JAPOW! Part5

Just Another Morning of Commute, Part 2

Another morning with a foot of snow fell overnight, a local snow clearer getting busy from before-dawn for us to be able to drive through these roads.

It is quite a common sight to see in the morning in snowy regions of Japan.

In case you have not seen anything like this, here’s a video of just another morning for us.


New Video, View From My Window

Watching the seasons changing

I was fortunate enough to see the seasons change, from late Autumn to winter here in Nagano.

I captured a bit of “A different day, A different weather” from my window during my stay at Ryuoo Ski Park so let me share those moments with you here.

Hope you’ll enjoy this video!

Bargaining in Japan

You’ll never get it unless you ask, right?

Everyone loves bargain or discounts. So do I.


In Japan, however, asking for discounts or bargain hardly works, unlike in some other countries.

You will see all the products with prices written/tagged/on stickers and that’s pretty much what you get.

You have a very slim chance to get discounts by asking over the counter.


I don’t really know. It’s just what it is.

From the perspective on the other end, as a business owner, you wouldn’t just give random discounts only because you were asked for it, right? otherwise you’ll keep losing your profit.

In saying that, there is a part of Japan that is common, generally speaking or stereo-typically (I don’t even know if that’s a word but you know what I mean).

That’s Osaka 大阪


It’s widely known in Japan that people in Osaka do bargain or ask for discounts whenever they can.

It’s considered a part of their culture. However, I’m from Tokyo and I’ve never lived in Osaka so I have not seen this side of their culture first hand.

But, at the same time, if you ask any Japanese this question if what I’m saying is true or not, I’m certain you’ll get principally the same answer as mine.

So, if you ever happen to visit that part of Japan, I would recommend to try to ask for some discounts, as a part of the game to enhance your experience while in Japan.

Regional Cultural Differences in Japan

Japan is not a big country.

But at the same time there are so much differences amongst it.

  • Cultural
  • Generational
  • Language-wise

For example, I’m from Tokyo and have been in Nagano for a while now.

I live at a staff accomodation where maybe 50 people at least live.

As a part of Japanese life, we have a public bath.

One time in it while having a bath, there were 2 people from Aomori 青森, which is at the top of the main island, one guy in his 60-70s, the other in his 20s.

At the beginning of their conversation, I could understand that the younger one asked the older one about what happened to his car.

I believe something went wrong with the older guy’s car.

But after that, I had no idea of what was said.

I couldn’t even tell if the car was ok or scrapped, God only knows.

I am not kidding but I quite often struggle even in Nagano, which is not far away from Tokyo, when I speak to mainly local male in his 60s or 70s.

I simply can not understand what they are saying.

So, when you visit Japan, it will make your stay more exciting and memorable if you do some homework on the regional differences within Japan.

It’ll sure give you the deeper insight as well as enhancing your experience.

Good luck and see you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Sukosi Makete Kuremasenka? 少しまけてくれませんか? = Can I have a bit of discount? (In a sort of Osaka way of speaking)





Which month to visit Japan for snow?

El Nino or La Nina, or which month?


El Nino or La Nina?

Global Warming. The affect of human activities on the ocean currents and the atmosphere. It’s controversial. I know some agree with these theories and some others don’t.

But in this post, I go along with the idea that this is true, solely based on my time in ski industry observing the weather over many years.

Anyway, so this is widely believed that when La Nina hits this part of the world, it’s meant to be a good winter in Japan.

This website, Western Pacific Weather, has a really easy-to-understand explanation with a video how La Nina affects Japanese climate.

This website, Ski Asia, has an interesting chart of snowfall record each year up to 2016 winter, in association with either El Nino or La Nina year.

It shows that each La Nina year, Japan had a huge amount of snowfall.

So generally speaking, I’d say (if you have a choice) La Nina year has a better chance of having a lot of good snow.

Which month?

I need to make clear that I’m talking about winter months here for the purpose of skiing or snowboarding.

This is another question frequently asked by so many people who are after a good snow in Japan.

These graphs were borrowed from:



So as you can see from the graphs above, generally January and February are the coldest months in Nagano.

Once March comes, again generally speaking, the coldest chill in the air gets replaced by blue skies and a slightly warmer temps during the day.

At the same time, if you’ve chosen to come over here during those months, a couple of other things to be aware of.

  1. Normally, from the 1st of Jan through to the 9th or so, this is the time japanese have holiday and gets busy with them.
  2. After the period, you start seeing the flock of Japanese school groups in lessons, mainly on beginner slopes because this is the time for Japanese schools to have school trips.
  3. 26 of Jan is Australia Day and you normally see lots of Aussies, particularly around Hakuba on holiday.
  4. Chinese New Year. It changes every year but you definitely will see heaps more of them than other time during this period. They normally have a different pattern of behaviour that it gets busy around more of a snow activity side of the things like, tubing, tobogganing so you want to check with this fact especially if you have little kids who are into these things.

Hopefully this helps your planning of your next trip to Japan in winter.

Make sure to include visiting Jigokudani Snow Monkeys if you ever come Yudanaka way!

See you next time.

JAPOW! Part4

This is a video of just another morning of commute by a car, through the walls of snow on sides.

I’m in a van so my viewpoint is slightly higher than a normal car.

These walls of snow are just getting higher and higher…

Trust me, there used to be a bamboo bush all around!

Hope you’ll enjoy!

JAPOW! Part3

It’s not unusual for you to see locals clearing snow in front of their properties using this type of small snow prowlers in the snowy region of Japan.

I do want one if I ever live in a place like Yamanouchi.

So cool, aye!

Enjoy the video.

ATMs in Yudanaka

Another important piece of information that may save your life

So I showed you where to go to for exchanging your money if you ever get caught short of Yen when you really need them while in Yudanaka.

Please read this in Foreign Currency Exchange in Yudanaka

But what if you don’t have a cash but need to withdraw some off an ATM?

There is 1 commercial bank in Yudanaka

As far as I’m aware, there are 2 options for you.

ATMs in Yudanaka

1, Lawson

There is a convenience store called “Lawson” ローソン, a few minutes walk from Yudanaka Station.

Inside this store, on your left once you walk in, there is an ATM.

Normally most of those convenience stores are open 24/7, year-round.

2, Post Office

In Japan, Post Offices (which is run by the government) also does banking service therefore they have ATMs.

Their symbol is shown in the first photo above. It’s in red, “T” with another bar above, quite a common sight in Japan. You see this symbol everywhere on streets, maps and so on.

It’s 5 min walk from the station.

And you’ll see it right there through the first glass door.

They are open between,

Weekdays: 9am – 5pm.

Closed on Saturdays and Sundays

3, Hachijuni Bank 八十二銀行

Please be aware that it’ll take longer than what this google maps says because you can’t actually walk across the station but you have to walk around it!

Their Opening Hours are,

Weekdays: 8:45am – 9pm

Saturdays and Sundays: 9am – 7pm

Things to be aware

It is quite common for Convenience Stores, Japanese banks and Post Office to charge you commissions (normally around ¥100) for transactions.

That charge could be even higher if the transaction gets made after normal business hours or over the weekend.

So as I mentioned in “Exchanging Money In Yudanaka” post,

Preparation is the best protection

So as long as the money goes in Japan, always carry them, lots of them with you just in case.

Credit Card payments are not as readily available as you would think.

Hope this will save some of your lives!

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Genkin Wo Michi Aruku 現金を持ち歩く = Carry cash with (you)

I can’t stress enough to do this! Keep trying and practising!

JAPOW! Part 2

Just another morning in Yamanouchi, Nagano, Japan.

The key to the survival in this kind of snowy region in Japan,

Clear snow off your car the night before when you know it’s gonna snow overnight!

Otherwise you’ll end up spending looooong time the morning digging your car out of snow and get it going. You’ll be late for work!!

Enjoy the video.

Different Colours on Number Plates

What are all these vehicles with yellow number plates?


A friend of mine from New Zealand once described these as “A trolley (shopping cart) with an engine“.

You see them everywhere in Japan, especially once you are out of cities, in rural region.

They are usually quite tiny vehicles, square-ish, either 5 doors or pick-up style.

What are they?

They are called Kei Jidosha 軽自動車, that translates as “Light Vehicle

I’m pretty sure in any countries Vehicle Classification comes in various ways.

In Japan, basically passenger vehicles are classed in 2 categories by its size and the engine displacement, roughly.

Hutsu Joyosha 普通乗用車 and Kei Jidosha 軽自動車.

Hutsu Joyosha = Normal Passenger Vehicles – White Number Plate

Kei Jidosha = Light (Weight?) Vehicles – Yellow Number Plate

2 Different Classes

This is a Subaru Legacy, buried in snow. Got a white, Hutsu plate
  • Hutsu Joyosha – The length up to 4.7m, the width up to 1.7m, the height up to 2.0m and the engine up to 2000cc.
  • Kei Jidosha – (L) up to 3.4m, (W) up to 1.48m, (H) up to 2.0m and the engine up to 660cc
This is an old school Kei ute, or pick up truck, with a cool snow prowler on

So Kei 軽 vehicles are a lot smaller, you can see that by the photos I suppose.

Why so many in rural areas?

Basically because it’s cheaper to own.

  • Cheaper to buy
  • Cheaper tax
  • Cheaper petrol (gasoline)
  • Cheaper insurance
  • Actually these square box shape gives you a lot of room inside, surprisingly

Then, again, it must be same everywhere in the world but, a simple truth in life,

“The further away from cities, the more reliant on cars in everyday life”

In rural areas, one household needs to own multiple cars for everyone in the family to live a daily life, that’s why a lot of people to choose Kei Vehicles to keep the running cost down.

On the other hand, I’m born and bled in Tokyo, never needed a car, never owned nor drove until I moved to New Zealand.

Cities in Japan has such a fantastic public transport system so I never needed it. If I had to go away, I could always find someone who has a car.

So now, you have one mystery solved that has been lingering in the corner of your mind.

If you have a chance, I reccomend to give it a go for driving one of these, as long as you can actually fit your body inside, if you are like 190cm tall!

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Kono Kuruma Wo UNten Shite Mitai この車を運転してみたい = I wan to try to drive this car

Keep listening to this until you’ve nailed it!

Please don’t do this while in Japan

Nor even at Japanese restaurants near you…

A story of Japanese Curry


They look gross, frankly, but once you’ve tried it, you wouldn’t mind because you’ve been hooked.

Hooke by its spiciness, flavour, smell.

Oh and with its toppings/additions you can have with it.

It seems either “Deep Fried Pork”=トンカツ or “Deep Fried Chicken”=チキンカツ to be very popular as your choice, after having spent quite some time with mainly NZ friends in Japan over multiple trips to Japan.

What’s even more amazing is that each region, each household seem to have own recipe for curry. I even have a secret recipe for this dish.

And now into the main subject

I know where you come from, how you feel, but, no… That’s not right…

You may not understand what I’m talking about.

This is about “Eating Japanese Curry with chopsticks“.

Now you have a better idea with this photo.


To protect their privacy, I put dots over their faces.

But you see what I mean?

No, you need to use a spoon for this!

As I said at the beginning, I know where you come from, being in Japan you are so keen to show off your chopstick skill, like Mr Miyagi caught a fly with them.

But, save that skill for other occasions…

Use a spoon when you’ve ordered a curry.

I’m pretty sure it even either sit right in front of you on the table, or brought to you when you get the plate.

I’m watching you…


Today’s Phrase

Kareh Wo Hitotsu Onegai Shimasu カレーを一つお願いします = Can I have one curry, please

That’ll be cool if you can place an order in a restaurant! Keep trying!