Japan 2011- 2012 Trip Plans/Thoughts/Reviews Thread

M_G

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FYI ANA has launched its “Is Japan Cool?†website. The site introduces current Japanese trends through articles and video clips of people, places, and social phenomena. Sumo, carousel sushi, maid cafés and manga cafés are just a few examples. Visitors to the website can judge if the featured items are “cool†or “not so cool.†The site was designed to spark interest in Japan and encourage people to visit.

ANA is also running a “Cool Campaign,†which gives website visitors the chance to win free round-trip tickets to Japan.

http://www.ana-cooljapan.com
 
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timonearth

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Hey guys.

So I have decided on Niseko and Furano for 3 weeks or so.

Thinking of staying at Sekka Lodge, has anyone stayed there??

Only issue is there arent cooking facilities. Can anyone recommend somewhere close to ski in/out in Niseko where I can get a kitchenette / flat screen tv. It's just me on my own, so really expensive large apartments will be out of my price range.

Cheers

b.
 

DVP

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Finally sitting down to write a bit of a report of my first time in Japan.

Tokyo: What a brilliant city. Was surprised by how quiet it was for such a massive and populated place! And compared with the likes of HK and Bangkok you really feel like you are unique as a tourist there, we seemed to be the only Westerners at Senso-Ji. Highlights were managing to get to Sumo on the 5th Feb, and a messy night at 300 bar in Ginza on the 4th (anyone been there? 300 yen drinks can't be argued with, and again we were the only westerners)

Nozawa: Amazing. Obviously a big part of going to Japan is the pow, but I also wanted to feel like I was in Japan. Nozawa delivered on both fronts. Could pretty much lap Yamabiko all day for fresh stuff, no-one ever seemed to be on Kandahar and around Hikage was some fun steeper stuff. The village was brilliant too, loved the little restaurants that you just fill up when you walk in (especially liked the teppanyaki pancake place - can't remember the name). Can definitely recommend Villa Nozawa too, great staff who are more than happy to help with anything (including sorting a birthday cake for me without me knowing!)

Nagano: We gave the legs a rest with a day and night in Nagano. Too long in hindsight... Zenko-Ji is worth a look but that was about it and only need about 2 hours to get to and from the station. If you have a spare 20 minutes head to the basement floor of the Tokyu department store near the station... more free samples than I have ever seen and delicious!! Also ate at a really tasty place near the station where the food was crazy cheap and a bottle of wine was 1000 yen (!!!) Didn't see that price anywhere else! We meant to grab a business card to remember the name but there weren't any.

Hakuba: Having been to Nozawa first, I must admit we were a bit disappointed. One because there is only a fraction the amount of snow there this year, but two because it just didn't feel very Japanese! Had some great skiing around skyline for the week, had the token day at Cortina but it was a blizzard that day so didn't see it at its best. The onsen in the hotel was amazing though after the basic ones in Nozawa! Also we were very confused about the benefit of staying in Echoland? The location isn't great and there isn't exactly any nightlife to compensate, we were very surprised when we went down there one night (korean bbq was great though!) Can somewhat recommend Alupu lodge... the location is brilliant, its cheaper than anything in Echoland, the downside is the owner is (very) spaced out and the whole place smells a bit like the resident cat uses it as their toilet!

One last thing I would definitely recommend is the bus from Hakuba to Shunjuku. Half the price of bus to Nagano + Shink, and I reckon it would only take one extra hour by the time you have changed in Nagano. Great views of Mt Fuji from the bus as well.

We will be back.... maybe Shiga and Myoko next time? Or should I do Niseko against all the voices in my head???

DVP.
 

Donza

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I think your comparison of Nozawa vs Hakuba is fair..Nozawa is way more compact and organised..whereas Hakuba is spread out...
Nozawa has that magic "factor"

However...with a car (god I sound like a broken record) Hakuba really unfolds like a flower...way more interesting...

Niseko no...

Hokkaido road trip yes
 

Sandy

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DVP said:
Finally sitting down to write a bit of a report of my first time in Japan.

Tokyo: What a brilliant city. Was surprised by how quiet it was for such a massive and populated place! And compared with the likes of HK and Bangkok you really feel like you are unique as a tourist there, we seemed to be the only Westerners at Senso-Ji. Highlights were managing to get to Sumo on the 5th Feb, and a messy night at 300 bar in Ginza on the 4th (anyone been there? 300 yen drinks can't be argued with, and again we were the only westerners)

Nozawa: Amazing. Obviously a big part of going to Japan is the pow, but I also wanted to feel like I was in Japan. Nozawa delivered on both fronts. Could pretty much lap Yamabiko all day for fresh stuff, no-one ever seemed to be on Kandahar and around Hikage was some fun steeper stuff. The village was brilliant too, loved the little restaurants that you just fill up when you walk in (especially liked the teppanyaki pancake place - can't remember the name). Can definitely recommend Villa Nozawa too, great staff who are more than happy to help with anything (including sorting a birthday cake for me without me knowing!)

Nagano: We gave the legs a rest with a day and night in Nagano. Too long in hindsight... Zenko-Ji is worth a look but that was about it and only need about 2 hours to get to and from the station. If you have a spare 20 minutes head to the basement floor of the Tokyu department store near the station... more free samples than I have ever seen and delicious!! Also ate at a really tasty place near the station where the food was crazy cheap and a bottle of wine was 1000 yen (!!!) Didn't see that price anywhere else! We meant to grab a business card to remember the name but there weren't any.

Hakuba: Having been to Nozawa first, I must admit we were a bit disappointed. One because there is only a fraction the amount of snow there this year, but two because it just didn't feel very Japanese! Had some great skiing around skyline for the week, had the token day at Cortina but it was a blizzard that day so didn't see it at its best. The onsen in the hotel was amazing though after the basic ones in Nozawa! Also we were very confused about the benefit of staying in Echoland? The location isn't great and there isn't exactly any nightlife to compensate, we were very surprised when we went down there one night (korean bbq was great though!) Can somewhat recommend Alupu lodge... the location is brilliant, its cheaper than anything in Echoland, the downside is the owner is (very) spaced out and the whole place smells a bit like the resident cat uses it as their toilet!

One last thing I would definitely recommend is the bus from Hakuba to Shunjuku. Half the price of bus to Nagano + Shink, and I reckon it would only take one extra hour by the time you have changed in Nagano. Great views of Mt Fuji from the bus as well.

We will be back.... maybe Shiga and Myoko next time? Or should I do Niseko against all the voices in my head???

DVP.

It sounds like you skied 6 days at Happo and one at Cortina, which is not what I would recommend. Ok, you were staying right near the Gondola at Happo, which would make this easy to do. On an average week at Hakuba, I would only ski Happo maybe once or twice. IMO, the best days at Cortina are when there's a blizzard!!!!(like last Sunday!!!!
biggrin.gif
)

However, the key to Hakuba is the variety of mountains you can access. So in the end, if you don't have a car, then the accommodation you stay in needs to have easy access to the other mountains. This means either drop off/pick up which some places do, or good access via shuttle buses.
So for example, the place I stayed at last weekend is 70m from the slopes at Happo, and 50m distance to direct shuttle buses to Hakuba 47/Goryu and Iwatake. On the Saturday we took the shuttle to Iwatake, and we were the ONLY people on the bus there!! The owner will drop people off at the bus terminal to access buses to Tsugaike and Cortina (and pick you up from the bus terminal as well) There was also a van that will take you to Cortina if there is demand.(not run by the hotel but by a 3rd party)
 
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M_G

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Everything Donza, Smitty and Sandy said.

Myoko doesn't have the same vibe as Nozawa but def still very much a Japanese experience. Snow is not too bad either. Shiga is a different experience again.
 
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churchy

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i think people stay in echoland because there's a decent concentration of places to eat and they have already accepted the fact that hakuba valley is a large area so they need transport to make the most of their trip (ie to take in all the resorts in the valley) hence being on the snow at resort in particular isn't such a big deal.

i've also stayed at inn alpu and i was pretty happy with it especially for the price. when i stayed there the boss drove us to 47 and cortina for a few $$$.
 

smackies

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Agree with all of the above.

My first time in Japan, I went to Nozawa before Hakuba and felt a kind of sadness inside for Part 2 of my trip. But they are two very different beasts and it is hard to make a true "overall" comparison of the two. In fact, I don't think you sensibly can.

Having a car this recent trip opened my eyes to a whole new Hakuba valley. A day away(ish) from the resorts opened them even further. Longing gazes, in fact.

I like Nozawa. It does tick a lot of boxes for a short holiday. I like Hakuba Otari more. I could live there - or at least escape my current reality for an extended period.
 
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DVP

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Fair points everyone has made... maybe it is just because it was my first time there I was really excited about anything that seemed cultural and Hakuba seemed to be lacking that. Also the idea of needing a car doesn't really appeal (maybe I have been spoiled skiing Europe for the last 6 years or so but needing to jump in a car each day reminds me of skiing in Oz).

We had 5 days skiing in each of Noz and Hakuba (so 4 days Happo, 1 day Cortina). This was mostly due to proximity of accom to Happo and from research before it looked like the best overall mountain. It didn't disappoint for skiing... it was more the atmosphere in the evenings that lacked.
 

damian

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DVP said:
it was more the atmosphere in the evenings that lacked.

Part of problem is knowingly misleading Hakuba marketing hype like:

"The best apres ski in Japan!"

Which appears precisely in that manner as a front page bullet point on one large Hakuba website.

It is misleading as Niseko by far has the best apres, and, Japan is not known for apres at all, so saying "the best!" is not saying much as the bar is already set very low.

These salesmen know who they are - and every season I meet visitors to Hakuba who feel like they have been had, and that promoters are taking the piss. I agree with them.

There are many very good reasons to come to Hakuba - people need to be given a fair go and not simply told what ever will generate the most hype and bookings for the coming season. But then, we all know about salesmen and their short term thinking...
 
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M_G

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Plus the machine next door that has chu-hai and bottles of whisky.
wink.gif


I had someone ask me if Myoko was a place 'goes off' at night. I said sure - usually everything is off by about 9.30pm.
 
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dawooduck

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We really enjoyed the Nozawa nightlife. Dining out every night was excellent, a few late nights by the fire with new friends with an endless supply of duty free and ice straight out of the snow bank. A couple of dinners at the "Italian" and an epic sushi night with some Scandis escaping the Scandis in Hakuba. A couple of nights at the Jazz Bar bashing the old piano and another night where a couple of Japanese guys grabbed guitars off the wall and a Beatles song book off the top of the piano an we all cut loose. Another mad night at the Karaoke bar just the two of us in a booth with a malfunctioning music player of which we got a refund which we spent drinking and chatting to the friendly bar man. A nice dinner with the FB crew, a night at the fancy hotel where we went for a fancy dinner but ended up by chance meeting a guy I had been skiing with in the morning and his family and after ordering some snacks found out the fancy restaurant was upstairs ... another red wine night with our charming host and his lovely GF. I think we met new friends every night we went out.

Plenty of fun in Nozawa if you have no need for "clubs" and its all an easy walk in a beautiful village.
 

damian

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^ Good story and exactly how it is done so long as you are "demographically situated and of the correct social disposition"* to suit the way of things in small centralised characterful villages like Nozawa.

* aka, a friendly old fart.

Centralised is also key. Which is why Niseko has some buzz in the evenings. Hakuba is just too spread out to gain any nightlife critical mass unless visitor numbers swell massively and each suburb here becomes self-sufficient.
 

smackies

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Or jump on the disco ball bus to... wherever it is that it goes.

Don't forget your shame napkin.
 

M_G

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smackies said:
Don't forget your shame napkin.

For the onsen?

Good insight Damian. Myoko's main intention is to lure families therefore what is already in Akakura (mainly) is more than enough to cater for their entertainment and culinary needs. Much the same with Nozawa.

I recenly watched a segment on Australians in Bali which was related to recent drug arrests. Do they really behave that badly in Niseko too?
 
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smackies

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Nah, for being on that bus.

The only entertainment one needs at the snow is a toboggan and a midget. I travel with mine (midget, that is) so midget tossing is a bit of fun that everyone can particpate in.
 

smackies

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laugh.gif


I tried some Niigata Beer. Drawn in by the attractiveness of the can(s).

Belgianish. Fruity.
 
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Donza

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Ahh Hai...
Sumo sized beer

Yes and No IMO japan beer vs aussie beer
Australia now has some very decent beers available everywhere
I blame beer wanchors.

Japan wins cause of of ease of purchase and availability

I actually don't mind Happoshu...if i want to smash something fast
Yebisu for drinking taste..
 

smackies

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Jah. Best conbini runs consist of Yebisu + Pocky + Pizza bun.

I got stuck into the nigori sake. The one time I didn't follow my minimum spend rule, I ended up with something that tasted like off breast milk. Other than that, sake win!
 

fattwins

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Drinking too much cheap sake gives you a bad stomach ache. It is like wine really you pay more you tend to get better stuff. Unless you really understand sake. I have a good friend that knows enought about sake. Drinking with him is actually quite an enjoyable experience.
 

Born2ski

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smackies said:
I ended up with something that tasted like off breast milk.

Now what does that taste like ?? I've only had "fresh" breast milk myself.
wink.gif
 
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Donza

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Born2ski said:
smackies said:
I ended up with something that tasted like off breast milk.

Now what does that taste like ?? I've only had "fresh" breast milk myself.
wink.gif
I shuddered a little

Re FT..I would love to learn the way of the sake..please invite this friend next time..
 
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smackies

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fattwins said:
Drinking too much cheap sake gives you a bad stomach ache. It is like wine really you pay more you tend to get better stuff. Unless you really understand sake. I have a good friend that knows enought about sake. Drinking with him is actually quite an enjoyable experience.

Jah, hence the minimum spend rule. The guidance of a sake enthusiast would be awesome. My limited Japanese only allowed me to ask:

"Is this sake or shochu?" (I'll never make that mistake again)
"Is this delicious?"
"Would you drink it?"

I saw what looked like sake in plastic, bounce-proof bottles at the supermarket. Less than $10 for maybe 4L. Paint stripper in the booze section?
 
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Donza

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smackies said:
fattwins said:
Drinking too much cheap sake gives you a bad stomach ache. It is like wine really you pay more you tend to get better stuff. Unless you really understand sake. I have a good friend that knows enought about sake. Drinking with him is actually quite an enjoyable experience.

Jah, hence the minimum spend rule. The guidance of a sake enthusiast would be awesome. My limited Japanese only allowed me to ask:

"Is this sake or shochu?" (I'll never make that mistake again)
"Is this delicious?"
"Would you drink it?"

I saw what looked like sake in plastic, bounce-proof bottles at the supermarket. Less than $10 for maybe 4L. Paint stripper in the booze section?

Thats sho chu usually...
Though I can stand corrected...
I love sho chu
 
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smackies

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Same. But not on its own. And I fear most things in large, bounce-proof vessels.
 

damian

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smackies said:
Are there any local sake brewers in the Hakuba valley?

There is, at least there is a guy that makes good sake down the road in the next town called Omachi. I do a long ski tour with him every spring, which is almost the first time he gets to ski as sake brewing is performed over winter and apparently you have to tend to it every single day without fail. So sake brewing = no winter skiing. It all sounds a bit like typical work hard and sacrifice Japanese style of suffering to me. He grows his own rice for the sake as well. A nice sounding way of life, except for the skiing bit.
 
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Sandy

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People may be interested in the three new budget airlines starting up in Japan:

Peach Aviation based out of Osaka, started flights on March 1st, international flights to Taiwan, S Korea and Hong Kong, domestic flights to Kyushu, Okinawa & Chitose (Hokkaido).

Jetstar Japan based out of Narita Airport, starting flights on July 3rd, international flights to China & S Korea, domestic flights to Kyushu, Okinawa, Osaka & Chitose (Hokkaido).

Air Asia Japan based out of Narita Airport, starting flights in August, international flights to S Korea, domestic flights to Kyushu, Okinawa & Chitose (Hokkaido).
 
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