I came from a tropical country so I have never seen snow before. I experienced my first snow in Tokyo last month, but the snow unfortunately didn’t last long. It was a small snow shower and the snow didn’t pile up. My hubby wants me to experience snow in Japan so we decided to take a Ski Tour to Nagano area. In Nagano, there are lots of ski resorts due to their mountainous area. Even though winter season in Japan usually starts in December, the best time to visit ski resort is around January or February so there will be lots of snow piled up. Some ski resorts open from early December until late April. If you have any plans to visit Japan for Sakura sightseeing in late March, you still can put a ski tour in your itinerary.
While surfing the internet for ski resorts, I found some great information about Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. If you have only 1 day left to enjoy ski, you can visit Gala Yuzawa. The access to this snow resort is quite convenient. All you need is take Shinkansen from Tokyo Station bound for Gala Yuzawa Station, the journey takes up around one half hour. The minus point is the Shinkansen’s ticket is quite pricey, for one-way trip costs about ¥7,090. But don’t worry, you can purchase JR Tokyo Wide Pass for ¥10,000 which valid for 3 days (more details click here). But due to its easy access, lot of people will obviously visit this ski resort on weekend. So prepare for the crowded area in weekend.
To be honest, we hate crowded place and my hubby works on weekdays. So the other option is we need to find another ski resort which a lil bit far from Tokyo. My hubby used to go skiing with his friends in Nagano area. The price is reasonable and already includes transportation and accommodation as well. We booked our tour at Orion Tour. Sadly the website is only available in Japanese. But the price is so reasonable. We picked a Shiga Kogen ski tour, it costed around ¥20,000 per person and already included round-trip Shinjuku-Shiga Kogen bus ticket, 1 night accommodation at Heights Hotel, buffet dinner (if you want to add nabe/sukiyaki you had to pay ¥1,000/person), buffet breakfast, ski/snowboard equipments rental, ski wear (jacket, pants, gloves, winter cap, and goggles) rental, and 1-day-pass lift ticket at Yokoteyama ski resort.
Before D-day, Orion Tour sent emails to inform us where and when we should wait for the bus. We gathered in Shinjuku at 22.40 (yes we travelled using night-bus so we can save up more time and money). In gathering area, there were some tour agencies, make sure you don’t go to the wrong tour agency. We went to Orion Tour staff and she explained where the bus will be parked later. For those who bring large bags or suitcase you can put in in the baggage area beside the bus. Before getting up the bus, the driver checked our booking first and helped with the baggage. Don’t forget to check your bus numbers (it posted in the front-seat area).
One of staff gave us an envelope which contained some vouchers for bus, hotel, ski equipments rental. Our bus departed at 23.00 from Shinjuku. There was no toilet in the bus, but don’t worry the bus will take three stops at rest area (around 30 mins for each rest area). In the rest area there are food courts, souvenirs shop, and of course toilets. There are lots of toilets so no need to line up girls. As usual, the souvenirs in Japan’s shop have beautiful packaging.
After 7-hour journey we finally arrived at Heights Hotel. The check-in starts from 3 pm so we decided to take a rest in the basement area. In the basement there are ski/snowboard equipment rental shop (open at 8 am) and 2 locker rooms (separated for male and female). You can take a rest in the locker room since the room is quite spacey and warm. There are also toilet, powder room (sorry girls only), and public bath. In this hotel, not all the rooms have shower room or toilet, but they provide public toilets in each floor and public bath in basement.
After some rest, we decided to rent the ski equipment. If you want to upgrade the equipment or clothes to better or premium ones, you need to pay additional fee. We just took the normal ones since we are just beginner so there is no need to take a premium equipments or clothes. We paid ¥2,000 for the rental, I think it was for some assurance things? (¥500 for each equipment and clothes). We put our luggage into the locker (it’s quite spacey anyway, I put 1 normal backpack, thick coat, and 2 medium size paper bags). The locker costed ¥300 and can only be opened once. Be careful not to lost the locker’s key, you will be fined ¥3,000 for losing it. For the shoes, they asked us to provided number in Japanese’s size.
Yokoteyama ski resort is just a 5-minute walk from our hotel. But be careful, the snow can be quite slippery. This was my first time to ski and it was soooooo difficult! Growing up in a tropical country make me have no chance to learn ski. Controlling the direction and speed were quite difficult, but it’s even more difficult to stand up from a falling position. For first timer, make sure you watched some ski tutorials from youtube before. When you want to take a rest, there is a restaurant in the ski area. You can grab hot tea or water and order lunch there. We had pork cutlet curry with rice and it was quite good.
Well I’m not a sport person. I gave up on ski and went play sledge like a kid. Meanwhile my hubby want to try going up by lift and ski through the beginner route. He said the route is quite flat on the top, but on the downside it was quite steep. It was not so crowded in this ski resort and most of the visitors in local Japanese. Most of them are so good with this snow sports, even the kids!
Since my body started to ache, we decided to go back to hotel and check-in to our room. We had a traditional style room with tatami and futon. The room is quite spacey, I think it was room for 7 because there are 7 futons provided. No need to worry for the cold in the room because the heater was so warm. Our room had toilet (without bidet which I dislike) but no shower room (you pay more for room with shower). This was my first time going to Japanese public bath. In Indonesia we don’t have such public bath and it’s weird to take bath together with other people. So I’m excited but nervous on the other side. Luckily there were only 3 people in the public bath so I wasn’t feel too embarrassed. They provided shampoo, soap, and conditioner but no towels, so make sure to bring your own towel.
I will tell you how to take a bath in public bath in Japan. First you should take off all of your clothes in the changing room and put them in the basket. After that you can enter the shower area and pick a seat there. Wash and rinse your hair and body thoroughly before you entering the hot tub or onsen. You can put the towel on your head but don’t dip it in the tub. No swimming. And for girls, tie your hair up before entering the hot tub so your hair won’t get into the tub. Don’t stay too long in the hot water. I love the hot water tub. It soothed your mind and body.
Time for dinner! We booked the Sukiyaki package for this dinner. The restaurant is quite simple but there were lots of food provided. There were veggies salad, tofu, chicken, pork, gyoza, etc. For sukiyaki they provided a plate of beef on your table. You can take some chicken, pork, mushrooms, and veggies from the counter. But you can’t have additional sukiyaki soup. For 3-star hotel, the food was quite delicious. I love the sukiyaki the most. After dinner we got back to our room and take a rest. Preparing ourselves for tomorrow’s trip to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. I will write about the park on the next post, stay tune J
Anyway, please pardon me for grammatical error 🙂