1. SPECIAL NOTE TO NEW WEATHERZONE FOLK

    If you recently registered and have not received a confirmation email - please check your 'Spam or Junk' folders. Especially if your email is Hotmail. More help with confirmation issues

    NOTE: This notice may be closed.

    Dismiss Notice
  2. There's more to this forum than meets the eye!

    We have a vibrant community here conversing about all sorts of non-snow topics such as music, sport, politics and technology. Simply register to reveal all our Après topics or continue browsing and reading as a guest.

    NOTE: This notice may be closed.

    Dismiss Notice

Trip Report Trip 8 Nagano revisited

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Charles, Mar 17, 2019.

  1. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    This trip was a very quick trip on February 17 to February 22, 2019.
    Sorry for any spelling errors in the report and sorry for it being very late.

    Due to commitments I managed to get away from Adelaide for 1 week. I did a bit of research for somewhere in Honshu that would make the most of the week I had. In the end it worked out that Nagano was a good option as I had previously toured Bandai twice in a row.

    A mountain that I enjoyed in the past though slightly smaller in size was Togakushi. I looked at accommodation nearby but couldn’t find a convenient solution. Togakushi Hotel as I found out was not an option.

    [​IMG]
    I am not sure when this place went up but I could smell burnt wood.

    So I thought, why not hire a car. Researched with help from the forum and others at my work who have done this in the past; decided on Toyota rental at Nagano.

    Had a lucky business class upgrade with Jetstar on the leg from Cairns to Tokyo so the trip over was very good. Arrived in Tokyo and remembered I was in Terminal 3 (doh) but since this trip was to Nagano and not Fukushima, I had time up my sleeve. My Japanese lessons had helped as I booked the Shinkansen in Ueno fluently in Japanese (gave myself a high five for that).

    Arrived in Nagano late that night and walked about the streets waiting for the GPS to kick in. Found the hotel (Chisun Grand Nagano) and unpacked.

    Monday
    Breakfast at the hotel was typical Japanese and with Natto on the menu, I was happy. Located on level 12 you got a great view of the mountains. The black seaweed on the plate was my favorite. Hijeiki seaweed salad which has an amazing taste. When I got back in Australia I tried to buy it online. That's when the warnings appeared about high arsenic content. Doh.

    [​IMG]

    Walked to Tokyo car rental to pick up the car.. Problem one, my credit card at Toyota Nagano did not work (not sure what I was thinking). The good news was I did take a little extra cash which got me out of trouble. Collected the car and took it back to the hotel.

    Lunch time I drove up to Togakushi and had lunch at Yoshi’s place, famous for their Soba noodles. Blue sky day and felt guilty I had dragged my feet in the morning and not brought up my gear.

    [​IMG]

    On the way back I visited the famous Zenkoji Temple. It’s funny, this is the second time I visited the temple but this time I enjoyed it more. With no time limits, I could walk the grounds and visit the shops below the temple, chat to the locals and just relax.

    [​IMG]

    That night dinner was at Unagi no Hamanaya, a fantastic little grilled eel restaurant, a short walk away from the centre of Nagano. English menus available. I can tell you I have not tasted unagi like that here in Australia, amazing when things are fresh and not frozen.

    Tuesday
    I headed up early to Togakushi resort, great idea to rent a station wagon, so easy to change in and out of snowboard boots whilst sitting on the back tailgate. Snow was in good condition, resort was not too busy.

    At lunchtime caught up with a small group of Powder Recon skiers. Apart from that there were no other westerners on the mountain. One of the things being a westerner, whenever you order food, they will always give you an English menu, I guess it saves any confusion.

    [​IMG]

    After lunch spent the rest of the afternoon on the mountain boarding then headed back to Nagano. The good news was the temperature had stayed cool and snow was falling across the mountain.

    On the way back visited the Togakushi shrine which from memory, had a lot more snow on the roof many years ago. It could have been the time of the year but Japan just felt a lot warmer this time round.

    [​IMG]

    Watched the weather report that night wondering which resort to visit, with a car I could go anywhere. Sad thing was I just dreaded the idea of visiting a busy resort and in the end, got lazy and went back to Togakushi again. I planned to visit Shiga Kogen the following day.

    Wednesday
    Driving up to the resort, this time the GPS decided I should take a more explorative route, single lane and narrow, I thought I was in Cornwall again. Thankfully I made it back to the main road eventually.

    Fog had set in but only in the lower parts of the mountain so I waited it out till it cleared.

    [​IMG]

    This day was a little warmer, things started getting a little sticky on the lower runs but overall it was a good day until just before lunch, one of the back runs I got a little lazy at speed and stacked it. I was sure that for a brief moment that my shoulder popped out then popped back in. I laid there for a short while until the feeling returned to the arm. That freaked me out. Slowly made my way back down the mountain and had lunch. This time I headed to the main restaurant for a change.

    [​IMG]

    I have to say that the food at Togakushi is really good, the mountain has some very good options to choose from for a resort of this size. I did like their name printed on the nori sheet, very nice touch.

    After lunch things started melting, the snow midway down the mountain was giving me flashbacks of Tahoe and its Sierra cement. It was sticky enough that you could just gun it straight down the steepest slope knowing that you would not hit top speed. The top was starting to thin out a bit though most of the resort had plenty of snow and was holding out quite well.

    [​IMG]
    One thing with a car, your beer get replaced with moose and apple juice.

    I knew that three days here would be too much and it was time to try another mountain. Still a great day and the shoulder was feeling a little better so started thinking a trip to Shiga. That was until it was time to leave. Noticed that my feet were a little cold, ice must have slipped down the back but this was not the issue. Taking the boots off, I noticed that both souls had decided to unglue. I was shocked and annoyed. Yes the boots were about 7 years old but this was not the time to have equipment failure. Time to think, tender shoulder and no boots, maybe it is time to see Japan I thought.

    [​IMG]

    Thursday
    I thought sod it, conditions were warm again with no new snow fall so I thought it’s time to sight see. Got in the car and decided to visit the snow monkeys again. Saw them a long time ago and thought this was a good idea. Nope, it wasn’t. I remember someone on the forum saying one visit was enough. They were right. I got there early in the morning which was a good idea, not that many people there but the thing was the temperature was still warm and the monkeys didn’t want to get wet. They had that look of "You get in the water and I'll take the picture". I realised that the whole show is more like a circus with a ring master than something natural. It almost seemed wrong. The man in the suit blew his whistle and threw out seed and along comes the monkeys.
    They were fighting and arguing, biting and scratching each other.. and that was the tourist.
    So much drama trying to get that cute monkey photo :)

    Still I guess it’s a business and they need to make money but unfortunately for the monkeys, even they are not paid in peanuts.

    I soon left the place, and wow, the amount of people coming the other way was amazing, it is a good idea to get there early then get out of there. So many tour groups.

    Had a coffee down at the cafe at the bottom of monkey park then got in the car and programmed in Matsumoto Castle. Time to say yes to toll roads, ETC was enabled so thought I would get to my destination ASAP.

    My first experience with a toll gate was driving at 25 km an hour, waiting for the gate to rise and then realising it didn’t. Slammed the brakes on. Got out the car, threw a hundred yen down the shoot and bowed to the driver behind me with a “So very sorry” motion. Gate went up and off I drove. That is when I noticed at the next gate, ETC is clearly marked and not all tolls are ETC enabled. Some reason couldn’t remember the notes I had read the night before. So the drive from Monkey park to Matsumoto took a while but wow, some of the longest tunnels I have driven through. The other thing was the speed limit. Was there one? Who knows? On the express ways they had 80 km signs that were sometimes lit up but I think that was the speed you are not allowed to go under. A few European cars passed me at some crazy speeds but I was in no rush, not on snow tires anyhow.

    Arrived at the castle grounds.. When you enter you can request the services of English speaking guides who volunteer their services. I was OK with an the English booklet they gave you with the entry ticket. At the entry they give you a plastic bag to put your shoes in for you to carry throughout the tour. My socks were not the thickest in the world, walking on wooden floors in winter and then climbing between levels, not using stairs but steep ladders, very tough for the elderly I thought, until I saw one nimbly climbing up like a cat then turning around with a smile to offer me a hand :)

    [​IMG]

    The castle was fantastic and well looked after. Engineers were at the base with computers and measuring instruments, ensuring rocks were in the correct position.

    After the castle I took the toll road back to the hotel. Stopped at one of the stations on the way, these are fantastic and a good option for lunch. You remain in the toll zone as these are next to the express ways and it’s only when you leave the toll zone and go through the ETC that you get charged. My little day trip ended costing me I think about $40 Aus. Wow. But it was worth it as it cut out a lot of time being on the road. Thursday night I returned the car as the next day I was returning to Tokyo.

    That night visited a random restaurant which was fantastic. A very welcoming owner / chef who ran a quiet establishment but very genuine. Had a good chat and had a great meal, sashimi etc. He opened up a local sake and that matched the meal perfectly.

    [​IMG]

    After that I ended up at the Red Dragon, caught up with some Japanese bankers and talked football (J-League).

    Tried some of the local brews such as Miso and Yuzu beer, very unique flavour brewed by an Englishman living in the region. Great little place called the Red Dragon. You get a few westerners come in as it being and English style pub, it’s a break from the Japan inside Japan. Saying that, the two who run the place are really good hosts, very funny.

    [​IMG]

    Friday morning, all packed up I made my way to the station at Nagano, got on the train and made my way to Ueno. Placing my ticket in my wallet I still noticed I had my room key. Ops!

    When I got home I made sure I posted it back to the hotel. I wrote their address in English and in Japanese which was amusing).

    Got out at Ueno station, dropped by gear off at the cloak room and went for a walk. With about 6 hours to play with I went hunting for a DVD at Tower Records then thought I would go check out the 8k TV’s. Tech ended up boring me a little in Akihabara and it may be an amazing place for some but like the Monkey onsen, if you have seen it once then once is enough.

    [​IMG]

    Lunch time I visited a fast food Okonomiyaki place though I was not sure what my expectations were. Just because I was in Japan, I shouldn't think all food was going to be great. A fast food Okonomiyaki eatery was just that. Anyhow, it all just got a little too melancholy after that, it always is just before you know you have to fly back to Australia.

    Train from Ueno to Terminal 2, walk to terminal 3, walked back to terminal 2 for food options as terminal 3 sucks. Then the long wait in Terminal 3. Wow, one eatery where you can’t get food because everyone orders a coffee then falls asleep at the table. They should do the French café technique and charge by the minute.

    At the gate there was a small area where you could tell who the skiers were. This was the section for airline passengers who on their holidays had crashed and broke or dislocated something. First time I had seem so many patients at one time. I felt lucky that I had escaped that kind of damage.

    Conclusion.
    This was my first open trip, no tour group, no one else doing the bookings etc. It was purchase a plane ticket, hotel accommodation and car hire and that is that. A fairly easy experience and a car opened up options but I think with a rail pass, you can still experience a similar freedom. One thing I will say, learning the language a little made this trip a very enjoyable experience.
     
  2. 2ESki

    2ESki Addicted

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2017
    Messages:
    344
    Likes Received:
    182
    Over there in a month, are they in English, and do they play in Aus ? son wants to get some Anime but is afraid they won't play here.
     
  3. Kimski

    Kimski One of Us

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    822
    Likes Received:
    516
    Nice trip report Charles. Guess it’s time to treat yourself to new boots :D

    Shame you didn’t get to Shiga Kogen as it’s great resort even if it is a little lacking in nightlife and atmosphere.
     
  4. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    Paid in Yen, I don't think you can trust an Australian credit card anywhere when shopping, Yen in King. The store is not huge but has a good selection. Bought a CD / DVD Daoko special edition that I had been hunting down.
    Everything is in Japanese but some of the staff know a little English and some of the text labels are in English.

    Edit: ah I re read your text. That I can't tell you. I think it depends on your player. Some players lock down regions but that was a long time ago. What I am doing is just copying the files and using another player on pc to viewer them. Region lock down might be a question for somewhere such as https://forum.videohelp.com
     
    #4 Charles, Mar 17, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
  5. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    Driving to Matsumoto I saw the mountains of Shiga and my jaw dropped, it looked massive. I will get there next time.
     
    Kimski and LMB like this.
  6. 2ESki

    2ESki Addicted

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2017
    Messages:
    344
    Likes Received:
    182
    No I mean do the Japanese DVD's play on our machines :cool:
     
  7. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    May 6, 2010
    Messages:
    25,429
    Likes Received:
    14,296
    Location:
    Perth
    Loved the report.
    Thanks.

    Great work making an effort with Nihongo. It sure makes life easier.

    Interesting point about an area for the walking wounded. I didn’t realise they did that at he airport.

    I DID notice that every single group leaving our apartment building in the 26 days I was there carried an injury though. One woman broke her leg, every other group left with one person in a sling. Testament to the unusual hardpack mid feb-mid March in Niseko. Even the local medical centre published warning about the unusually high number of broken wrists and arms.
     
  8. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    2,001
    Location:
    赤倉
    Great report. Yes, I probably would've headed to Shiga Kogen for at least one day.
     
  9. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    Yes sorry about that. I edited my reply.

    I think it's hardware dependent but if technology hasn't changed since 10 years ago, I would say no. But there are ways around that and some players are region free. Best to do a search of your DVD player and the words region lock.

    Edit again: The Japanese DVD will play on a Windows 10 PC without drama, region or no region. Just tested this at work today since my home laptop has no DVD. My 10 year old Toshiba DVD player would complain though.
     
    #9 Charles, Mar 17, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
    2ESki likes this.
  10. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    2,001
    Location:
    赤倉
    Yes, need a region free DVD player. It's not the same as Oz.
     
    2ESki likes this.
  11. Kimski

    Kimski One of Us

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    822
    Likes Received:
    516
    I’ve only done one day trip to Shiga but really liked it and I’ll be there for about 5 days on my trip next year. The extra elevation means I’ll hopefully avoid the rain I’ve copped on previous Honshu trips.
     
    Untele-whippet likes this.
  12. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    It looked big that is for sure.
    [​IMG]
    This from the dash cam heading to Matsumoto.
     
    climberman, fennekeg and Kimski like this.
  13. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2005
    Messages:
    70,571
    Likes Received:
    24,706
    Location:
    Cranhole, Melbourne, VIC
    Awesome mate.
     
    Charles likes this.
  14. japower

    japower Hard Yards

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2018
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    13
    Thanks for the report. Now you got me interested in Togakushi, which has evaded my radar. Looks like a good place to go for a couple days (in combination with a big resort like Shiga or Nozawa). Is there any skiing in the trees? If so, how difficult is it and were there issues with the ski patrol? Also, besides the hotel that burnt down, is there any accom that's ski in/ski out?
     
  15. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    1,569
    Likes Received:
    1,796
    Location:
    Port Macquarie, NSW
    I really rated Togakushi. Its a mix between Rusutsu and Nozawa IMO. Not overly big inbounds though. But nice and high so snow quality is good. Maybe 2-3 days is max you would do there.

    Some photos:
    https://www.ski.com.au/xf/threads/crispy-does-honshu-16.74035/
     
    M_G likes this.
  16. japower

    japower Hard Yards

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2018
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    13
    What a great thread! A treasure trove of info, despite some missing photos. Read through the whole thing in one sitting. (Do you work for Powderhounds?) That was a bad year for snow as I recall. Good to see you got your share of some great skiing. Will seriously consider Togakushi now. Thanks mate.
     
  17. bluestick

    bluestick One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Messages:
    532
    Likes Received:
    837
    Location:
    northern rivers
    Thanks cruisy report like your style
     
    Charles likes this.
  18. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    Not a big place for tree skiing, I can't think of any tree skiing nor did I see any people go off piste. I did see a few lines under the lifts and I think it's possible to make your own tree run though not legal. From memory the tree skiing is bigger over at Myoko.

    There are a few hotels though not a lot in Togakushi. The place that burnt down is further down the road, it was sad to see.
     
    japower likes this.
  19. japower

    japower Hard Yards

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2018
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    13
    Tree skiing would be the icing on the cake, so no big deal if there's not much of it. (Zero crowd is the cake here.) From experience, one has to actively look for possible tracks in the woods in Japan. I would never have found the tracks in dense woods in Furano by myself if my ski instructor didn't show me the way.
     
  20. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    1,569
    Likes Received:
    1,796
    Location:
    Port Macquarie, NSW
    There is tree skiing. Most of it pretty self evident between runs.
     
    japower likes this.
  21. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    I can't remember seeing any tree runs but I wasn't looking for them so maybe that's why. I definitely missed it.
    UPDATE: There is definitely tree runs somewhere at Togakushi but I am not 100% sure where they were.
     
    #21 Charles, Mar 21, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
  22. Charles

    Charles Addicted Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Adelaide
    Though saying that, I remember doing a few runs at Rusutsu thinking this is rubbish until I saw a border go into the trees and followed him. If it's not obvious to me then it doesn't exist. I'm blind as a bat with a faulty sonar system.

    I have added a photo from the latest trail map.

    Update: I think I remember a tree run, if you look at the map, the black runs to the right side of Mt Kenashi, I think I did tree runs there on a previous trip. This trip, those black runs were hard crust so after the one horrid run, I stayed mostly on the other side.

    Saying this, I have done a lot of trips with Powder recon where you visit a lot of resorts. In truth they all kind of blend into each other and over time, you rely of GPS data from photo's taken. The thing is, I don't take photos during tree runs as most of the tree runs I do, you don't want to stop half way through else you loose the momentum to get out to the other side. I have no tree run photos of Togakushi.

    UPDATE: Powder Recon on their site says there is great tree skiing at Togakushi so there you go. It does exist... Somewhere :)
     

    Attached Files:

    #22 Charles, Mar 21, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
    japower likes this.