There seems to be a lot of confusion about lift passes in Hakuba. Considering Hakuba has over 10 resorts in the valley, the “Hakuba Valley Pass” sure sounds like a good deal but actually, I don’t really recommend it. One thing most people don’t realize is that it needs to be used within a set number of days. The 2 day pass must be used within 3 days, and the 3 day pass expires after 5. One good thing about the Hakuba Valley Pass is that as of the 2014/15 season you will be able to use more than 1 resort in 1 day.
However, you will need to make your way to the ticket counter to exchange your Hakuba Valley Pass for a day ticket at the resort of your choice. UPDATE: For the 2016/17 season, the bigger resorts are now buys replacing lift ticket gates so you will not have to line up to exchange your pass. I hear they won’t be able to replace all of the ticket gates yet instead some of the gates will be manned and you will have to show your pass to get through the gate. If you are really keen to check out more than 1 resort in 1 day , and want the convenience of not lining up in the morning then the mulit-day Hakuba Valley Pass is for you. However, if you are happy to stick to 1 resort a day and you are looking to save some money than the Multi-Day Passes from the resorts themselves, or discount passes for sale at the lodge provide better savings and in some ways more flexibility.
Some of the better deals to be had are:
A 3 day pass at Hakuba Goryu/Hakuba 47 is ¥12,600
A 5 day weekday pass (any 5 weekdays) at Hakuba Goryu/Hakuba 47 is ¥17,900
A day pass with lunch and onsen (spa) at Cortina is 3500 yen with a coupon.
A day pass at Kashimayari is 4100 yen
A day pass at Sanosaka is 3800 yen
A day pass at Yanaba is 2500 yen weekdays and 3500 yen on weekends
A 2 day pass at Happo is 8800 yen
The Hakuba Valley Pass (1 to 3 days available at all Hakuba Ski Areas)
1 day 5700 yen
2 day 10,000 yen (valid for 2 out of 3 days)
3 day 14,900 yen valid for 3 out of 5 days)
The Hakuba Valley Pass (4 to 7 days must be ordered in advance).
4 day is 19,700 yen (valid for 4 out of 7 days)
5 day is 24,400 yen (valid for 5 out of 9 days)
6 day is 29,000 yen (valid for 6 out of 10 days)
7 day is 33,500 yen (valid 7 out of 11 days)
If you are a beginner, you are better off not buying a day pass at all. Instead, there is a point pass (kaisuken) available that deducts points from your pass as you use the lifts UPDATE: some of the resorts in the Hakuba Valley, like Happo and Cortina, will not offer these types of tickets during the 2015/16 season. However, at Hakuba Goryu/Hakuba 47 you can still buy an 11 point pass for ¥4000. We highly recommend practicing your turns in Iimori, they have long gentle slopes, and its much quieter there too. Each lift is 1 point, while the gondola will deduct 2 points. Unlike day passes, the points do not expire at the end of the day, so if you only use a few points one day you can use the rest on any other day.
***At Lodge tabi-tabi we have discount tickets available ever year!!!! We have some of the cheapest tickets, if not the cheapest day passes in the valley! Another great reasons to stay with us! Rates and availability varies but at the moment (December 31st, 2015) we have 1 day passes for the following resorts in the Hakuba Valley:
Happo One: pay ¥4200 at tabi-tabi (regular ¥5200)
Iwatake: pay ¥3,200 at tabi-tabi (regular ¥4200)
Tsugaike: pay ¥4000 at tabi-tabi (regular 5,100)
We are now prepping for another epic season in Hakuba! With every season we provide new upgrades to our services and facilities. For the upcoming 2016 / 2017 winter season the lodge will have new curtains, painted black boards, an updated check-in counter and information area, and freshly coated walls. Just last spring as the snow was melting we finally got a chance to rip off all the old wallpaper. It was a big job but we got a lot of help from our hardworking helpers (Thanks Ken, Chris, and Steve!). Now the resurfacing has begun (with the help of Frank and Sandra). If you are curious, we are applying a natural lime-based plaster called shikui which has been used for centuries in Japanese architecture and is revered not only for its durability and beauty but is also considered to be the most environmentally-responsible plaster finish available. It helps to prevent mold and mildew during the Japanese humid summers and acts as a natural antiseptic for better air quality all year long. We hope you like it as much as we do. We have had a lot of time to hone our shikui skills at our summer location, Retreat wabi-sabi. Have a look:
Now back to the winter season 2016/17 in Hakuba:
We’ve got dinners and other treats planned. Yu-chan, our friendly manager from Osaka will be joining us again this year and is planning “Osaka Nights”, where you will learn how to make (and eat of course) Osakan specialties like okonomiyaki and takoyaki! Look out for home-baked goods, and breakfast items like home-made greek yogurt, batches of freshly-made granola, chia pudding, and fruit compote!
About the snow, as many of you probably know, last year Hakuba experienced its worst season in 120 years! That’s right, it’s doesn’t get worse then 2015/16. And it won’t, we promise you! Forecasters are still talking about La Nina, arriving this fall and with a little research you will see that La Nina means huge dumps of snow to central Japan. Come on, La Nina! Also speaking from experience (that’s now 12 seasons in Hakuba) a poor snow season is always followed by an epic winter!
In fact, The Free Ride World Tour is so confident that it will be an awesome winter that Hakuba has been scouted for their world class event. It is the first time that a location has been chosen in Asia! Yes, the Japanese Alps are epic too! Epic enough for the world’s gnarliest of skiers and snowboarders.
Temperatures here in Hakuba are now dropping, the peaks are all covered with fresh white snow, but we hope it stays warm for a little longer though because Shikui doesn’t dry well in cool temps. Once all the plaster has been applied though, we’ll be praying for snow and hoping that this coming season will make up for the last. Here is a little something to get you in the mood:
Now you may not be quite up to joining the World Free Ride Tour, or camping out in the back-country, but we have got tours to provide fun for every level and every kind of snow lover. tabi-tabi will once again be offering Snow Surf (aka yukiita) Tours!!! We now have the largest quiver of bindingless boards, so we have something for everyone! And trust me everyone CAN do this! It is pure joy, like tobagganing for adults.
We are now on booking.com and airbnb but book direct and we will have some freebies for you! Go to “book now” and we’ll see you very soon!
Angela, Yasu, Yu, and the rest of the 2016 / 2017 season tabi-tabi crew!
Many of our guests who are visiting Japan for the first time will ask for the local sushi restaurant, problem is, Japanese people save their incessant taste for the raw delicacy for their trip to the sea. Fish is freshest and therefore tastiest, by the ocean. If you really are really craving for Japan’s most famous cuisine, we highly recommend taking a trip to the coast. Itoigawa has tons of fish restaurants and is only about an hour away by train. While you are in Hakuba, you can get your sushi fix at Kikyoya but you should really try some other varieties of Japanese food as well.
The Goryu Village now has a new specialty restaurant serving kushi-age (aka kushikatsu). Age (pronounced “ah-geh”) means fried and Kushi refers to the bamboo skewers that are used. You can even see the bite sized morsels skewered on sticks in the Kanji (Chinese characters) for Kushi-age 串 揚げ!
The Chef doesn’t speak English but there is an English menu that includes a thorough description of how to enjoy his fresh from the fryer bite sized morsels. You can choose exactly which and just how many skewers you want or let him choose from his seasonal selection. The night we were there there were 30 different skewers on the menu. I’m a pescetarian and he had no problem choosing from his selection of seafood and veggies. My dinner partners had a few morsels of meat but if you tell him you are vegetarian (it will help to say “yasai dakeh” meaning “only vegetables” and “kudasai” (please).
He will serve 1 or 2 skewers at a time and place them in front of the recommended dips. All you need to do is dip and eat. Kushiage went very well with draft beer he served in frozen glasses but he has a very nice selection of sakes, shochus and soft drinks as well.
Finally, finish of in the traditional way with a bowl of rice. At Skikisai they have 3 different kinds of ochazuke (bowl of rice soup) to choose from. Yummmm!
So the other night I was at Tracks Bar with my Sorels tossed aside hoping to dance up another snow storm when a hunger pang forced me back to the bar to order a bite to eat. I had yet try their almost-famous fish and chips from their connected take-out shop, Shark & Taties so without hesitation but with a drunken slur, I ordered the small NZ style fish & chips for only ¥700. And I must admit, I have never been to New Zealand or England, and I am therefore no connoisseur, but they were by far the best fish & chips I have ever tasted! I could not stop thinking about those crispy beer battered gifts from the sea and so 2 days later I was back with an extra growling gut. My partner and I ordered 1 batch of chips, 4 pieces of fish, and 2 pineapple fritters. We managed to get some pics before it was all devoured but then couldn’t resist ordering more! More fried goodness, tender fish, and juicy pineapple.
I highly recommend trying some Shark & Taties and even though it’s meant to be a take-out shop, I suggest you just order a plate and eat at Tracks Bar instead. They have an amazing selection of beers for less than you’d expect to pay. Go on the weekends and you will be treated to best live music in the Hakuba Valley…. no make that Nagano Prefecture, or even Japan!
Every body loves the monkeys! And although, if you’re in luck, you can spot some monkeys in Hakuba, the famous Japanese snow monkeys are a day trip away. If you have a car set your navigation to Jigokudani Monkey Park. From the parking area you will need to walk about 30 minutes through a snowy forest so be prepared and bring some boots!
If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to get to see the monkeys is to join one of many tours departing Hakuba Goryu everyday. It’s a full days journey, includes lunch, and makes a few more sightseeing stops along the way. Most tours include Nagano City’s famous Zenkoji Temple, tours may also include a sake brewery where you can taste local sake for free! Book early, or better yet, book well in advance because these tours fill up quick.
Joyful Day Tours offers daily tours departing from Mont Blanc Hotel at 8:25
Sanroku Tours offers tours on Tuesdays and Fridays and has a pick up at Kamishiro Station Ski Japan has daily tours departing Hakuba Goryu Bus Stop
Your cheapest option, especially if you are traveling with a few people, would be to rent a car. More about renting a car here. But if you are not confident driving in the snow, or forgot to get an international driver’s license before departing your country, yet are on too tight a budget for a hassle free tour, you can simply take public transport instead!
To get to Jugokudani Monkey Park take a bus from Hakuba Goryu Bus Stop to Nagano, then transfer to an express bus bound for Shiga Kogen and get off at Kanbayashi Onsen Guchi Bus Stop. The most current timetables and fees posted in the information area at Lodge tabi-tabi. Let’s us help you find your way!
Lodge tabi-tabi’s home mountain, Hakuba Goryu Ski Resort, has a lot to offer. Back-country enthusiasts have endless options if they are willing to hike and have the right gear. Check conditions or better yet, get a guide because people go missing here every year.
For those who enjoy the comforts of Goryu‘s high speed gondola and well groomed runs, there are wide steep runs enjoyed mostly by high level skiers. The cat track down the center and along the top part of Iimori is meant for beginners but has fun walls great for boarders who like to shred. While the lower half of Iimori has wide quiet runs with a gentle slope perfect for those still practicing their turns. Iimori also has a small park with kickers and jumps. Hakuba Goryu is connected to Hakuba 47, you only need 1 pass to use both resorts. A day pass is 5000 yen for adults, you will save money if you buy one of their multi-day passes or ask us about our discount passes!
During the 2014/15 season Hakuba Goryu opened a new off-piste area skier’s right off The Champion. The ungroomed area is controlled by patrol so may not always be open. Keep checking it. On powder days this natural terrain is very good fun!
Access from Lodge tabi-tabi:
It takes 10 minutes to walk to Goryu’s gondola The nearest shuttle stop is in front of San Marute Hotel, take the short cut through the forest, turn left on the road and it’s the first hotel on your left. You will see a bus stop with an Escal Plaza sign on it. Please check the lodge for the time-table.
Lodge tabi-tabi has a wide selection of Hakuba discount passes available. We will be posting our best rates at the lodge everyday. At the moment we have discount passes for Happo-one, Goryu / Hakuba 47, Tsugaike, Cortina, and Iwatake. Sorry, these discounted lift tickets are available for staying guests only. One more reason to stay with us!
If you are a beginner to intermediate skier or snowboarder, Hakuba Valley’s Sanosaka Ski Resort is the place for you! Wide open runs with few people on them means you have plenty of space to practice your turns. It’s definitely one of the smaller resorts in the valley so it’s easy to navigate and a little more gentle on your wallet. Sanosaka has amazing views of Lake Aokiko below and is protected from the wind so when big resorts in the valley are shutting down their gondolas because of strong winds, you can keep cruising in Sanosaka.
Kashimayari is by far our favorite night riding spot. While most of resorts have night skiing available they tend to only keep the bunny hill open.
Kashima however, runs several lifts providing access to beginner, intermediate, park runs and even a bit of off-piste. UPDATE: Although still a fun spot for night riding, our favorite lift is now only open during the day.
During the day when all, or at least most runs are open, Kashimari has beginner to advanced trails with some ungroomed runs for powder lovers. Most people have not heard of Kashimayari which makes this a great resort for those wanting to get away from the crowds and if you really want to chill out they even have an excellent spa with majestic mountain views.
To get to Kashimayari from The Goryu Village:
Hakuba Valley Omachi Shuttle Bus Line provides several shuttles a day to/from the Goryu Village. Please check their website or Lodge tabi-tabi‘s information area for current time-tables.
You can also take the train from Kamishiro Station in Goryu to Yanaba Station and walk from there. The 12 minute ride costs ¥210.
After being shut for a season, Yanaba has re-opened in 2014 by new owners. Although the resorts has always been known for it’s nye-tahs (night skiing). Yanaba is now even more focused on bringing in locals for a late night shred with an updated bar, more features in their park, and extended lift hours. Yanaba has it’s own train station, Yanaba-skijo-mae (NOT Yanaba) so it’s really easy to get there from Kamishiro Station in the Goryu Village and the ¥210 ride only takes 9 minutes. You can use the hyperdia website to check for train schedules or check the information area at Lodge tabi-tabi. Yanaba Weekday Hours: 15:00 – 11:00 (¥2,500) Yanaba Weekend Hours: 9:00 – 16:30 (¥3,500) 17:30 – 23:00 (¥2,500 )
The best way to explore Japan’s country-side is with your own set of wheels. We suggest you check out ToCoo! rent-a-car. They have over 800 outlets, offer services from 12 different car rental companies, have a huge choice of vehicles, and an easy-to-use English website where you can check prices and reserve your vehicle. Although you can pick up your car at the airport when you arrive, most people prefer to make their way to Nagano by bus or train, and pick up their car in Nagano City instead. If you pick up your vehicle in Nagano or Matsumoto there is no extra fee for snow tyres, you can also request ski/snowboard racks, child seats, and all cars come with GPS. There is no extra fee for dropping off your vehicle at a different location as long as it is in the same prefecture. Smaller vehicles go for 4200 yen a day and they also offer long-term discounts. Driving in Japan is remarkably easy, other drivers are courteous, just remember to leave a little extra space between you and the car ahead when you are driving on snowy/icy roads. To rent a car in Japan you will need a credit card, a valid driver’s license, plus an international driver’s license which you have to get in your home country. Click on the pic for more details.
If you would prefer picking up your car in Hakuba, I suggest you book early! Here are some rental car companies with English services and pick ups in the Hakuba Valley:
Those of you who were in Hakuba a few years back will fondly remember Obuya Onsen. The onsen with endless options. Obuya has a new owner and is now called Hakuba Genryu no Yu. They have a large washing area, large indoor bath, large outdoor bath, a steam room/bath inside a tiny hut, and a good selection of single use baths where you can put your feet up and your head back. This you must try during one of Hakuba’s big snow falls. Watching huge lit up flakes floating towards you can best be described as a adventure through the galaxy, all while keeping warm and soaking in the therapeutic waters of one of Hakuba’s best mineral water sources.
UPDATE: The smaller baths and the steam room will not be put to use this winter. The indoor and outdoor baths are still fabulous though.The indoor bath area still smells of fresh hinoki, a Japanese cypres admired for its strength and aromatherapeutic qualities.
The outdoor area is steamy and the stone bath is surrounded by a thick blanket of snow while the hot alkaline rich water does wonders for dry winter skin.
Charge: 500 yen
Open: 9:00 – 21:30
Google “best sushi in Hakuba” and you will undoubtedly be sent numerous links to reviews for Kikyo-ya. Don’t trust the inter-webs? Then maybe you should have a look at the writing on the wall. Here are just a few of the enthusiastic messages written by Kikyo-ya’s devoted customers:
Kikyo-ya is on the 148 not far from Hakuba Station, directly across from the Boarding Co. Look for the Japanese cherry-blossom emblems outside. I suggest you sit at the counter for the ultimate sushi experience, and watch the master chef at work as he slices the most delicate fish to create Japan’s most celebrated cuisine. The charismatic owner will also help you choose another sake, while their extensive seafood menu (also in English) will make you want to come back for more.
Tel.: 0261 72 3633
NOTE: This is a blog entry written by Lodge tabi-tabi. Please don’t use our contact information to contact Kikyo-ya. Kikyo-ya’s number is 0261-72-3633
There is a new burger shack in town and what a pretty shack it is! This is actually Little Alaskan’s second location. Their first cozy cabin is still up and running on Olympic Road near Happo One Ski Resort while this colourful second shop is conveniently located right across Escal Plaza at Hakuba Goryu Ski Resort.
Both locations serve excellent chargrilled gourmet burgers. They have a choice of beef or chicken paddies and offer a huge assortment of toppings including the less obvious avocado and pineappple. The Olympic Road location also serves a fish burger which I am hoping they will add to the menu in Goryu.
A gourmet burger of your choice is around ¥1000. French fries or homecut fries are an extra ¥300 to which you can add toppings like cheese dip for another ¥100.
To wash it all down they serve beer on tap, soda, and juice.
Open: 12:00 – 20:00
If you are craving some western food while on the mountain, you might want to try Pizza House Luis. They are conveniently located just below the gondola station at Hakuba 47. Luis Pizza House offers 4 different sauces to choose from; garlic sauce, basil sauce, codroe and mayonaise sauce, and your standard tomato sauce. These thin crusted Italian style pizza pies only come in one single serving size and cost ¥1200 – ¥1500 each. They also offer quick snacks like hashbrowns, fried chicken, curry buns, and saugages for ¥200 – ¥500. And serve draft beer and Italian wine to help you wash it all down and work up a bit more courage for your afternoon on the mountain.
After a long winter of snow-filled skies, I must admit I do look forward to a bit if sunshine, and Obinata-no-yu is my favorite place to catch up on my vitamin D. It’s closed in the middle of winter but re-opens just as the days start to get a little longer and the clouds give way to more bluebird skies. When there is snow on the ground the taps and showers are also covered up so you have to wash the old fashioned way by sitting next to the hotspring and splashing yourself by dunking a bucket into bath. Don’t forget to get wet, lather up with soap, and rinse yourself clean before lowering your (now goose-pimply) body into these alkaline-rich mineral waters.
Open: 10:00 – 17:00
Closed: November – February
True Player’s Skate Park will have its grand opening in April, but they’re already letting skaters ride the ramps. True Player’s is an excellent indoor park with big well shaped ramps and other street skate items, and for ¥500 a day you can’t go wrong anyway. True Player’s is in a gym on the same road as Mimizuku Onsen near Happo. I will add it to our recommendation map here.
Open: 12ish to 9ish (everyday-ish)
There are soba shops all over the Hakuba Valley but my favorite sansai soba is from Yamato Soba. Sansai means mountain vegetable, these wild and nutritious plants are loaded onto a plate of cold soba noodles along with some grated daikon, green onions, shredded nori (seaweed) and wasabi. You have to pour over the soba tsuyu (sauce) yourself. It comes in a ceramic flask, make sure you mix up your plate well then dig in and slurp away. Yes, it’s OK to slurp your noodles in Japan. In fact, the locals feel that you will be missing out on some flavor if you don’t.
If you get zaru soba (plain noodles in middle pic below) you will get a small cup of soba tsuyu where you can add your desired amount of wasabi and daikon. Then you load up on noodles with your chopsticks and dip it into the cup, slurp, chomp, and swallow.
Yamato Soba has cold and hot versions of all of their dishes. You can also order udon (a thick white noodle) instead of soba (brown buckwheat noodles).
There are always a few specials to choose from like the seasonal tempura and okowa (sticky rice mixed with beans, see pic below). Today they also had kurumi soba which is a walnut dip instead of the usual soy-sauce based dip. Oishikatta (It was yum)!
Hours: 11:00 to 16:00 (and sometimes 17:00 or 18:00)
With bellies full of tasty treats, soba tea, and a lesson in Japanese culture, we headed off to Nagano city for the 9th annual Tomyo Festival. This incredibly beautiful festival of lights is held every year at Zenkoji Temple to commemorate the Nagano Olympics “and to pass on to the future generations the Olympic spirit of praying for peace. In this event, the message for peace is conveyed through lights with the aim of reaching out to the world”. The main buildings of the temple are lit up in different colored spot lights, while smaller temples (Zenkoji is made up of 41 temples and shrines) put on their own more intimate candle lit displays. There were also streets filled with lanterns crafted by various artists, while another cobble stone road was filled with boisterous vendors selling hot sake and local festival food. I’m already looking forward to the 10th annual Tomyo Festival. See you there next year, and peace be with you until then…
At 3 pm tabi-tabi staff and guests piled into the van ready to experience a little culture. First stop was Oyaki Mura in Ogawa. Oyaki is a veggie filled bun popular in Nagano prefecture, and mura means village. According to the oyaki maker (man in blue), in the old days people who lived in the mountains made these everyday. Due to a shortage of flat land, rice paddies were limited, therefore rice in short supply. The mountain people of Nagano grew wheat for flour, that could be made into dough and shaped and stuffed into oyaki. On this day we got to do the shaping and stuffing ourselves. We all made 2 varieties of oyaki. First, the standard nozawana which is a green leafy vegetable that tastes a little like spinach but is actually from the turnip family. Then, the unohana variety, which is a dry roasted tofu pulp mixed with veggies. We shaped and stuffed, and the the obasan (auntie) helped us close up our little pockets of veggies before the ojisan (uncle) cooked them up for us on the irori (open fire). After we had our fill of handmade (and very tasty!) oyaki, we climbed back into the van and headed off to Nagano city for the Tomyo Festival….. (see part two for the rest of our little adventure).
We have passed Kajika Onsen Ryokan a number of times on our way to Takasekan Onsen in Oomachi. Even tried to go there once but because the onsen is only available from 10 to 3 for non-staying guests, it’s been a bit hard to catch. This time we were intent on trying Kajika Onsen and I am glad we made the extra effort. Kajika is a beautiful Ryokan surrounded by a peaceful snow-covered forest. They have one indoor and one outdoor bath available for non-staying guests to use before check-in time. The two baths have two different types of natural mineral waters. The indoor bath has simple alkaline clear water, while the outdoor bath smelled more sulfurous and was loaded with yu-no-hana which literally translates as bath flowers but looked more like bits of volcanic ash. Proof that it’s a 100% natural mineral water hotspring.
Open: 10:00 – 15:00
Price: ¥800 adults / ¥500 kids
Access: You can find it on our google map here
If you are an onsen virgin (as one of our guests called it) you may be feeling a little reluctant to bathe with the locals. Many foreigners feel strange about being nude with others, but let me assure you, everyone is naked under their clothes, and everyone leaves their clothes behind when they take an onsen. If you too undress, you will fit in perfectly, no need to feel uneasy or out-of-place. And anyway, you will most likely never have to see these people again so who cares if they get a peak at your barest essentials. Even if you don’t care about the nudity, you may be worried about embarrassing yourself by committing the worst of faux pas while having nothing on to cover up the shame. The first time I went to an onsen I had a good friend take me through the process step-by-step. I have to admit it was not the most relaxing experience the first time around, but now, 100s of onsens later, I have to tell you this is an experience not to be missed! So let me take you through the process step by step and hopefully you too will feel confident enough to have a go at one of Japan’s oldest and most popular traditions. Click on “read more” for a detailed 9-step onsen procedure.
Da Monde is commonly known as “Darts Bar” and rightfully so. They have 2 electronically operated dart boards that will keep track of your score so you can focus on your toss. They also have karaoke, and a good selection of manga for those who prefer to put their feet up and do a little reading (in Japanese). Da Monde is about a 10 minute walk from Lodge tabi-tabi, you can also find it on our Goryu Walking Map here.
Lantern Rirun is an old lodge with a great new bar and after-hours club serving strong drinks, danceable tunage, and a super-chill local vibe. The night I was there DJ Haiyato was churning out some sweet trance and techno, along with some housy beats. He was well in tune with the crowd and kept all of us wacky people on our dancing feet. Looking forward to getting loco with the locals again soon!Â
I’ve been suffering from a cold so, as advised by my naturopath, I’ve been turning to all things hot. This week I have soaked at the Yamada Ryokan Onsen for a long dip in healing waters, put extra tabasco on my Tacos on Monday, had a good dose of wasabi on my tofu last night, been drinking hot yuzu tea, and spent a few hours sweating it out at Escal Plaza’s Spa. The Spa at Escal Plaza is nothing fancy but has all of the required basics for only ¥600. There is a large changing area with free lockers, showers, a large hot bath, a sauna, and a cold plunge pool for those who prefer to bathe the Scandanvian way (alternate between heat and cold). Their super convenient location on the first floor of Goryu Ski Resort’s main building, makes it possible to get warm and clean while waiting for your friends to finish up their day on the mountain.
Nagano prefecture is known for Shinsyu Soba. Shinshyu is the old name for what is now known as Nagano Prefecture and soba is a buckwheat noodle soup made with a simple soy based broth. You can find Soba restaurants all over Hakuba and the rest of the prefecture. Tonegawa Soba has got to be the best soba restaurant in the Hakuba village. As you can see it is set in beautiful old Minka (Japanese farm house) complete with irori (a sunken hearth used for cooking and eating), kotatsu (heated tables), and hand-made hanten (a quilted robe for guests to wear).
Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday John will be serving up yummy Tex-Mex to satisfy even the hungriest of Texans. UPDATE: John has been too busy and we are very sad. 🙁 We hear a few others are willing to try on his Texan boots and serve up his Tex-Mex dishes. Not exactly sure what will be on the menu so please just go and check it out!
I highly recommend you start with the Smokey Quesadilla, a large flour tortilla sandwich of melted cheese, sauteed onion, and smoked chipotle chillies served with a side of fresh guacamole, salsa fresca, sour cream, and a bit of cabbage. The quesadilla could be shared as a starter or eaten whole as a vegetarian meal (¥850).
Pescetarians, and lovers of seafood, should try the Baja Style Tacos (see picture above), where 2 soft tacos are stuffed with beer-battered fried fish, guacamole, cheese, cabbage, salsa fresca, and sour cream.
For meat lovers he’s got “nice tender chicken” served in the chicken enchiladas and El Grande chicken burritos. All of Arriba Arriba’s Main Plates (¥1000) are served with a side of Spanish rice, re-fried beans, and chopped cabbage.
Their tostada salad served in a deep-fried tortilla bowl sounded delicious but I wanted to leave a bit of space for a Mexican style hot chocolate. Their spiced hot cocoa is not on the menu but may be available on quieter nights. Just ask!
Complete your Mexican meal with a Corona or tequila shot for only ¥400!
Check out Sauce on any night of the week for beers, cocktails, and light snacks. Love their plate of crispy fries alongside a rum and coke. They have events, local DJs, photo exhibits, opening parties. Last year I spotted Jeremy Jones playing fuse-ball with the locals during a release party for the magazine, Hand. I hear no-one can beat the owner, YJ, at his own game though. They also have darts, cozy couches, and a large bar with friendly staff. Sauce is about a 10 minute walk from Lodge tabi-tabi. You can also find it on our recommendation map here.
An izakaya is a Japanese style dining bar that serves many small dishes to be shared with everyone at the table. At an izakaya you eat and drink, eat and drink, and then drink some more. This izakaya however, doesn’t serve the usual Japanese izakaya food. Instead, they have come up with unique pizzas in Japanese flavours like sansai (wild mountain vegetables) and pizza crusts covered in toasted sesame seeds served with wasabi tartar sauce. They even have a fried banana pizza for dessert. There is more than pizza at pizzakaya though, they have salads, green curry, risotto, yummy hors d’oeuvres like stuffed shiitake mushrooms, and snacks like shrimp crackers, and a variety of cheeses.
The shop is warm and cozy, owners are very friendly, and everything is served on beautiful original pottery. It’s popular with locals and tourist alike so get there early or drop in late.
Open: 18:00 – 24:00 (last order 23:00)
December 31st, 2011 was the first day I have ever snowshoed for the sake of snowshoeing. I usually have a board on my back and a beakon on my front, when I have snowshoes strapped to my feet. But on this beautiful blue bird day, I only brought my lunch, some hot tea, and great company.
I highly recommend getting away from the liftlines, and the powderhounds for this incredibly picturesque and amazingly peaceful trail that winds through forests and opens up to a panaromic view of Japan’s Northern Alps.
You can rent snowshoes at Minekata Ski Resort Hakuba for only 1000 yen, while the lift to the top is a mere 400. Another option is to buy a lift pass (half day 1900 yen, full day 2800 yen) do a bit of sliding, and a bit of walking. On the way back down, follow the cat track to Reflet, a great little cafe/restaurant that sells real hot chocolate and home-made cake. I also recommend their feshly baked cookies to take-away. A great way to end an awesome day.
UPDATE: Minekata will not be open for the 2014/15 season. 🙁
Yuki means “snow” and “ita” means board, but this is not your average snowboard. These handcrafted rockered snow planks that come complete with stomp pads and leash cords are the ultimate powder surfers. You can not imagine the fun you can have cruisin’ country roads, scoping lines, hiking hills, sampling from a quiver of sticks, and floating through pow surrounded by the tranquility of nature only broken by the laughter of friends.
Yuki-ita tours are now available at Lodge tabi-tabi. An afternoon session in a secret powder stash, door-to-door transportation, unlimited use of the above quiver of sticks, and a hot lunch with coffee or tea in the outdoors is less than a day pass at the resort.
Yasu will also be providing some basic instructions but once you try it you will see that no experience is necessary to stand up on a binding-less board and float down a powderful hill.
More pics here. Enquire within.
Canada Tei is a Japanese izakaya with tasty local dishes, great service, and a comprehensive English menu. Shige (shee-geh) the friendly owner speaks English and is happy to make recommendations like sukiyaki, nabe, or “salted squid guts”. You’ve got to try their okonomiyaki, and make sure you ask about their daily specials, last time I was there they had excellent tuna and salmon sashimi. They carry a good selection of Japanese nihonshu (sake) and shochu, and of course have beer on tap. Canada Tei is a 5 minute walk from, or a 10 minute stumble back to, Lodge tabi-tabi. You can also find it on our recommendation map here.
For cheap eats (burgers, burritos, pizza, nachos for 600 yen), veggie options (pizza, burgers, burritos all have a veggie version), free pool table, beer on tap, strong cocktails, super friendly folks, and some of the best live music I have ever seen, Tracks Bar continues to bring the usual suspects and local crowds too. There is no reason not to have a few at Tracks. Tracks Bar is only a 5 minute walk from Lodge tabi-tabi, you can also find it on our recommendation map here.
O-shogatsu means New Years in Japan, and although this is one of Japan’s biggest annual celebrations, there isn’t a whole lot of Champagne popping going on. Last night 10 tabi-tabi-ians said goodbye to the new year by eating some toshikoshi soba at The Tonegawa Soba Shop. Toshikoshi means end of the old year and start of the new year. Soba is a bowl of buckwheat noodles served in a hot soy based soup. The long noodles symbolize a long and hopefully healthy life.
After our steamy bowl of noodles, we walked through the old Iimori village to Chogokuji Temple for Hatsumode (New Year’s temple visit). Inside we listened to the Buddhist priest chant and pray for the new year that lay ahead, we then went to a large tatami room where we shared amazake (a sweet non-refined sake) and ate mochi, rice crakers, and tsukemono (pickled veggies).
Once we had our fill, we went outside again to ring the temple bell. Everyone got to have a go at swinging the large pendulum. According to tradition, the bell must be rung 108 times. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana. I’m sure, 2012 is going to be a good year!
Akemashite Omedeto! (Happy New year!)
Remembering some good silly backyard jib sessions at Lodge tabi-tabi. Featuring Baz and friends in the Deep Forest Fun Run at Lodge tabi-tabi during the 2009/10 season. Thanks Chris, for making, and posting, this awesome little flick.
倉下の湯 (kurashita-no-Yu) is perhaps my favorite onsen in Hakuba. Mind you, it is not everyone’s favorite. Some people don’t like the color of the water, others are put off by the rusty smell. However, I love the yellowish-grey iron-rich water here. As the sign on the wall proudly exclaims “this is real onsen water, straight from the spring” where nothing is added and none of it gets recycled. Hakuba has 3 types of hotspings. The alkaline springs in Happo make you feel real good on the outside as they do wonders for the skin. While this super potent iron and sulphur solution does wonders for your insides.
Daini Satonoyu is one of the onsets (hot springs) in the Happo Onsen group. This is probably my favorite of the bunch because it is HOT! Last time I went it was over 43 degrees. The washing area is right next to the bath so it is nice and warm there too. There are some onsen I won’t go to when I am feeling chilly because the washing area is just too cold. No problems here. The springs at the 4 Happo Onsens are high alkaline waters with a PH of 11, which means the water feels soft and makes your skin silky smooth. No rotenburo (outdoor bath), no windows, no view. Nothing fancy just good quality water at the right temperature (for me).
Hours: 12:00 – 21:00 (last entry is 20:30)
Price: adults ¥500 / children ¥250
After surfing pow on my new Yuki-ita, we were itching to see some waves so off to the ocean we went:
It felt great to stretch our eyes out to the horizon:
When in Japan, especially when you are near the ocean, do as the Japanese do, and feast on some seafood!Nihon-kai (The Japanese sea) is said to bear some of the best delicacies,because of its frigid temperatures fish are fattier, and therefore even tastier. This is a great fish market along the west coast of Japan:
With so much choice we had a lot of trouble choosing:
Eventually we went with this HUGE buri (yellowtail) for only 1500 yen:
and the friendly fish butcher cleaned it up for us at no charge:
when we got home Yasu made Buri Shabu Shabu:
tabi-tabi guests Ray and G from Operation Backpack Asia, Yasu and myself drove around the backstreets looking for the best (worst?) rental shops with the meanest gear and got ourselves hooked up with 7 matching 80s appeal one pieces. Sarah and Andy of Snow Season Japan did all the work behind the scenes and organized yet another super fluoro night at Tracks Bar here in Goryu.
Here are just a couple of us getting ready to head out:
Andy and Alastair representing tabi-tabi won a huge bottle of local sake in the Fluruo Fancy Dance off:
Yasu’s back still wasn’t ready to shred so off to another onset we went. This time we drove towards the coast into Otari. We went for a long drive down winding roads with snowbanks higher than our van. The road ends where the plows stop plowing which put us in front of Yamada Ryokan (Japanese style inn). The indoor bath is small but the water is potent. I had the place to myself so could sneak in a quick snap.
The place is old and aging but I prefer a bit of character and a whole lot of history over bland and sterile. I hear the waters have been flowing here for over 500 years!!
Spent the morning shredding powder in the backcountry but Yasu’s back was bothering him so we decided to call it a day and seek some relief for tired aching muscles at an onsen (Natural hot spring mineral bath). There are tons of great onsens here in Hakuba but since we had some extra time we decided to do a bit of exploring and drive out to the next town, Omachi, and go for an onsen there for a change. It was a beautiful drive and we spotted many monkeys along the way.
The hotspring, Takasekan Onsen, was awesome too. We have actually been there before. Hot thermal alkaline waters you can drink. Last time we went I used the women’s outdoor bath (women’s rotenburo) which was a bit too hot for my liking. It was even too hot to drink! The women’s side also has 2 baths indoors, these were set at a more comfortable soaking temperature.
This time we discoved that the men’s outdoor bath is actually a mixed bath (konyoku), meaning daring women could soak with the boys, which I did. It was the pefect temperature (probably about 40 degrees) and we soaked for about an hour.