Winter is coming…
And we expect another glacial season in Suwa area.
Although Nagano prefecture is widely known as a snow country where you can enjoy fluffy soft snow, this area is a little different, a kingdom of frost with nights as cold as -20 (brr~!).
We have little snow, that’s true, but we have plenty of ice.
The locals, tough as ever, have found a way to enjoy the freezing weather since the past. They would put on their “geta skate” and skate on frozen lakes, ponds, even rice fields. Ice skating is a traditional sport here!
Nowadays they wear ice skates instead of geta, but skating is as popular as ever.
So much so that many local schoolyards turn into hand-made skate rinks during the winter season. It was in one of these rinks that Kodaira Nao first experienced skating. Does that name ring a bell? Well, she’s the woman that has won the speed skating gold medal at the PyongChang Olympic (and she was born and raised here).
This year you have the chance to visit one of our schoolyard rinks, skate your way across it and then together with the locals experience the daily maintenance tasks.
The activity starts in the evening around 19:00 and offers a fun way to spend the evening after dinner. The rink is less than 10 min by train from Chino station or Kami-suwa station, which means good access from many accommodations.
Once you arrive to the meeting point, one of the local in charge of the skate maintenance will welcome you and, after moving indoor to a warmer place, will introduce you to the skating tradition in the area and explain how the locals make the rinks. (Works to turn the yard into a rink starts in early November and are carried out by the local grandpas and grandmas)
After the introduction, it’s time to finally hit the rink. (We will provide the ice skates).
If you can skate already, then go ahead and have fun. If it’s the first time or you’re not very good, though, our guide will follow you step by step. And even if you’re terrible at it, no worry XD -we have a secret chair technique (see pic below)-.
A hand-made rink needs daily maintenance and the locals carry it out every night after the kids have gone home. In the last hour you will join them. You will learn how to fix the crack and how to improve the quality of the ice. (During this part we will provide you with some wellington boots and easily slide around the rink). Some of the tasks also involve breaking the ice around the rink, sweeping the ice floor (yes, sweeping as with brooms) and polishing.
Schoolyard skate rinks are an important element of the local culture. This activity is half winter sport and half cultural activity. Oh, and it gives you the chance of mingling with the locals!
*If you would like to participate in a date not listed above, please consult us
Access: 10 min on foot from JR Aoyagi station
(Take the 18:55 train from JR Chino station
or the 18:49 train from JR Kami-suwa station)
*if you don’t have any plans for dinner, you can take the previous train and try some delicious local soba noodles at Katsuyama soba (just in front of Aoyagi Station).
Winter Soba is the best!
Time: 2h 19:10~21:10
Capacity: Min. 1 persons Max. 5 persons
Price: adult – 3,500 JPY (tax incl.)/person
children (7~12)- 2,500 JPY (tax incl.)/person
Includes: activity cost, ice skate shoes rental, insurance
An English-speaking guide will be present during the first 30 min
Application deadline: 3 days prior
For reservation and inquiries, contact Chino Tabi at email@example.com