When to visit Japan in winter?

El Nino or La Nina, or which month?

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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: https://en.climate-data.org/location/5320/

temperature-graph

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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.

Yudanaka Station: Up Close

How Yudanaka Station looks like?

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So when you arrive at Yudanaka Station, this is what you are expecting to see.

It is a small train station.

In case you are wondering where that is, here’s the google map for you.

Once you walk out of platforms, you quite likely will see half a dozen people with flags with their accommodation’s name on, or a paper with your name on.

Vans from accommodations are parked just outside along with local taxis in black.

There is a waiting room/information centre in this station. It’s a nice place to stay warm if you have to wait here for some reason.

There are some english-speaking staff there to help you for your every needs, as well as variety of brochures available.

There is also a free wi-fi here.

yudanaka-station-info-centreyudanaka-station-waiting-room

If you are going to Jigokudani Monkey Park to see Snow Monkey, turn right as soon as you walk out the exit and you will see the bus counter with time tables above.

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There is a smaller bus timetable in English in A4 size on the window.

This is also the place to buy a bus ticket to go skiing to Shiga Kogen.

Speaking of skiing at Shiga Kogen.

This is the only way to get there, by using these Nagaden buses, unless you have a rent-a -car.

Please be aware that their departures in the morning is quite limited.

As of Jan, 2017, there are only 3 buses leaving Yudanaka for Shiga Kogen.

7:40am, 8:20am and 10:15am.

The Fare: ¥1100 to Oku Shiga Kogen (The furthest, the end of the line)

Public Toilet is just outside, on your left.

Now you have a better idea of this station, right?

Sounds good, see you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Yudanaka Eki Ni Ikimasuka? 湯田中駅に行きますか? = Is it going to Yudanaka Station?

It’s useful when you want to know if a bus/train goes to where you want to go!

 

Obuse town 小布施

A little excursion away from Yudanaka

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In my opinion, you need half day (2-4 hours) for this.

Where is it?

Obuse 小布施 is a very small town, 10km Southwest of Yudanaka.

How to get there?

It’s 20min train ride on an Express Train from Yudanaka.

Fare= ¥690 (¥590 Normal Fare + ¥100 Express Train Fee)

There is an express train, either Snow Monkey スノーモンキー or Yukemuri ゆけむり pretty much every hour from Yudanaka Station.

Here’s the Link to Nagaden Timetable

Things To Do

This is a very small town with many traditionally-built wooden houses confined in a small area.

Also famous as a region to produce chestnut, Kuri くり in Japanese. So you will see lots of sweet shops used locally produced chestnuts.

Also, I found 2 Sake Breweries in this town if you are into it.

Masuichi Ichimura 桝一市村酒造場

Inside they have a small bar counter where you can try their sake.

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Matsubaya Honten 松葉屋本店 (Their website is only in Japanese)

This place was purely for retail and didn’t see any tasting area nor service.

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There was also a wine shop called “St Cousair” where I could try bit of wine tasting for ¥400/glass. I tried a white wine called, “Niagara Blanc” which is very sweet and muscat like. In here they also sell lots of Tomato based products, spices, cheese pasta and jams.

I think the owner has been heavily influenced by France/Italy and you can easily see that once you go inside.

St Cousair (Their website is in Japanese only)

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What I have been told is that in Nagano there has been a surge of new vineyards for the last 10-20 years.

In the past it was too cold to grow grapes in this part of Japan, but along with Global Warming and improvements on modifying grape seeds there has been multiple small vineyards springing up in this region.

You’ll never know, Nagano could be a major destination for wine tourism in near future.

So if you have a bit of time available in your hands, a little break from skiing or snowboarding, or on a rainy day, it could be an option to explore a bit more in this region.

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Osake Wa Oisi Desu お酒は美味しいです=Sake tastes good.

Yes that’s so true! Keep trying!

English Signs in Japan

A Good Source of Entertainment

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I came across this one actually in Incheon, South Korea. So cool, aye!?

I, for one, am guilty of sometimes struggling to not say things properly in English.

For those non-native speakers, I know you know how it feels like.

While travelling in Japan, you will come across signs that will intrigue you and keep you guessing as to what they actually mean.

At the same time it shouldn’t be too unusual when travelling in non-English-speaking countries nowadays…

Anyway, like this one.

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Pasting it on? Is it something gooey, slimy thing that you kind of spread it out on your skin with a spatula or a table knife that generates some sort of heat? But, wait, it’s a plaster. so it must be sticky. Hmm…

Then what about this one?

Samsung

Uncommon Clothes….?

  1. I don’t see any clothing items, rather looking like sleeping bags…
  2. What is an “Uncommon Cloth”, how do they look like
  3. What’s the appeal to “Uncommon Clothes”…?

It’s pretty deep, isn’t it?

Then this.

I just like it. “Dan, Dan&Dan!!!!”

It says this is an patent office.

So if I ever coma across any kind of new ideas or an invention that I want registered in Japan, I know where I’m going to.

Samsung

Then the last out of my collection, for now, is…

“Walkin’ Store”!

Samsung

Whatever that means, or whatever that was originally thought to have meant….

I know this sort of entertainment is not for everyone but if you are one of those who gets amused by anything small and subtle, this country is amazing.

See you next time!

Today’s Phrase

Eigo Ga Hanase Masuka? 英語がはなせますか?= Do you speak English?

It’s pretty useful if you can say this word when you need some assistance.

How to get to Yudanaka, Summary

Tokyo to Yudanaka Station

In this post, I’d love to give you the overall picture of how to get to Yudanaka from when you’ve arrived at Narita Airport (which is not even in Tokyo to be strict!).

Then later, I will break it down to several blocks and explain to you further in detail.

So here’s the breakdown of how you get to Yudanaka.

Let’s say you have arrived at Narita Airport.

Then,

  1. To Tokyo Station 東京駅
  2. To Nagano 長野駅
  3. To Yudanaka 湯田中駅

Of course there must be lots of variations in how you want to organise your trip, like you are spending some time in Tokyo for a few days first and so on.

But principally these 3 steps will be what you are going through to get there from Tokyo.

The detailed posts will follow on each step for your further understanding to be planning your trip to this area.

Part 1 Narita Airport to Tokyo Station

Part 2 Tokyo To Nagano

Part 3 Nagano To Yudanaka

I hope this will clear up a lot of your questions!

-Today’s Phrase-

Yudanaka Ni Ikitai Desu ゆだなかにいきたいです = I want to go to Yudanaka.

Listen to this and practice. Now you can say where you want to go!

Jigokudani Snow Monkeys

The biggest attraction in Yudanaka area

Snow Monkeys!

It is amazing to see a lot of people from around the world to go see these monkeys.

They are;

  • Half wild
  • Their habitat is the northern most in the northern hemisphere
  • These monkeys are endemic to Japan
  • Often you see them chilling in hot water during winter months
  • And, of course they are cute, at least they look cute

You can see them at the Snow Monkey Park, 10min bus ride from Yudanaka Station, then about half an hour gentle walk through the  nearby forest.

Apparently they featured on LIFE magazine in the 70’s too.

Yes they are definitely as popular as Hello Kitty, Ramen or Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku.

But since they are not pets, there are certain things you are asked to do when visiting the monkey park.

  • Do not to try to touch them
  • Keep some distance to them
  • Do not show food or feed them
  • Do not use special equipments when taking photos of them

Here’s the link to their Offical Guide with more details of Dos and Don’ts.

Well enjoy your time at Jigokudani!

-Today’s Phrase-

Osaru san wa kawaii desune おさるさんはかわいいですね = Monkeys are cute, aren’t they?

Listen to this and practice. You’ll be a hero!