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!
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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).
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).