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Trip Report Naeba, Appi Kogen and various Morioka

Discussion in 'Japan' started by seefarr, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. seefarr

    seefarr Hard Yards

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    We did 2 weeks in Japan this year in February. We were a group of 5 and this was my third time in Japan for snowboarding (previously Myoko, Nozawa and Madarao). I've got all of the info I could find about the smaller resorts around Morioka to clutter up the lower half. All of my photos are terrible mobile phone ones.

    Japan as a holiday destination was as mental and amazing as it always is but they had pretty much the worst snow season in a couple of decades on Honshu. Of course! The plan was to go to two of the bigger Honshu resorts and then stay up in Morioka and hire a van and drive to some of the other smaller, less well touristed ones. If you read Heinz's (much better) TR from this year, you probably know a lot of this already!

    We did a couple of days first in Tokyo to get used to Japanese insanity before we headed out:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    First up was Naeba. It's a big Prince Hotel (chain) resort that's only 1 hour form Tokyo by bullet train. The town in Naeba was pretty busy with quite a few nice restaurants. Gaijin (foreigner) count was pretty low - we only saw a couple of other groups. It had had pretty good snow for a couple of weeks before we got there but then a warm spell with rain and positive temps the day before we arrived! They also had a round of the FIS world slalom on the weekend we arrived so they were pretty disappointed by the conditions too. We spent a day there cruising the slush and dodging the beginners sprawled across the steep runs then the next day went across to the neighbouring resort, Kagura which is linked by a 5km gondola.

    [​IMG]

    Whilst off-piste is officially banned in Naeba, in Kagura it's no holds barred. Also, it was really windy at Naeba but not at Kagura. Since it had snowed the night before we played in 20 cm of fresh over some pretty brutal ice. Just how brutal was demonstrated on an icy cat track home, where the missus' brother (7th day lifetime on a board) fell and broke his wrist. On day 2!

    We had some more smaller drops of snow and explored Kagura over the next couple of days as the missus tended to her brother and went and got an Xray. Doing the traverse across to the Kagura gondola then the big long traverse across Kagura every day was a schlep. It was a much better resort with some serious off-piste / slackcountry options. I would love to come back and spend some proper time here.

    [​IMG]

    Next up, we caught the train back to Tokyo and up North to called Appi Kogen. We got round the no-luggage-space on the shinkansens by bringing a couple of octopus-straps and tying the big bags upright in the vestibule area.

    [​IMG]

    Road conditions from the hotel bus from the train station looking good (for us)!

    [​IMG]

    Again, it's a big-for-Japan Prince resort with quite different terrain. Gainjin count was lower - maybe only two other groups. And again they were having some ski races on a few slopes so they shut off half the mountain!! But we had some good snow and the terrain that was left was quite nice. Because the snow pack wasn't as deep as normal, we still had to bush-bash through thick shrubs to get into the trees and even once we were in there, it was pretty tight. The upside was that we had pretty much no competition!

    On-piste:

    [​IMG]

    Off piste:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    We put the missus' brother back on a board with wrist guards as his wrist fracture wasn't bad - no swelling or pain - and because it was nice and soft.
    We stayed in the "pension village" at hotel LaVista and had a really Japanese ski holiday experience. We arrived on the first night at about 6pm and they told us dinner is at 6pm and 8pm. We came down at 8pm and they looked all embarrassed and showed us a bit of paper that said we had to book the night before for dinner! They ended up getting the bus driver to drive us up to the local convenience store for conbini-sushi and 9% alc. chuhai, which we ate / drank in the lobby whilst playing cards.

    [​IMG]

    We ate at the hotel restaurant the next two nights as the pension village had no restaurants at all and the food was spectacular (Korean BBQ and hot pot). Breakfast was great as well.

    [​IMG]

    They also had a couple of outside onsens that you could private book, which were really nice.

    [​IMG]

    Next up, we caught the bus back to Morioka and moved into a business hotel next to the main train station. Hotel mascot:

    [​IMG]

    Morioka is a fair sized city of 300k, under the dormant volcano of Mount Iwate. It has a nice river running through the middle and is absolutely stacked full of decent izakayas and even a few craft beer bars which are non-smoking. Best of all, it just had a really good friendly vibe to it. We met up with @Heinz in Morioka for dinner a couple of nights who's original trip report was my inspiration for this portion of the trip. Hearing his stories about sking the world was great!

    We hired a van (a Honda Stepwgn <-- actual spelling) that would fit our gear inside in a tarp I brought with me and drove to some of the nearby resorts. The actual vehicle was certainly the dullest mode of conveyance that I've ever driven. Electric steering, a CVT and some form of 4 cylinder that when combined with the universal 50kph speed limits had me falling asleep after driving for even 20 minutes. But it was roomy and comfortable, 4x4 and had snow tyres, so who cares.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    They are all pretty small (3-7 lifts) and range from 30 - 60 mins drive away. Gainjin count was zero at all of them. We made it to Tazawako, Shizuikushi, Hachimantai Shimokura and Iwate Kogen which I think you'll agree, are all great names. Most of them were not busy - here's peak parking at one:

    [​IMG]

    We were able to choose a couple of more sheltered resorts on days when wind got up on a couple of days, which was cool.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  2. seefarr

    seefarr Hard Yards

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    Small Resort Info and Links

    Tazawako Time from Morioka: 1hr
    6 lifts, ungroomed, cat tours to top of mountain, can hire guide
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place...0x5f8563d0854aa2db:0x3b0a5290e55d0457!6m1!1e1
    http://japansnowtriptips.com/tazawako-ski-area-the-best-little-ski-area-in-japan-youll-never-go-to/
    http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resort-reviews/resort/tazawako
    http://www.tazawako-ski.com/

    Probably my equal favourite resort out of Morioka. Some nice terrain up the top and liberal off-piste policy. With some more organisation I would hire a guide and ride the cat to the top of the mountain next time. They have their own brewery down in the town and the Alt beer is a must try. They had a round of the world freestyle moguls on when we there which was good to watch over lunch.


    Shizukuishi Time from Morioka: 38 mins
    6 Lifts, bigger, great tree skiing?
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place...0x5f85655ea95167f9:0x45eacfd917362f2a!6m1!1e1
    http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Shizukuishi.aspx
    http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resort-reviews/resort/shizukuishi
    http://www.princehotels.com/en/ski/shizukuishi/index.html

    We rode here in a warm slushy day. Being a Prince, off-piste would be officially banned and the trees are pretty sparse so not too much cover for you. The powder hounds review above speaks of some nice side country but you would have to know what you're doing. Having said that I can see it would be fun even on piste as it was pretty empty when we were there.


    Hachimantai Shimokura Time from Morioka: 47 mins
    3 lifts, "powder tree runs"
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place...0x0000000000000000:0x0cfa2dd98f01d8da!6m1!1e1
    http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Hachimantai.aspx
    http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resort-reviews/Resort/hachimantai-resort-shimokura?page=1
    http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resort-reviews/resort/hachimantai-resort-panorama
    http://www.shimokura-snow.com/

    The other equal favourite. They had signs up asking you not ride off piste, this was despite "powder and treerun" signs all over their website and not having any marked tree runs? But a few of the locals were doing it (including skinning out from the top lift next to the "no backcountry" sign) so we indulged too. Great trees all the way through the top section.

    Iwate Kogen Time from Morioka: 39 mins
    7 Lifts, 2 powder course, 600-1200m
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/岩手高原スノーパーク/@39.8173255,140.9583387,1769m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x5f856ef81b1cc61f:0x49d178632c4946eb!6m1!1e1
    http://iwatekogen.jp/today/index.php

    This felt like a small resort despite the 7 lifts including a gondola. Terrain wise, it was a lot like Appi Kogen - steep at the top and flat at the bottom. We had an ice day so swapped snowboards for skis for the day, hence no off-piste!

    Amihari Onsen Time from Morioka: 43 mins
    4 lifts, two ungroomed, 640 - 1350m, good tree skiing?
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Amihari+Hot+Spring+Ski+Area/@39.8210722,140.9362819,325m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!1m2!2m1!1s Komatsukura+13-7,+Nagayama!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xbf90b5be97cd550c!5m1!1e4!6m1!1e1
    http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resorts/iwate/shizukuishi/amihari-onsen
    http://www.qkamura.or.jp/ski/iwate/#tab1

    We didn't make it here but it looks very small and quiet.

    Geto Kogen Time from Morioka: 1hr 27mins
    5 lifts, 2 tree run courses and heaps of snow.
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/39°14'11.4"N+140°54'23.1"E/@39.2365121,140.9042363,877m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0
    http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Geto-Kogen.aspx
    http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resort-reviews/Resort/geto-kogen?page=1
    http://www.geto8.com/english/

    Again, we didn't make it this far but the info is here if someone needs it!

    Vans

    I also fell in love with some of the vans. All of these will be 4x4. The Nissan ElGrand with a cool grill:

    [​IMG]

    Honda Stepwagon on cool wheels. A steezy snowboarding couple was actually living out of this one:

    [​IMG]

    A new Mitsubishi Delica - I loved these things:

    [​IMG]

    A Toyota Prado on big snow tyres:

    [​IMG]

    A Jimny snow-plow:

    [​IMG]

    A Toyota Bb - mild pimping:

    [​IMG]

    And little beast on snow tyres and fake bead locks. I think it's a Suzuki Wagon-R?

    [​IMG]

    And an NSX in Tokyo (not a van, but probably still cool):

    [​IMG]


    So yeah, a great holiday. Conditions were "bad" by Japanese standards but it didn't seem to matter - they were still pretty good by rest of the world standards! We never got any of the really deep snow dumps I've had in Japan before (>50 cm) but they can be really hard work anyway. It was a great experience to get away from the crowds and suck up some proper Japanese culture with our powder, ramen and beer.
     
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  3. Donza

    Donza Pool Room

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    Yup the new Delicia's are mint

    Its s mitsi
     
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  4. bluestick

    bluestick One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    this area is still so unvisited internationally ..thank you for the informative report and photos ...
     
  5. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Good job seefarr. Enjoyed reading it.
     
  6. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Nice report. :thumbs: Was good to meet you. Enjoyed those Izakaya evenings in Morioka.

    I certainly liked Tazawako, Shimokura & Amihari and also appreciated the comfort of the gondola at Geto.
     
    #6 Heinz, Apr 6, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  7. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    I think the number of trip reports to these areas needs to be capped :p
     
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  8. ojisan

    ojisan Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    :thumbs: cheers for the report
     
  9. Belly

    Belly A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    As I scrolled down I started to think the same thing, don't want to bring the surf mentality to snow but can't help but think these spots should be kept on the low down, notwithstanding they are public resorts.

    Thanks for sharing the report nevertheless :)
     
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  10. Sandy

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

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    Nice work.
     
  11. Sandy

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

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    Are you saying that maybe people shouldn't report these places, so that the "secret" doesn't get out?
     
  12. Belly

    Belly A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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  13. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Best car wrap in a long time. I'd love to see the new Mitsubishi Delica in AUS some time. I had an early model 400 4x4 for a few years, the Wombat was a beast
     
  14. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Dis Delica?
    [​IMG]
     
  15. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Can't think of too many Japanese ski resorts that couldn't do with some extra coin at the moment. As the foreign inbound ski market continues to grow it's great to see new places continually brought onto the horizon.

    Also TBH, as my present circumstances prevent me from doing this kind of thing I also admit to enjoying vicariously living the lives of others through these reports.
     
    Vermillion likes this.
  16. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'm happy for individuals and small groups to support these sort of places as they are without the need for massive western infrastructure. That should hopefully keep the big tour groups away for a little while yet.
     
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  17. seefarr

    seefarr Hard Yards

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    Cheers guys!

    If you look at the pic above of the resort car park, you can see that these places need all the help they can get!

    Also, this isn't an easy holiday. Hiring a car and driving every day or catching a bus from Morioka train station is not many people's idea of a ski holiday. There are no English lessons, no childcare and no decent hire gear means hauling your own gear on and off trains and buses. Apres, in a Western sense, is of course non-existent. Just about all meals at resorts and in Morioka were ordered off Japanese menus as English was not available.

    I don't think we need to worry there's going to be a flood of Westerners coming to these places and those that do are going to have to have a very open attitude to the local culture, as an alternative isn't available. You won't be hearing "what's soy sauce?" (overheard in Nozawa Onsen a few years ago :confused:) in a sushi restaurant in Morioka!

    But if there are millions of bogans next year, it's all Heinz's fault. LOL
     
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  18. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    That car park pic - was that Iwate Kogen?

    I happy for things to stay not so easy to discourage the masses. It was 7 years since my first trip to Tohoku and while there were significantly more foreigners around and a few more TR's here it is still very much a trickle.

    Don't know what I'll though if millions of bogans do turn up :eek:
     
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  19. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Nah, older boxy model. But that looooooooks awesome
     
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  20. Draizuh

    Draizuh One of Us

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    Can get those delicas over here in NZ. dont know why anyone would want a bits are missing though??
     
  21. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    wait, what, is this the new model on Oz?
     
  22. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    We'll figure out a plan. There's always somewhere, I reckon Fukushima is less likely than further up north though.
     
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  23. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Except the wheels dont even fit in the wheel arches.
    [​IMG]
     
  24. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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  25. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    I wonder what happens when it comes up for shaken?
     
  26. The Plowking

    The Plowking Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    Has seriously changed surfing for the worse.
     
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  27. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Selfish people. Fishing is like that too, but these days I take more enjoyment out of helping a dude out then seeing them get the results than I do catching my own fish. When I go skiing I love seeing blokes smash lines down a face, if you arent sharing the moment with others it's kinda wasted IMO.
     
  28. The Plowking

    The Plowking Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    I agree, and all sports are great shared, but imagine the whole north end of the bay with a boat every 40 metres or every resort like Niseko.
    Surfing doesn't work with too many people and the exact reason you enjoy the places above is the lack of exposure/tourists.
    Surfing in populated areas is a finite resource unfortunately.
     
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  29. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    I guess my issue is more sharing with people who dont appreciate the situation, that's what annoys me the most.
     
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  30. Sandy

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

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    There's more than 400 places to ski in Japan....
    Telling people on here about places in northern Honshu would probably the difference of about 2 people on any one day.

    It's a different story, however, when you have a secret stash in a heavily populated resort, that people just don't know about!!!! ;)