trip was wheel's up Christmas eve and return 8th Jan. Short and sharp 2 weeks, but hoping to fit in a bit of skiing and sightseeing along the way.

    This is the rough plan:
    [​IMG]

    Hoping to take a stab at a rolling TR. Bags packed, with final checks tomorrow. Hai dohzo!
     
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  2. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    Will we see you holding a small flag up in the air as well? :D
     
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  3. Donzah

    Donzah Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Done those exact routes (with exception of west of matsumoto)
    Minami alps look like getting some snow 27th Dec.. Same as fuji area. Just play it by ear down there. They don't have road clearing equipment that copes....
     
  4. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Well done for coordinating the whole family over that time of year! How many people are we talking about?!?! Looking forward to your TR as usual.
     
  5. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Always enjoy reading your TR Cripsy, safe travels :)
     
  6. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Yep, staying flexible is the key. Hoping the wingroad comes to the rescue.
     
  7. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    10 in the group. Should be fun taking over the lodge in Hakuba for a week.
     
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  8. Donzah

    Donzah Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Aye. The wingroad coped for us.

    The best view we found was down near the boat rental places . On the lake
     
  9. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Ha ha!
    That is indeed a decent number to "cat herd". Best of luck!

    You may wish to borrow our term for the inevitable daily straggler - Doris the Doddler - there is one in every group.
    "Where's Doris?"
    "What are we waiting for...? ohh right...Doris..."

    The worst is when you are the straggler and you look around and say "ahhh shiiiiittt *I* am Doris!"

    Have a great time. You're making awesome family memories. My folks and my MIL bonded so much over their 3 weeks in Japan with us. Its really quite special.
     
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  10. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    You are staying at Eric and Fumi's excellent choice! If you are down by the station at some time pop and say hi at our new shop, Hakuba Gallery and Gifts. Always good catching up with forum members :)
     
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  11. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Traveled Hokkaido with a group of 9 earlier this year and the one thing we all learnt quite quickly was COMMUNICATION is key. Eg - What time are we leaving next morning? Where are we meeting before dinner? etc etc. Setting definite plans to eliminate Doris causing havoc. Plus having a group chat that everyone uses to coordinate.

    Also might be worth booking restaurants in advanced with a group that size
     
  12. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    Absolutely the case in Hakuba but their lodge owners are all over this. Great people and good friends. We currently have a group of 10 staying in one of our places and we do the same for them and all guests actually.
     
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  13. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Yep that’s the plan. We have 3 cars, so I’m thinking some days it’ll be every man/woman for themselves. Will definitely lean on Eric and Fumie for planning restaurant reservations. They are very accommodating hosts. Don’t worry, the group chat just during the planning phase has been interesting!
     
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  14. PMG

    PMG One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    You should drop in at Tsumago for a couple of hours on the way from Nagoya. You're practically driving past it. ;)
     
    #14 PMG, Dec 24, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2019
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  15. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Okay trip begins!

    From Port Macquarie we had an overnight at our in-laws at Grafton. Then a cruisy journey up to Brisbane via Lismore to avoid holiday M1 traffic through Woodburn.

    Traffic generally very good the whole way into Brisbane. We had Valet parking at the international terminal which I booked months ago and cost roughly $10 per day for our 2 weeks. Roll in, pull out and 50m walk into the check in terminal. No need to worry about finding a park. Easy as!

    Just waiting to check into our Singapore Air flight. So far, so good.

    [​IMG]

    Side note: travelex offering 59 JPY!!!! Robbery.
     
  16. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Okay touch down in Japan has occurred. SIA flights were fantastic as usual. Slight 30min delay getting off the ground in Brisbane, but easily made up along the way. Into Singapore in the early morning and by the time we stretched the legs getting from one terminal to the other, it was straight onto our 1am bound for a Nagoya. A little less than 6hrs up to Nagoya to dock early Christmas morning. Woo.

    [​IMG]

    As expected, Nagoya airport was seamless. Once we picked up our luggage it was outside to secure some yen from the 7i eleven ATM and then up the walkway to the Mietetsu line that would take us into Nagoya central JR station.

    [​IMG]

    Nagoya station was, again, to be expected - another typically busy and frantic hub of people moving between lines and trains. We lined up and sorted our tix on the Shinano wide view bound for Matsumoto. Also managed to book some tickets on the Shinkansen for NY day for some of our travelling party headed back to Tokyo. Learnt the hard way last time when trying to travel during the holiday period.

    [​IMG]

    Currently on the wide view headed towards the Kiso mountains. Felt very mild while on the boarding station. I think 5c, maybe higher.

    Also, making most of the unlimited data SIM card from Japan Rail Pass. Awesome speeds and vital to keep the group connected. About $40 for 2 weeks. Do recommend.

    Next check in will be Hakuba hopefully after we secure our new car for the next 12 days.
     
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  17. Donzah

    Donzah Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Pretty train trip that.
     
  18. mannyk

    mannyk One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Say hello to Eric and Fumi from Manfred and Donna. Stayed ln Feb. Great people great place.
    Look forward to the rest of the TR.
    Let it snow let it snow let it snow..
    Merry Christmas
     
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  19. travelislife

    travelislife One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    You missed the amazing Onsen at Nagoya Airport! Perfect way to refresh after a red eye flight in.

    Looks like will be a cracking trip.
     
  20. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    So, beautiful journey up on the Shinano Wide View #9 from Nagoya to Matsumoto. Blue bird day, so got to appreciate the views up the beautiful gorge far better than a previous trip. Took 2 hours and we strolled out at Matsumoto to a balmy 10 deg afternoon.

    Hire car for the next 12 days via Nippon, which was super convenient being 50m from the west exit. Toyota Corolla Fielder has been loaded by the time I sorted the check in process in the office and we were locked and loaded for Hakuba.

    [​IMG]

    Drive through Matsumoto central and Azumino was frustrating as I recalled last time, but we managed to break up the journey with a couple pit stops to pick up essentials at Uniqlo, Family Mart and Alpen sports store along the way.

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    From Matsumoto station it was a very easy drive up into Hakuba valley. Snow down low very scarce, but gorgeous views up to the Japanese alps as we got closer to our accommodation.

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    We arrived late afternoon to a very different sight of the lodge, with almost not snow surrounding the woodlands. Quite a dramatic difference from past years where snow banks have been 2m+ surrounding the lodge and car park. Didn’t really matter as it felt like a big family reunion checking back into Backcountry Lodge Hakuba once again.

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    It was fantastic to catch up with my family who had arrived the night before. We had a beautiful home cooked meal by Fumie and sunk a few drinks as our suedo Christmas dinner together. Such a good night. Everyone was knackered, so I think we all retired to bed by about 8:30.

    New day and it was still mild this morning. With not much happening on the slopes, I ventured for a little run around the area which was kind of odd as normally it’s snow banks both sides of the road round the lodge.

    Behind the lodge, which sort of backs onto Tsugaike, I found a cool little path beside a stream and bumped into a deer or mountain goat of sorts.

    [​IMG]

    I kind of frightened it off, but was cool to see. Also found a little boardwalk section in a nearby park which was very picturesque.

    [​IMG]

    Ski slopes on the other hand...dire!

    [​IMG]
     
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  21. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Pass the butter Ski Pass: Gold

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  22. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Kamoshika is the Japanese name.
     
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  23. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Pass the butter Ski Pass: Gold

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    I first heard about them from a Japanese skier in Zermatt, he called them Serow.
     
  24. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki One of them Ski Pass: Gold

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    They're meant to bring good luck too.
     
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  25. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    The Japanese Serow is closely related to the Taiwanese Serow.
    However, the Japanese name translates to antelope, even though it's not an antelope (Shika means deer)
     
  26. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    A bit of a dreary day, so no rush to get to the limited slopes. Only Goryu/47 appeared to have anything half decent worth a slide. But at Y4500 for a half day, decided to give it a miss.

    We took the family in to pick up their ski gear in hopes of the snow kicking in later tonight. Down to Tsugaike Spicy rentals, where it was super depressing, with no snow, even up on the higher faces. Eek.

    After the ski gear hire was sorted, it was back in towards Happo for a bit of look around. On the way we dropped into a cool little shrine area just outside Iwatake. Family loved it.

    [​IMG]
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    We then headed up to the Happo Ski Jump and took everyone through the Olympic exhibition. Happo looking pretty non existent unfortunately. 47 looked like it had some icy trails open. It felt cool, but the rain was increasing slowly by the time we finished up.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We had lunch up closer to Happo before coming back via North Face and dinner supply stock up at Apple Mart. Raining lightly, but just waiting for the signs of change to snow. Fingers crossed.
     
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  27. Donzah

    Donzah Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Snow from midnight I think...

    @Crispy013 when you're heading from Matsumoto to Hakuba.
    Take a right near royal host/mont bell rather than heading through azumino.
    Route 306 - Kita Alps panorama road
    You'll come out near Omachi.
    Far quicker and no traffic lights .
     
  28. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Yep drove on this for a large part. Awesome. So much better than 50 million traffic lights.
     
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  29. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    For some reason, Google maps always driects you via Azumino and not the back road....
     
  30. Donzah

    Donzah Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Actually. Oddly. Google Maps now takes you on the right side of the river.
     
  31. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Alright, catch up time.

    With some rain lower down in the village, the forecast was for a change overnight to the white stuff. I was hoping to get up to a snow covered ground outside the lodge, but unfortunately the 6am wake up to down pipes dripping overhead was not good news. The only positive was that there was nothing to wash away I guess.

    As we ate breakfast, the rain slowly turned to wet flakes and there was signs that potentially up high the precipitation was converting to big snow accumulations. With limited picking on offer, I headed down to Hakuba47 to get up high and see what was around.

    [​IMG]

    With sleety mix at the base gondola, up the top it had changed to some moderate snow. Actually looked half decent above the cloud line in the trees - huge contrast to what was happening 500m lower down the mountain.

    Coming into the long weekend and with limited mountains/trails open, crowds were a bit hectic. Not unbearable, but squeezing absolute beginners and advanced frothers on limited narrow icy trails was a recipe for disaster (or entertainment :whistle:).

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    With limited snow base and overnight mild temps, you could see the undergrowth starting to show in spots. Also sections of ice and puddles near the low spots at chairlifts. Easy to avoid, but beginners were getting cleaned up on them.

    Up higher towards the peak crossover to Goryu, the snow was actually excellent. A little heavy, but nice for some softer turns.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    After a few runs on the upper trails which started to mogul up pretty bad, it was time to call it quits. Down low was getting hampered by rising temps and plague of people, so it was an interesting slide down to the very base of 47.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    All in all, a surprising first day warm up. Slowly but surely, the rain at village level turned to snow and started to accumulate which showed good promise - apparently this storm wasn’t done for just yet.

    Later that evening we all headed out for dinner at Tsuagaike. The place was a DIY okonomiyaki joint which was a huge winner with everyone. If you happen to be in Tsugaike, check out this place which is just near to the base gondola - Kushibe.

    [​IMG]
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    After full belly’s (at only Y1800 per head!!), we head back to the car for an unexpected dig out! It was dumping :cool:.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    An excellent sign of things to come...
     
  32. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    The snow that was pumping down during dinner the previous night appeared to ease and by morning it was clear, calm and cool. Looking like a super day to come.

    I was up early again and decided to head out for a little run to catch the sunrise. From the lodge, I take the local road further up the hill past a couple of other lodges and cabins. With the recent snow, the morning light made for some spectacular sights.

    [​IMG]
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    I get beyond the cleared tarmac and continue up the small service road that sort of runs adjacent to the Tsugaike ski resort.

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    Soon enough, just when I thought the scenery could get any better, the sunrise changed the game.

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    I made it as far as the last hydro station and had to pinch myself a few times how beautiful this place is.

    [​IMG]

    Definitely an epic way to start the morning and fairly euphoric sensation running down from the top back to the lodge in the light fluffy snow. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
     
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  33. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    After an amazing morning run and possibly even better breakfast, it was out to make the most of the day. A nice little accumulation on the cars overnight was welcomed.

    [​IMG]

    With the cool conditions and recent falls, we decided to head down to Tsugaike to see if they had opened up any more runs. Unfortunately, given the public holiday in full force and no signs of the lower beginner runs being open yet, it was chaos at the gondola station.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    With most of the family having enough of riding 47/Goryu, they decided to stick out the lines and ride Tsugaike. I opted against it and once they were set, I decided to have a look around further north in the valley.

    Passing Norikura they only had their far left beginners hill operating and were grooming the central run. So it was onto Cortina which I had heard just announced opening.

    [​IMG]

    After parking about 6km away in the day trippers parking spot (still don’t know why hotel guest parking is about 5000 spots), I pick up a 4hr pass for about Y3000.

    There was what looked like only 2 lifts operating from the bottom, so I go up the lookers left one first for a couple of quick warm up laps. Snow was not too bad, but still heaps of exposed grasses poking through.

    [​IMG]

    Compared to the circus at Tsugaike, this place was relatively deserted. Was actually kind of cool to ride without the hoards - only beginners and apparently those in the know.

    [​IMG]

    I find out as I take up the main central lift that the upper loft was also in action. Good news! Conditions pretty sketchy on the runs though and you had to plot your course down the hill to avoid hazards. Still good fun.

    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]

    After tackling the main upper runs, I notice some sneaky lines being had on those courses not officially open yet. I take a look and find out quickly why they have been left cordoned off. Big mission cutting grass to get any momentum. Anyways, still a good adventure.

    [​IMG]

    Like most resorts in the valley, still a 50cm dump away from getting going fully.

    Later in the evening we head out again for dinner with the group. This time, a teppanyaki place in Tsugaike called VanVan. Not a bad outing either.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The trip continues to deliver.
     
    #33 Crispy013, Dec 29, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
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  34. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Another blue bird day forecast and I got out early again for another epic run. This time, back up the same trails, but also exploring some new ones along the way.

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    After another cracking breakfast at the lodge, today was a day trip to cater for the non skiers in the group.

    [​IMG]

    Today’s destination was Togakushi. From Hakuba, although being about 20km as the crow flies, it’s not the easiest place to get to. We took the route via Ogawa and got a pretty amazing view back over the Japanese Alps which were in full view.

    It took a good 90mins before we pulled into the parking area for the famous cedar trees. It was packed with tourists and I had a grave fear that it would be overrun. Despite having to park about 500m down the road in an overflow space, it wasn’t all that bad.

    From the main entrance, it’s a good 20min fairly flat walk up a snowy trail to the main shrine area. Conditions were spectacular with blue skies, no wind and the left over recent snow covering the surrounding trees.

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    Once we reach the main shrine, the gorgeous trees present themselves and it felt pretty surreal. Everyone was in awe of how amazing the conditions were.

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    After seeing the lower shrine and trees it was back into Togakushi to find some lunch. Unfortunately, with the masses of tourists, most restaurants had huge waiting periods so we kind of lucked out and made tracks back into Nagano to get a feed. On the way back we manage to pull into a road stop and success, we found a place that could seat 9.

    [​IMG]
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    Everyone got to sample the famous Togakushi soba and tempura. Incredible! And only Y1200 per head - still trying to figure out how we managed this bill, surely wrong. Anyways, awesome end to a great day out.
     
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  35. fukuro-no-mori

    fukuro-no-mori Hard Yards

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    Great reports! Lots of genuine enthusiasm for the rest of us to feed off.

    I love Togakushi. What a beautiful area.

    If your group wants another nice Japanese feed and you're at Tsugaike, you can be at the coast by car in 35-40 minutes. Much better seafood than you'll get in Hakuba.
     
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  36. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Until your 3yo bolts out the door into the airport hall stark naked!

    Great TR as always Crispy.
     
  37. travelislife

    travelislife One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Haha. That’s great. Was amazing being on that outside deck in the nud with planes coming in overhead.
     
  38. PMG

    PMG One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    The bath there is only a sento isn't it?
     
  39. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yep, not onsen water.
     
  40. fukuro-no-mori

    fukuro-no-mori Hard Yards

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    If its called a "furo" and not an "onsen", it's not mineral water.

    If you are running at Tsugaike Crispy, there are trails for cross country skiing. The start is by the ski jump on the hill facing the base of the resort, about 300m SW of the gondola. Head north along the edge of the forest and different loops should be marked "3km", "5km" etc.
     
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  41. japower

    japower Hard Yards

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    So the crowds at Togakushi were mostly tourists, not skiers, right? I'll be skiing there later this month and am trying to figure out a good way to avoid the crowds. Is there on-mountain dining that the tourists can't get to?
     
  42. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Sorry, catch up again.

    After our day trip to Togakushi in beautiful sunshine, the following day was forecast to be warm. I decided to take a day off the slopes again and most of the family sorted their washing and watched movies.

    Despite the forecast of temps reaching about 6deg, there was some fortunate micro climate action going on and the snow only turned to clear stuff very late in the day. Max temp recorded at the Hakuba weather station was about 1 deg.

    With another clear morning presenting itself, the forecast was for a cool change to sweep through, so being the last full day in Hakuba on the slopes, I gave it a shot. With nothing much on offer terrain wise in the valley, it was back to Hakuba47 to brace the New Years crowds.

    As we roll onto the car park which was packed to the brim, heavy rain set in which was not pleasant. Slush city at the base.

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    The good news was that my new goretex shell was getting a great workout. The gondola line also moved quickly with everyone seeming to bail with the weather.

    Up top, unfortunately it was still light rain. A bit of a new experience in Japan, but we gave it shot with the hopes of the change coming through hard and fast. Crowds were pretty bad too, all with the same idea of “well we’ve come this far, so best stick it out”.

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    It was alright just messing around and getting to ski with my brother and dad which doesn’t happen very often.

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    Up higher, the rain finally changes to snow, but it was only the very fine pellets and nothing of substance. All runs were now super hard packed, moguled and slushy.

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    The lunch hall was also a schmozzle with too many people for the amount of tables available. We happened to snag one after patiently waiting 20mins, and nearly lost it on change over with some family trying to take a seat literally jumping in front of us sitting down o_O. Lifts after lunch we’re also a bit packed.

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    Anyways, this just wasn’t the trip for bulk pow and I just had to suck up the conditions. My dad and brother had a ball, so that was good to hear.

    After retreating from the mountain, the blizzard ripped through the valley and it was suuuupeer windy in town. As we head back up to Tsugaike to drop back some rentals, the northern end of the valley had been smoked and it was crazy Hokkaido cold.

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    Later that evening for New Year Eve dinner, we back into to town to a little restaurant called Nagomi. A sweet recommendation by our lodge owner which turned out to be a big time local winner.

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    There was a few lost in translations, but overall some super local cuisine. The sashimi platter was my winner of the night.

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    It was a very subdued NYE back at the lodge and I think everyone was in bed by 9. No partying this year.

    Check out day tomorrow.
     
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  43. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    New Year Day 2020. Up bright and early for one last run on the trails behind the lodge. Beautiful clear and cold morning made the scenery amazing once again. Under foot however, I could feel the rain crust from yesterday.

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    A nice 9km run to get the Strava tally going for 2020. Return to a well event breakfast.

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    After packing up and saying our final goodbyes, it was back on the road towards Matsumoto. We will be back!

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    We had a fairly late check in to our next accommodation so took a leisurely drive and checked out a couple of stores in town.

    We managed to find the Mont Bell factory outlet and I scored a pair of new snowboard pants (15k/20k) for Y12,000. Winning.

    From downtown Matsumoto it was a fairly easy drive west up the valley towards Mt Norikura where we are based for the next 3 nights. Pretty extreme roads and infrastructure up this valley and some weird micro climates too. We had snow falling at 6 deg!!

    Once up on the highlands, there was still some time to check in, so we had a look around the township. The local ski field appeared to be running and compared to Hakuba, fairing much better snow wise. I’ll report back shortly once I get a few hours on the slopes.

    We decide to check out the Zengorononotaki falls, which was a gentle 500m or so walk from the roadway down a lovely trail. With light snow falling and exposed tall sassa grass it was very surreal.

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    Once we hit the creek line, it’s down a few flights of snowy stairs to actual falls itself. A couple of bridges spanning the waterway and then you are presented with a very cool sight.

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    Just checked in Alpine Inn Mizushiro, located about 2mins from the bottom ski slopes of Mt Norikura. Owner very lovely so hoping for a great stay.
     
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  44. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Ahh thanks, just sort of played my runs by ear. A few exploring the local roads beside Tsugaike resort and then another down to the snow shoeing course of Ochikura. A lot of hills, so a cross country course might have been welcomed :D. Next time I’ll do more research.

    Now to find some trail in Mt Norikura highlands.
     
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  45. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Yes, a lot of tourists who come for the scenery and not the powder/skiing. Also, being peak Christmas/New Years holiday meant a lot more people around. My guess is you will be fine at Togakushi. More and more is opening which will spread the crowd. Mid week you will have the place to yourselves.
     
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  46. fukuro-no-mori

    fukuro-no-mori Hard Yards

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    I've never been to that waterfall. Looks good. If the skiing isn't so good, you can always head west to Takayama for sightseeing. Shirakawa-go even.

    Togakushi will just be crowded with sightseers now because its the Japanese hols. That spot at Okusha has become popular in the last few years due to some Japanese person who decides these things calling it a "power spot", a new buzzword for places of natural beauty that recharge the soul. That cafe at Iwatake is trying to get recognized as one too. Okusha will also be hyped now for its Instagrammability, though I suspect the huge trees there will be too big to capture with many smartphone cameras.
     
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  47. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Out the door this morning to a fresh breeze. It looked like the surrounding cloud was parting so we made tracks towards Hirayu Onsen and Shin Hotaka ropeway. There was a lovely dusting of fine powder on the car which you could literally blow off. According to our lodge owner, this region gets extremely dry powder similar to inland Hokkaido.

    We head back towards the main valley route and then head up towards Hirayu Onsen. Through the Abo tunnel (Y790 each way, ouch), and we drive through Hirayu Onsen which was a lovely town. Reminded me somewhat of a Nozawa vibe. The local ski field was running, but not the advanced upper terrain - lack of snow affecting alot of the country.

    First stop of the day was to the Okuhida Bear Park, which was about 5 mins out of Hirayu Onsen. We arrive pretty much on opening time and we’re first in to check out the place. Basically it’s a series of connected outdoor enclosures, each with a handful of bears.

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    The bears are quite hilarious to watch. Each with different personalities, but ever so keen for food. There are a number of places where you can purchase biscuits or apple that you can throw into the enclosure. A bit of fun watching the bears catch their piece.

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    We got through the exhibition in about 30-45mins easy. From the park we continue along the valley and up to the base ropeway station of Shin Hotaka.

    What looked like clearing skies at the base, unfortunately turned to clouds and light snowfall by the first ropeway stop.

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    After stepping off the first ropeway, it was onto the second major double decker gondola to reach the top station. Looking up, there was definitely some weather going on up there.

    The ropeway is super efficient and we reach the top station (roughly 2100m) to a big continent of tourists and hikers. Out to the lookout and it’s complete whiteout.

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    Luckily the wind was calm and the light snow made the area feel super winter-y. Out the side of the ropeway station there are some trails that you can wander along and provide some pretty cool photo opportunities.

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    After a quick bite of lunch, it was back down to the base of the ropeway to start our journey back. At the base of the ropeway a there was a board that people listed what country they were from. Observations were very much confirmed - big Chinese contingent, but surprising to see Phillipines, India, etc with a good showing.

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    On the way back into our accommodation we stop off to check out another waterfall just off the main road. This one was down a series of verrry icy switch back stairs, but once you got to the viewing platform it was pretty impressive.

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    With clear afternoon skies, it was out again for a quick exploratory run of the nearby Norikura Kogen highlands. A series of walking trails and cross country skiing made the trek a bit easier on the legs. Pretty interesting flora around this area.

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    Finished off the day with an onsen at the nearby Norikura Kogen base area. Very busy inside, but welcomed after the big day. Water was milky white which was cool.

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  48. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    So change of plans today. We had another full day and night in Mt Norikura, however as the adjacent ski resort was beginner runs only, it wasn’t even worth a ski just to say I’d done it. Definitely need to come back when the place is in full swing - looked like some super tasty terrain.

    We wake to a fine dusting of super light powder on the car again, maybe 5cm. Just a light flick of the gloves and it blows off the front screen. With the pregnant Mrs Crispy in tow, a day of potential walking trails didn’t really interest her, so we made the decision to head to Mt Fuji area a day early.

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    Really impressed with the Mt Norikura region - well off the developed radar and amazing scenery. A lot of hikers and not much in the way of shops or restaurants. Will need to come back and explore properly.

    From our accommodation it was back into Matsumoto and onto the expressway towards the Yamanashi prefecture. Took about 3.5hrs, but super easy on the expressway. By the time we get into sight of Mt Fuji, our bill came out at around Y4,500. Ouch.

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    With check in not open until 3pm, we decide to continue on a little further towards the Gotemba Premium Outlets about 45mins further around Mt Fuji.

    We pull in close to the destination to absolute grid lock. After sitting through about 5 sets of lights not moving, we finally figure that we needed to park in an outer car park and get bus-ed in. This felt odd, but we manage to snare a spot in car park 15(!). Note: there was 24 offsite car parks for this place!!!

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    From the parking area it’s about a 10min journey into the actual shopping complex. Once we get in it’s absolute carnage. Just. So. Many. People. OMG.

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    It honestly felt like a theme park. Not sure if it was holiday period or some super special sale, but it was soo overwhelming. Lines for everything too - eating, toilets, shops. Man. And dogs, people with dogs everywhere! Felt so unnecessary.

    The place was largely outdoors, with an east and west section. It took a good couple of hours to get round the complex, mainly because of the crowds. Spectacular views of Mt Fuji though, which was putting on a show today.

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    I managed to clean up in the Nike outlet with some new running shoes and gear so I was a happy boy. At about 4pm, we manage to fuel up at Shake Shack which is our go-to whenever we can find a store.

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    All in all, it was a good but tiring exercise. Drive back to Kawaguchiko in Friday night traffic was a bit of pain. And tolls. Man. They add up. There was one I swear we paid Y540 getting on and then paid the same again on exiting. There is no escaping them though.

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    Anyways, just chilling out in our accom for tonight which I managed to book about 6hrs earlier. Super brand new place called Haostay. Pretty stoked with the late minute find.

    Hoping for a clear sunrise over Mt Fuji tomorrow. Might get out for an early run.
     
    Melskius, fennekeg and Kimski like this.
  49. Donzah

    Donzah Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sweet as bro.
    No ETC ?
     
  50. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Nah, I don’t think a pass would work out. Today was the only day using tolls on our 12 days of hire. Also again back to Matsumoto. Just easy to pay as you go.
     
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