Last weekend I made the trip to Hakuba in Nagano prefecture. Or what I like to call “little Australia”.
The four hour train ride from Nagoya, Aichi was definitely worth it. I was so excited at the idea of seeing a new city, going snowboarding again (last weekend we went in Gifu) and to meet new people. Little did I know, out of the people I would meet, about 95% of them would be Australian. And I never thought I’d hear myself say this but it was so refreshing to hear an Aussie accent!
During our three day stay we spent most of our time near our lodge… eating, drinking or boarding. It was such a surreal place. The scenery was unimaginable. The food, mainly western, was delicious. And all the people we met were so friendly!
These are my Hakuba highlights:
1. The food
In our lodge, The Ridge, and at the closest restaurants/pubs, the majority of the food was western style food. I had a great time eating Mexican food, well mainly nachos, something I don’t often get in Nagoya, a not as touristy spot in Japan.
We did have Japanese once. The spicy Ramen with gyoza made from the natural spring water in Hakuba. It was one of the best ramen dishes and gyoza I’ve had in Japan… And I’ve had a lot!
2. The tourist onsen
I took my two friends from back home in Australia to the closest onsen* which happened to be connected to a hotel.
It was interesting to see a tourist style onsen compared to a traditional onsen. It was a lot smaller with only two baths and maybe 8 shower spots. There was an inside and outside bath as well as a sauna. The outside bath was so nice, sitting next to a mountain of snow. You couldn’t feel the temperature though seeing as the onsen was so hot. And although touristy, it was so relaxing sitting in the hot baths, sauna and then baths again, letting the soothing natural water flow over our sore muscles from a long day of snowboarding.
*An onsen is a public bath usually using water from a natural hot spring.
3. The snowboarding
The snowboarding was incredible. Hakuba has the best snow that I’ve seen, granted that growing up in sunny Australia that isn’t much, it does have a reputation for ‘good powder’ as people who are more experienced than me say.
Our room was about 100m from one of the chair lifts, so we had it easy. Wake up to the view of the snow, then wander to the first chair lift and start our day on the slopes. This was only the second time I had been snowboarding in 10 years, so it took a while to get some confidence. But once I did it was so much fun. I was practicing my ‘heel, toe’ technique, and doing ‘s formations’ and then even turning 360 degrees and kept on going down the mountain… sadly this wasn’t while I was launching myself into the air off a jump which my Japanese friends were expecting!
There were a range of slopes for different levels of skill and snow parks where you could practice your jumps, or if you are me, snowflake down the entire way whilst regretting setting off over the safe, flat ledge. The weekend has definitely given me a taste for it, and now I want to go more regularly and work on my 360 jump to impress the guys here when I come back!
4. The view
The view was breathtaking. Sometimes I would sit on top of the mountain, not wanting to board down because I was in awe. Looking across on a clear day at the beautiful mountains glistening with snow scattered across them was incredible and something I will never forget. I could have sat there for an hour taking it all in if it wasn’t so cold on my butt! It was surreal. It definitely was one of those moments that made you appreciate life that little bit more.
It was a great trip and I was lucky enough to spend it with two great mates from Australia. We made memories that I will never forget. I definitely recommend Hakuba to anyone who wants a not-so-touristy experience in Japan and to have the best time snowboarding or skiing.
For me, its another reason why I’ve fallen in love with this country.