Great Snow Came to Ski Resorts in Nagano!

December 30th, 2009 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

Norikura Highland Hot Spring Ski Resort (Dec 20th)

Norikura Highland Hot Spring Ski Resort (Dec 20th)

Global warming is even affecting Nagano. People working in ski resorts were sighing over little snow until mid-December and some ski areas’ openings were postponed.
But! Since Dec 16th, the temperature dropped to around -10 centigrade (at Sugadaira in eastern Nagano, -23.4 was recorded!) and great snow came. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in Hakuba

November 10th, 2009 by
Category: Events, Experience, Information, Miscellaneous

Hakuba 9th November, 2009


Geisha girl

Geisha girl playing the Shamisen

Hakuba has a lot of natural beauty however it does not have any Geisha girls living in the village. Today I took a drive to Togura Kamiyamada Onsen about 80 minutes away via Nagano. I was invited to the Kamesei Ryokan to sample their Kaiseki lunch where they have some local Geisha girls performing  traditional dance, song and play the shamisen. A great afternoon and definately worth checking out if you have a day off from your busy skiing schedule in Hakuba.  The area is a traditional onsen town and the Kamesei Ryokan has a beautiful soft water onsen bath to relax in before you sit down to your lunch.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Nagano Ski Lifts in the Green Season

August 24th, 2009 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

What do ski lifts do in the Green Season?  Just sit around waiting for the snow to fall to bring skiiers?  Not here in Nagano.  Many snow resorts operate lifts in the summer, too, providing access to alpine wonderlands usually not easily reached.  The lifts can give you a break from the stifling summer heat by taking you up to mountain tops where it’s several degrees cooler than down below.

Some mountain resorts attract guests by planting fields of flowers on the ski runs, such as lilies in Hakuba’s Iwatake, and cosmos flowers at Kurohime (in bloom from mid-July to mid-October).

Lilies at the top of Hakuba's Iwatake lift -- Even prettier on a sunny day

Lilies at the top of Hakuba's Iwatake lift -- Even prettier on a sunny day

Our family recently rode the lift at Hijiri Kogen.  There the attraction wasn’t the flowers, it was the 360-degree panorama view (as well as the slider ride on the way back down).  Hijiri Kogen is best reached by car (approx. 25 min.) from Omi IC on the Nagano Expressway.

Panorama View from Top of Hijiri Kogen Lift

Panorama View from Top of Hijiri Kogen Lift

Riding the Lift Up

Riding the Lift Up

Riding the Slider Down

Riding the Slider Down

 

Shiga Kogen Heights offer alpine trekking easily reached by a series of lifts and even escalators (at Yokoteyama).  One such route is described here.

As Nagano transitions from summer to fall, the greens are replaced by golden yellows, browns and reds as the fall foliage comes on.  Even more reason to ride Nagano’s ski lifts in skiing’s off-season!

Hakuba’s Green Season

August 9th, 2009 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Hakuba's Seseragi-no-SatoLast week, I took part in Hakuba’s premier green season event: “Hana San-Mi”. There are 11 areas in the village, from flower-lined streams in town to alpine flowers at 2000-meters, reachable by a special shuttle bus and/or ski lifts that operate in the summer. Our group got to see 2 of the areas. The “Seseragi-no-Sato” is in town. It’s a little rock-lined stream with quaint bridges over it and flower pots all over and bushes and bushes of brilliantly blooming hydrangeas. The scene just begs to be photographed.

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After that, we moved to the Iwateke area and rode the lift to the Iwatake Lily Garden. 500,000 lilies are planted around the 1289-meter peak. The colorful flowers with the Hakuba Valley below and the massive Hakuba peaks above makes for a dynamic scene. The day we were there it was cloudy — on a clear day the view must be even more impressive. This summer, there have been an unusually few amount of clear days. That also means fewer tourists, so you can have the nature to yourself.

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For lunch, we stopped at Shouya Maruhachi, a feudal merchant’s house that has recently been renovated to bring back its original Edo-era glory. It is located along the Seseragi-no-Sato. I was really pleased to get to see the residence, because when Shouya Maruhachi’s brochure was made last winter, I was the one tapped to write the English. It was great to see it in person. I realized, though, that my words didn’t do justice to the workmanship that went into the residence. If you get a chance, check it out.

Links:

白馬村観光局・花三味 Hakuba Tourism Commission / Hana San-Mi
庄屋まるはちShouya Maruhachi
Lodging: Ski Japan Holidays; JHN Travel

Skiing and Snowboarding in Hakuba, Nagano

February 24th, 2009 by
Category: Outdoor Activities
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At the top of Alps Daira courses

We went to Goryu Ski resort in Hakuba on the weekend. I have been snowboarding for more than 15 years and went to many ski resorts such as Niseko (Hokkaido), Utah (U.S.A.), and Whistler (Canada), and I believe that the Hakuba area has some of best ski resorts in the world. The weather is almost always clear when we go there, and the snow conditions are also very good.

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Hakuba Goryu Ski Resort, Nagano

What we usually do is get there at around 9am, go skiing or snowboarding until lunch time, have lunch (There are many good places to have lunch on the hill or in town), then do more skiing and snowboarding until 3pm-ish. After that there is one thing left – Onsen (Hot spring) time! We often can buy lift tickets, meal, and coupon packages and can get Onsen discount tickets near the resort. We lastly go to an Onsen and relax after hard day skiing and snowboarding.

This is a blog for foreigners in Japan from all over the world, so here is some extra advice for our visitors.

1. There are many ski resorts in Hakuba, so try to go to a variety of them and enjoy their unique features!

2. Check for package lift ticket prices. You might be able to save a lot!

3. There are some bars and restaurants in Hakuba near the station. Check them out, especially if you are staying the night.

4. Matsumoto, where we live, is only one hour from Hakuba by limited express train. So take one or two days off extra for skiing, snowboarding, and visiting Matsumoto! You can see Matsumoto castle, the museum, and of course eat Soba (buckwheat noodles).

Here are some useful sites for you winter enthusiasts out there:

Hakuba’s official site: http://www.vill.hakuba.nagano.jp/english/index.html

Matsumoto city’s official site: http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/