DAY 1Mar 06 2016
Spent the whole day travelling!
I arrived from KL this morning into Narita Airport, Tokyo; after a 7 hour overnight flight. In the airport I thought I'd try the loos from the future they have here in Japan. They have their own remote control panels, offering heated seats, music (for privacy apparently) and 'hands free washing'! The last one gave me a bit of a shock when I tried it for the first time. Safe to say I probably won't be using it a whole lot.
Then changed terminal and caught another flight up to Chitose Airport near Saporro and caught the bus to Moiwa, the resort where I'm staying in the Moiwa Lodge.
It is a big wooden lodge right on the slopes I'm told (it was dark when I arrived). Unfortunately it had been raining all day today so that doesn't bode too well for my first day on the slopes tomorrow after I hire my gear. May be a bit icy! But some more snow is forecast in a few days.
It is strange thinking a few hours ago I was in 36°C humid heat and now it's 4°C and snowy.
Despite the rain from looking out the window of the bus the snow is very deep! And I'm so excited to get my skis on finally!
DAY 2Mar 07 2016
First day hitting the slopes today!
I went to the rental place and managed to hire everything I need very easily.
The area is made up of 5 small resorts on two mountains. Moiwa, were I'm staying, is the smallest, least busy and right by my lodge. So I spent today here.
I got my ski legs back very quickly and got straight into it. Unfortunately, because of the warm weather and the rain yesterday the top of the mountain was icy, especially the off piste. As you got lower it did get softer but it was a bit sticky. Apparently there's supposed to be a dumping in a few days though.
I stopped for lunch in the restaurant and had some noodles. I also met a couple of guys from the lodge and had a few beers with them and did a few more runs in the afternoon and the sun came out for a bit. Then went for a drink with the guys from lunch in the next door lodge.
In the evening we went to the lodge bar and I had my supper. Then we went to a local Japanese restaurant and had a hilarious time. Came back played a bit of pool and went to bed.
DAY 3Mar 08 2016
I got up this morning and missed the bus to Annupuri so took the lift up to the top of Moiwa and took a cat track through to Annupuri. Where I bought a whole mountain pass for the week.
I then rode around the 'Niseko United' resorts (Annupuri, Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu and Hanazono).
In the afternoon I went to the ski park in Hanazono and saw the 'expert' jumps and thought "they don't look that big". I landed the first but was going too slow for the second and landed on the flat of the knuckle. My skis stopped dead and the rest of me flew head first over the knuckle and landed half way down the knuckle and slid the rest of the way! Awesome wipeout. I wish someone recorded from the side.
After about 2pm the top half of the mountain was in a complete whiteout. You couldn't see more than a few metres in front of you, or what the snow was doing. Loads of the lifts shut which meant I got stuck in Niseko Village and had to wait for the bus to get to Annupuri so that I could ski back to Mowai.
Eventually, I made it back. When I was in Moiwa I was the last on the mountain.
I then relaxed in the lodge and the kitchen was shut so I ordered a pizza and watched House of Cards on Netflix.
In the evening we had a few beers in the bar and let off some fireworks on the roof outside the bar window.
DAY 4Mar 09 2016
I took the 9:10 bus this morning to Hirafu and then Hamish (a snowboarder from the lodge) and I went to the ski park in Hanazono. However, on the first run Hamish caught an edge and wiped out and hurt his hip so went back to the lodge. I carried on and did a few more runs in the park then started to make my way back slowly from Hanazono towards Annupuri. Just before lunch I found a good little area with some decent snow; it has been quite icy so far. I went under the rope and found a route under the chair lift that had some snowdrift in and had created some powder. Which then meant everyone else found it as I skied under them. But I did find some more snow in between the trees not far away. Also you can see in the pictures how much the weather varies in one day.
I had a few silly falls today! One way because I stopped and put my pole in the ground and slid slightly over it and carried on sliding and tripped over my own pole and fell down the hill and another one my ski just fell off! It's a shame I can't post videos as they're quite funny.
Once I made it to Niseko Village I had to take the bus again as the top lifts were shut again.
In the afternoon we played a bit of pool and had a drink in the bar.
DAY 5Mar 10 2016
After the past few days of icy snow we finally had a big dump of snow!
I got up early and was one of the first onto the slopes. Initially I cut up some of the fresh powder on the slopes then did a couple of backcountry runs in the real powder in the Annupuri Bowl.
In the afternoon I went over to Hirafu again then worked my way back during the afternoon.
Today was one the best days skiing I've ever had!
Once I got back a few of us walked to the local onsen in the back of the Niseko Grand Hotel. An onsen is a natural hot pool. They are quite strict on rules. You have to go in, in the nudie rudie and can't let any towels touch the water. Also tattoos aren't allowed.
DAY 6Mar 11 2016
Another dump of snow last night! This time I spent the morning in Moiwa, just opposite the lodge. I went through the back country and found a place called 'Hells Gate'. Where you ski along a ridge about 2 foot wide and on one side is a 6m fall into a creek. To be honest it wasn't that hard. It should really have been called 'Goats Inconvenience'. After a few runs in Moiwa I made way over to Annupuri and skied the backcountry there as well for a bit. Then the visibility dropped so I just sticked to the slack country and pistes the rest of the afternoon.
DAY 7Mar 12 2016
What I said the other day about it being my best days skiing. I take it back! Today was by far and away the best day I've ever had!
I caught the bus from the lodge to Annupuri with a couple of guys from the lodge; Andy (skier) and Hamish (boarder). We then skied together the rest of the day. We started the day doing a couple of runs in Annupuri to warm up then down into Niseko.
After that we decided to take a 25 minute hike up to the peak of the mountain. Which was hard work anyway, made harder by the fact we were in ski boots and carrying our skis and poles over our shoulders. But my god was it worth it! I've never skied such amazing powder. It was always at least thigh depth and at times came up to our waist and even chest height! It felt unreal floating through the powder and bouncing out of each of my turns. Watching Andy ski down was funny as he is 6"3' and when he turned and kicked up a powder spray all that was out of the snow was his head. So it just looked like a floating head coming through the snow.
Eventually, after playing chicken with the trees we stopped for lunch in Hanazono.
After lunch we went back up to the peak and did the 25 minute hike again. This time the powder was a bit more tracked out than before. But nonetheless was still brilliant. This time we took a different route that lasted longer and was absolutely stunning as the sun came out. We skied all day; from the first lift to the last!
In the afternoon we went back to the onsen and relaxed in there for and hour or so then went to Kobito, a local Japanese restaurant.
Finally, we had a few beers, played pool and looked at our GoPro footage from today.
DAY 8Mar 13 2016
Today was a bit of a lazy day.
I forgot to set my alarm so woke up at 8:30 and missed everyone setting off. But the snow wasn't particularly amazing today anyway. So I stayed in the lodge until 11:30 then walked up to the chairlift and took the cat track to Annupuri. But the visibility was about 5m! So I went and got some lunch and waited for it to clear a bit; but it didn't so I did a couple more runs and went back to the lodge.
I then watched house of cards until dinner and a couple of beers, which turned into eight or nine beers, with people from the lodge until 2:30.
DAY 9Mar 14 2016
As they say all good things must come to an end and today was the end! Not only for my time skiing but also the fantastic snow.
This morning after a late start Johnny and I took the cat track to Annupuri and did a couple of runs then went to get some lunch. Where we met Andy.
We then made our way over to Hirafu to get to the only cash machine for miles. Then slowly made our way back to Moiwa.
Throughout the day the snow was turning to slush as it was quite hot today. Which made for some slower skiing. But I can't complain as I've have really been spoilt with amazing snow over the past few days.
DAY 10Mar 15 2016
I woke up this morning and finished the last of my packing, had breakfast and jumped in the lodge shuttle bus to the bus stop in Annupuri. To catch my bus to the airport.
I then flew from Saporro (Chitose Airport) to Osaka and caught the train to my hostel. Where I arrived at around 5:30 and found out that it's actually the smallest hostel in Osaka! I just relaxed for a couple of hours. Then went for some food at an udon restaurant nearby, that the reception recommended.
DAY 11Mar 16 2016
This morning I got up early to walk to the sumo wrestling arena in Osaka. But unfortunately I got there too late to buy a ticket on the door.
Instead I then decided to take the underground to Osaka Castle and walk up it and learn all about the history of Osaka. Then walked to the Grand Front Mall and bought a pair of jeans and chinos.
I then relaxed in the hostel for a bit. Then met up with a couple of friends from Moiwa, Fritz and Maja, and they very kindly took me out to dinner at a cool yakitori place. Which served all kinds of weird dishes including chicken heart, liver, cartilage, neck, tail, 'glizzard' (what ever that is) and not forgetting 'confidently made chicken meatballs' (look at the picture of the menu). Which Maja and I found funny and wondered what 'shyly made chicken meatballs' would taste like.
Then we walked around the Minami area and into the Dotonbori area and found places selling 'octopus balls' which Osaka is famous for. Which we found very hot but tasty! Then we found a random cool food van with a Jamaican theme selling all things rasta! Including Cannabia, a 'hemp beverage'.
DAY 12Mar 17 2016
This morning Matt (a guy from my room) and I got up at 5:30 to catch a taxi to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium to watch the sumo wrestling! We arrived in the queue at 6:15 and waited until 8 to get a ticket and make it into the gymnasium. We were in the cheap seats but because the morning is used by the amateurs it was almost empty. So we moved to the prime seats and got a perfect view.
It was very interesting to watch and obviously funny at times! However, it wasn't as exciting as I was expecting. They repeated the same two minute ceremony before each bout and then bang all the wrestling was done in five seconds (and that was quite a long fight)! Occasionally there was a longer bout of about 30 seconds. But I suppose they were the amateurs. I assume the 'champions' (professionals) bouts go on longer. After the wrestling we went back to the hostel and I said bye and jumped on a train to Kyoto.
Once I arrived in Kyoto I walked to my hostel, dropped my stuff, then walked to the bike rental. I then cycled to the Fushimi Inari Shrine and walked through the red arches. On the way down I bumped into Lyndsey a snowboarder I met in Moiwa. Completely randomly! Strange who you bump into.
I then relaxed in the evening in the hostel.
DAY 13Mar 18 2016
This morning I got some breakfast from a local bakery.
Then I left for the Kinkakuji Temple on my bike. Also known as the 'Golden Temple' it is covered in a gold foil.
After that I then went to the Ryoanji Temple. Which has a zen garden in, that was immaculate!
Then I made my way to the Bamboo Path. It's a path with the bamboo forest either side.
Finally, I went to the Iwatayama Monkey Park and saw the monkeys.
Then I cycled back to the hostel and found the address for a sushi train restaurant. Then cycled there and had a delicious sushi lunch.
I then returned the bike and walked into the Higashi Honganji Temple and had a look around. In total (excluding from the hostel and back) I cycled 21.6 miles today.
When I got back to the hostel I suddenly realised that I hadn't booked any accommodation for my time in Tokyo. So scoured the Internet looking for hostels with free space. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any! So I'm now looking through couchsurfing.com, where you request to stay on someone's couch/spare bed in their home and is free. At the time of writing I have asked six people if they'll have me and only one response. But they declined. So I'm kind of up shit creek without a paddle at the moment. I'm sure I'll find something eventually though.
DAY 14Mar 19 2016
I had a lie in this morning and then walked to the train station to catch the Shinkansen train (bullet train) to Tokyo. Which only took two hours. I then took another train to my hostel. It is the worst hostel I've ever stayed in! It's miles away from Tokyo, you have to check out everyday at 10am and check back in later and it's filthy! When I booked it this morning! I was worried about not finding anywhere so I booked the first cheapest thing I found. I now know why it was so cheap! Oh well at least now I know not to book a hostel on the day of arrival.
After I checked in I went to get some sushi in a local sushi restaurant. Being out of Tokyo they were very surprised to see a young white boy turn up but they seemed very impressed with my chopstick skills. And the sushi chef gave some of the finer sushi on the menu on the house. Then went to the hostel onsen, it was indoors and on the top floor.
DAY 15Mar 20 2016
I caught the train this morning into Tokyo to go to the Asakusa temple and the shopping street in front of it. It was absolutely heaving with people. I assume because it was Sunday.
I then made my way over to the Shinjuku Gardens and walked around it for a couple of hours and had lunch in there.
Because my hostel is so far away I then had to start making my way back as it takes an hour and a half just to get to and from Tokyo from the hostel!
DAY 16Mar 21 2016
Today I caught the two hour train from Chiba to Kamakura to meet Fuga, a friend from Bedford. He then showed me around Kamakura and took me to the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Temple and then very kindly chose and bought me lunch. He ordered me a platter of different Japanese foods that I hadn't tried before. Including a bowl of whitebait (not the deep fried appetiser kind) with seaweed and rice along with some other Japanese things.
He then showed me the Kōtoku-in Buddha (and yes I did have to google the names)!
I then got the train back to the hostel and made it back at 7 and got ready for my flight tomorrow morning.
DAY 17Mar 22 2016
Today was all travelling and my last day in Japan!
I woke up at 4:30 this morning, checked out and caught the train to the airport.
I then chilled in the airport lounge for a bit and then jumped on my first flight to Manila, Phillipines. Where I then transferred to my flight from Manila to Hong Kong.
I then caught the airport express train into Hong Kong centre and took a taxi to my flat for the week I have kindly been lent. In the middle of Hong Kong!