As 4 of my buddies – Changky, Merv, Princess & Guppy – are going to Japan in one week’s time, I thought I’d put up some pictures to provide further inspiration for their itinerary. As they are travelling there during winter, what better than to show photos from my Dec 2001 Osaka ski trip!
Thanks to my hamster memory, I can’t quite remember the name of the ski resort that I went to nor how I got there. But, what I do remember was taking a half a day’s journey from Osaka just to reach Yoka station (I vaguely recall this being north of Osaka). From Yoka, it was another 1-2 hours bus ride up the mountain to a small village where I spent the night in a ryokan (aka traditional Japanese inn).
Me standing outside the Yoka train station – full of energy and anticipation despite the long journey.
Staying in a ryokan is quite an experience. Firstly, you get to rent a very nice and huge room for a fraction of the price you would pay for a hotel room. However, unlike a hotel room, the rooms tend to be very sparsely furnished, providing only the bare essentials like a heating table, some mattresses and a television set. The ryokan I stayed in did not have an adjoining toilet and I had to walk a good 50 metres just to get to the bath area (it was quite a long ryokan!). For first timers in Japan, don’t be alarmed if you can’t find any cubicles for bathing. Communal bathing seems to be a part of Japanese culture. Furthermore, ensure that you’ve properly soaped and showered before jumping into the hot tub/pool/springs.
It was an amazing bus ride up the mountain as my arrival at the village coincided with the first snowfall of the season. Snow is soft and fluffy when it lands on you; and, it leaves you feeling all soggy after that.
Another highlight of staying in a ryokan is that you get to enjoy a nice home cooked meal prepared by the hosts. I’m not sure if this applies to ryokans in the city but it certainly applies to those in the countryside! During my trip, I had the pleasure of feasting on a traditional steamboat meal consisting of shitakke mushrooms, beef, winter crab and other assortments of vegetables.
After a full night’s rest, I proceeded to the foot of the mountain (which was just a 5 minute’s walk away from the ryokan) to take a ski lift up to the ski resort.
Unlike better developed ski resorts, the ski lift from this particular base station was quite antiquated, with each seat consisting of a mere pole and a 30cm by 30cm plank! Picture me clinging for my dear life with my oversized butt spilling off the edges of the seat, feat dangling in mid air 10-20 metres above 45 degree inclinations, arms delicately balancing metre long skis while nimbly trying to snap photos at the same time. All these without insurance coverage!
Me enjoying the majestic view of the mountains from the safety of the beginner’s slope. Sunglasses are highly recommended as the glare from the snow causes sunburns easily.
Finally, after reaching the top, there were only a good 2 hours of skiing left before having to ski back down in time for sunset. There were other resort buildings at the top and thanks to the year end holidays, the place was packed with parents and kids. In fact, it was quite embarrassing skiing at the beginner’s slope as the kids there kept on overtaking me left, right and centre. There were a couple of accidents too prior to me mastering the V-shape breaking technique, resulting in me landing many times in the soft and fluffy snow. Believe me, it is not easy to get up when your body is halfway deep in the snow and your metre long skis somehow found a way to knot themselves around each other.
Skiing down the mountain slopes, whizzing past the towering trees on both sides of the road at a blistering speed of 1 km/h. What to do… scared of going too fast and skiing off the edge.
And that’s was my winter vacation in 2001! I can’t wait for the next chance to go skiing again with my buddies whenever and wherever that will be! Oh, and here’s a great resource for anyone planning a ski trip up to Japan: