Thursday, February 13th, 2014

It has been snowing over night and it still coming down when we got up this morning. Should be interesting for skiing. Because of the weather and the facet we don’t really want to end our trip with a lot of hard work so we decided today to head over to the “Tsugaike Kogen” ski area which is known for being quite an easy resort to ski.

We chickened out with breakfast as we opted for the “english” - Fish for breakfast I still think is quite odd. Anyway, today it included a pork sausage, fried egg, and some fresh fruit (as well as the normal bread, miso soup and tea).


“Tsugaike Kogen” is the further resort along in the Hakuba Valley - Past Iwatake up the valley. The ride on the bus was very pleasant if a bit daunting to see the snow coming down. I had a feeling this might not be a very long day for us again.

The skiing here was quite a bit different than the other resorts. I think this mountain is not as high. At the bottom there are very long runs that are pretty much flat meaning that if you try to even take a turn you will end up stopping so for us this was very hard on the legs as you have to stand and simply go straight if you hope to make it to the bottom (standing like that is difficult - better to keep the legs moving if possible). Of course it was here that there were a lot of ski classes and beginners meaning we did have to occasionally weave around them.

Looking down towards the flat section

Above this flat section there is a ridge then a section of slightly steeper runs (still mostly “green”, easy) then at the top of the mountain there are some more challenging runs (“reds”, intermediate and “blacks”, difficult). We started after picking up our daily passes by going up a chair lift that took us half way where we found a nice, though small run, on the far right of the resort beside a snowboard park. The run was basically untouched so the skiing was very smooth and relaxing. Another lift took us to a nice wide piste that was also quite enjoyable (though we only realised it was a “black”, difficult and “red”, intermediate section).

View from the top...

Which way are we going?

The ridge is an odd thing as it means that if you want to go all of the way down and are on the left side of the resort you have to take a small lift up and over the ridge before you can complete the trip to the bottom. It is at this ridge that there is a large cafeteria “Restaurant Eden” and a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet (!). KFC is a bit odd because we have not seen any commercial catering in Hakuba until now.

For lunch we stopped at “Restaurant Eden” which is a large cafeteria on the edge of a man-made lake (!) - Unfortunately not frozen (meaning it was quite warm).

View from the window of the lake

Here you purchase tickets from a machine that you then present to the servers behind the counter for your food. We had run out of the smaller bills that these machines accept but I noticed another machine that provided change so decided to use that (10,000 yen is a lot of money for one bill). In fact, mother tried to use it after we had finished and the machine took her money so we had to frantically find one of the staff who seemed to understand right away (I think this might happen quite often) who came over to help us out. Our coke for today came out of a dispensing machine - Have not used one of them in years (where the drink is dispensed into a cup rather than simply spitting out a tin or bottle). Mother tried the ice cream for dessert - “Matcha” (green tea) - It was not very nice - True to the flavour of matcha but that was the problem (!). As we were eating we looked around and noticed that we were pretty much the only non-Japanese there…

Restaurant Eden

In the afternoon we tried a few higher runs but seemed to always end up on sections that were quite flat so we had to go as fast as possible to make sure we did not end up walking. The snow was making things difficult as it did mean that there was a lot of “flat light” so it was not easy making out the features on the snow as we travelled. It also makes us tense up with nervousness not quite being able to see entirely where you are going.

Lift higher up the mountain...

Stopped for a break

Nice and wide runs...

The day ended fairly early with our heading down to pick up the bus. We found out it was a few minutes away so took a few minutes to wander through the shop. I spotted an interesting postcard (that I should have bought) that had “Colonel Sanders” (from KFC fame) on a ski lift heading up the mountain! The building had a small shop, rental facility as well as an onsen (public bath). On the outside of the building some of the hot spring water ran in a small man-made stream with seats around it that you could sit at with your feet in it or just sit nearby to keep warm (several people were doing this). With our lift ticket here we were entitled to a visit to the bath if we wanted (we gave this a miss - we like our small private onsen at the hotel - we are both quite shy anyway). I have noticed that several of the resorts here have onsen on-site.

Outside Onsen

Back at the room we caught up on emails then headed out to find something to eat. We visited a shop where I picked up a t-shirt with the white horse mascot on it (yes, very odd) as did mother. I also picked up some more “Totoro” souvenirs for Mel. Mother has been looking around for things for people as well and it is a good way to pass the time.

We ended up in a place a lot like a bar on the first floor of a building. It was not great food but I did have some “wagyu” steak that was expensive and fairly tasty (though a bit tough…I have read that even if they say “wagyu” don’t necessarily assume it is…Mother had a Japanese deep-fried chicken with curry dish which was absolutely enormous that she enjoyed.


As we were eating the Olympics were on television showing the typical repeats of the Japanese athletes that we have been watching all week. I suppose some of the people there would not have seen them (perhaps no televisions in their room…).

Tomorrow is our last day of skiing. Not going to be too challenging as the danger is that the last day you push yourself too hard and end up hurting for it either by falling or over-exerting yourself. I think we have done very well with what we have done already. We also both agree that we have nothing to prove here.

>> Next: Day 17

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