Sunday, February 9th, 2014

The staff call our room every time we have a booking in the restaurant. So, at 8:00 the phone rang to let us know our table was ready. Yesterday we had told them that today we would try the western breakfast which was not really very western - Which suited us! As always, it was beautifully presented - A fried egg, fried tofu and some fruit with some bread on the side (as well the obligatory tea).


After yesterday we were determined to try to gain some confidence back so we decided to visit the “Iwatake” ski area which is supposed to be a bit easier (and smaller) than the other Hakuba ski areas. The front desk has scheduled for the shuttles that operate between the areas so we had a good idea when the shuttle was going to leave so we put on our equipment and trekked down the road to the Tourist Information building to pick it up (conversation with the English-fluent staff told us where outside of the building to wait for the bus). The bus was busy as we boarded and left for Iwatake. It took us a short distance north on the main road out of our small village in Happo One, through some park area then through a short tunnel to arrive at the resort 10 minutes later.

Iwatake - "Noah" Gondola

We got off the bus right outside the building housing the main gondola “Noah” (something about biblical names for these things…“Adam” was in Happo One and “Eve” is in the next resort over…) and saw a huge queue for people waiting for the gondola. I went straight to the ticket booth to do our daily voucher exchange (1,000 yen deposit each for passes today). We were not so keen on joining the queue so instead we took a chair lift (“Paradise”) to very close to the top of the mountain. It was a very long chair that took us over the top of one mountain then across to the next.

The Lift

It got colder the closer we got to the top with the trees at the end covered with a thick layer of snow and frost - Very pretty - Just before we disembarked the trees opened to our right to show us a fantastic view up the valley.

Other Resorts in the Distance

Trees and mountains as far as we could see only with the occasional white streak of a ski run or a power line.

Top of the Lift

The sky was clear with little wind - A lot better than yesterday.

Another View

The Trail Before Us...

We skied on lot on the run that followed the chair lift. It was a long run that was quite wide but steep enough to be challenging - except for a single section near the top where it was narrow and very flat with lots of people walking…The snow from yesterday and overnight is a joy to ski on and the temperature is such that it is a pleasure. We stopped quite often to take pictures.

Beautiful Trees

Viewing the Valley

At one point we went down a run that was marked as green (easy) on the map but ended up being very narrow and lots of moguls (bumps made by skiers making tight turns) - which we do not enjoy. To top it all off the run ended in the bottom of a valley with only one way out a lift with an enormous queue which was actually on a slope meaning you had to be careful not to slide into the person in front of you while you were waiting. As we approached the lift we had to even climb up a hill! 10 minutes in the queue was not nice - We never returned to this run. At the top of the lift we went in for something to eat at “Restaurant Ski Arc” (1,289m) which was another buffet place though much smaller than the restaurant at “Usagidaira Terrace” at Happo One.

Restaurant Ski Arc

Restaurant Ski Arc - Inside

Mother Happier than Yesterday...

In the afternoon we tried a bit of skiing on the far side of the resort (in the “Love Snow Park” area) but it was not very nice - Narrow slopes with a lot of boarders - so we returned to the top only to find we had to walk up quite a ways to get to other parts of the resort (these resorts do not appear to be planned very well). After our long walk we tried a few runs on a different side of the mountain (“Five Side”) which was a red run (intermediate) that was a skied up and very busy. The weather had come in by early afternoon so it was becoming trickier to ski. When we decided to head down we were getting very cold from the serious wind at the top and we could not see where we were going at all but for a light I recognized from a sign earlier in the day that we could make out in the gloom - This is not fun. We decided to head back down on the long run we had enjoyed in the morning under the “Paradise” chair lift. At the bottom the weather was better with not so much snow and wind but we were done. Passes exchanged for our yen it was 3:00 pm.

Waiting for the Bus

We waited for a few minutes for the bus which was not very busy and dropped us back at the Tourist Information centre very quickly. After dumping our equipment in the basement we put our room number beside 4:00 pm for the private onsen but as there was no one in at 3:00 pm I went in earlier (making sure to turn over the “occupied” sign beside the door).

Today we passed on dinner at the hotel so that we could go to the “Hakuba Yukikoi Festival” finale that was being held in the stadium at the bottom of the two massive ski jumps from the Nagano Olympics. We left the room at about 6:30 pm (for a 7:00 pm start, we were told), stopping briefly at the corner shop for mother to pick up some more Nagano pins to take home for other people. We did not have a map but we could see a moving search light pointed into the sky that was at the bottom of the already hard-to-miss ski jumps so we just kept walking down likely roads towards it.

We passed over a small stream with a tako-yaki van parked off to the side (yum) then crossed below the lit lower slopes of Happo One (they have night skiing here but we only saw one or two people out enjoying it) and finally we were on the road leading into the car park for the ski jumps.

Night Skiing


As we entered the car park there were a few trailers set up selling food (mostly grilled meats and steamed dumplings). A tunnel was decorated with bright lights that we followed to emerge in the middle of the run-off areas of the two jumps with the spectator seating all around us covered in snow.

Follow the Tunnel...

In front of us, at the end of the stadium a stage had been set up and the seats all around had small snow mounds hollowed out with candles inside (in the wind and driving snow there were many people throughout the evening that were trying to keep the candles lit and I can’t say we saw any more than 30 of the hundreds there lit at any one time…).


The ski jumps were lit for most of the evening and they were very imposing above us - They are SO high!

Ski Jumps

There were about 500 to 600 people there all huddled around the fence surrounding the stage waiting for the show to begin. Eventually the MC came on to introduce things (with only a small amount of English). He introduced the two mascots: One is a happy apple that is the mascot for the Nagano area (it is well known for it’s apples - we have seen them for sale in the shops) and the other is what looks like “Mack Tonight” (if you can remember back to the McDonald’s character or, if you can’t, “Jay Leno” from the Tonight Show) but is actually, we found out later, a horse. We did a lot of waiting in the wind and driving snow (the wind seemed to funnel through the stadium so even if it was only a few degrees below zero standing for an hour or so without a lot of movement was COLD and neither of us had our ski clothing on…).

Mascots on Stage

A local children hip-hop dance group came on which were really quite good though they went on for a very long time. Some of the children must have been 8 or even younger as they jumped and gyrated to the often explicit lyrics of the rap music they were playing (making us wonder if anyone actually knew what the English lyrics actually were and if they did know would they let their child take part…).

The fireworks were due to start at about 8:30 but we were freezing by 8. We noticed a building at the top of the stands on one side of the stadium that was lit up and people seemed to be entering and leaving from so we decided to go have a look. It turns out there were free drinks (tea/coffee), biscuits and HEAT inside so we went inside to warm up for a while standing around the heater. It was good we found this because we were thinking about leaving if we could not warm up.

A troupe of fire dancers opened the fireworks at 8:30 which were really quite incredible for such a small community. We did not see many skiers or tourists there…The light show was set off from a partitioned off area in the stands on the far side of the stadium and lit up not only the sky but also the ski jumps and the trees around us. Even through the snow it was quite a sight.

Fireworks over, the show continued for a bit but we were done so we took a short-cut out of the stadium and headed back through the village to the hotel. We had not had anything to eat yet but could not really find anything open at this time of night (it is Sunday as well). We ended up eating in the Indian restaurant above our corner shop. The building is made of wood logs and we climbed up the steps alongside the shop into the large space of the restaurant. There was another group of three or four people at another table when we arrived that were just finishing up. Sitting down we ordered a couple of dishes: Mother ordered a “Cashew Masala” (really tasty) and I ordered the “Tandoori Special” (also very nice). The waiter was over the moon when we complimented him on the food and was so grateful (he spoke a bit of English through his obviously Indian accent).

>> Next: Day 13

For further information, please see: