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.

Enjoy!

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!

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

climate-graph.png

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.

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.

The Best Kept Secret I Found

Yomase and X-Jam Takaifuji Ski Resorts

ryuoo-and-komaruyama-from-mt-kosha

A little gem in Yudanaka

I think I should keep this to myself really… So little known that in fact they are not even on TripAdvisor!

Forget about skiing in Hakuba or Niseko if you are interested in,

  • Less touristy
  • Less crowded
  • Wide open trails
  • As much snow
  • Real (Run-Down) Japanese atmosphere

It is said to be around 500 ski areas in Japan. I’ve only been to maybe 2 dozens of them.

One of the best experiences I’ve ever had was at Yomase and X-Jam near Yudanaka.

yomase-1

What made it so awesome?

I may be repeating myself but, these are the reasons.

  • Nice wide open trails
  • Good variety of incline of slopes
  • Speed
  • It’s wide across mountains
  • Good view
  • Quiet

ryuoo-from-mt-kosha-1

Where is it?

Here’s the google map for you.

How much for Lift Passes?

Here’s the Link to their English website for you.

So there are 4 small resorts next to each other and makes sense that you buy the pass to have all the access to every chairlifts.

Those 4 resorts are,

  • Yomase
  • X-Jam
  • Yamabiko No Oka
  • Kijima Daira

There are also 3 resorts access pass available as well but the price difference for an adult pass as of Jan, 2017 is only ¥200 so I will talk about the full, 4 resorts access pass here.

It’s named “Mt Kosha” Pass

Adult: 1 day – ¥4100, 2 days – ¥7100, 3 days – ¥9700

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Your Challenges

The only downside of this is the transport.

As the time of writing, there is only one way to get there if you don’t have own car.

There is a irregular shuttle bus departing Yudanaka Station at 9am.

It’s not daily, and seems only during the weekends from Mid Dec through to End of March.

I couldn’t find the English version of their timetable, unfortunately.

Let me know if anyone needs it then I’ll translate that for you.

Hopefully there won’t be too many people at my favourite spot from here on.

Nah, I know not many people read this blog anyway!

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Hito Ga Hotondo Inai 人がほとんどいない = There are hardly anyone around

Listen and practise!

 

Shiga Kogen 志賀高原

The largest ski area in Japan

shiga-kogen-from-yomase
Looking afar towards Shiga Kogen from Yomase, Mt Kosha. In there right centre, Yokoteyama and in the left centre, Oku Shiga Kogen Ski Area

So in this map, “Shiga Kogen Ski Area” covers from,

Yokoteyama Shibutouge in the south to Oku Shiga Kogen in the north.

So some locals here say that Shiga Kogen is the last secret in terms of skiing destinations within Japan, that has been kept to Japanese for a long time.

This place hosted some of the competitions during the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998.

And also some of the locations were used for the mega hit Japanese movie themed on young city people going to Shiga Kogen for skiing and love story revolved around in it.

But in these days everyone all over the world is quickly finding out of its existence and reputation.

But, at the same time, for some reasons that I don’t really understand, this area does not seem to be too pro-active nor positive about opening its doors to the world.

That fact is causing lots of overseas visitors with lack of information about the area as well as inconvenience throughout their experiences when you are there.

So my aim here is to give you the very basics of this place.

Here are some useful links:

Shiga Kogen English website

Reviews on TripAdvisor

Despite the facts I mentioned above, overall, visitors in the past were having good times by the look on their reviews on TripAdvisor.

Facts:

  • The largest Ski Area in Japan, 425ha or  just over 1000Acre
  • Total lengths of trails = 80000m
  • Total of 50 chairlifts and gondolas
  • 19 resorts, 16km wide
  • One pass to go through all the resorts
  • The elevation between 1300m – 2300m
  • Usually open from early Dec – Early May

How to get there:

yudanaka-bus-stop-2

There isn’t a shuttle services or anything organised by Shiga Kogen as the time of writing in Jan, 2017. That means you have to catch one of those public buses as described below.

Buses: Nagaden Bus from Yudanaka Station

There are only 3 buses in the morning that depart from the station.

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

yudanaka-bus-timetable4-001Fare: ¥1100

Duration: 30-60 min depending on which resort you want to get off

At the same time, there are lots of hotels and as such within Shiga Kogen so it may be a good idea to find a room on the mountain if your focus is to spend as much time on the snow as possible.

Once there:

They have a RFID system, that means you use a crd to have an access to any lifts on the mountain. Once you’ve paid for all mountain pass, you can go through any lifts within Shiga Kogen.

At the time of writing, the lift pass for all mountain is:

Adult:¥5000, Student: ¥4200 (I believe you need to show your Student ID), Child: ¥2500 (0-12yo)

There are some English-Speaking ski schools/rentals and accomodations, in particular Oku-Shiga way.

Hopefully you’ve got a good momentum going to find out about Shiga Kogen.

Let me know by commenting if you have anything in particular that you want to find out, I will do my best for you.

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Docchi No Sukijyou Ni Ikimashouka? どっちのスキー場に行きましょうか? = Which ski field should we go?

This is a tough one! Listen and practice!

Yudanaka before and after snow

Right now the very strong cold front has been over the majority of the main island as well as Hokkaido, the northern island for the last few days that has been bringing lots and lots of snow. (This post was written in Mid-January, 2017)

I have been lucky enough to have spent some time in this area since Mid-November, 2016. That time has allowed me to see the seasons change from Autumn to Winter in this beautiful part of Japan.

Here I just want to share with you some of my photo collection to show you how different it looks with and without snow.

These changes have occurred between November and January.

1, This is a rental shop up on Ryuoo Ski Park

ryuoo-nov-16ryuoo-jan-17

2, Just outside Yudanaka Station when you look to your right

yudanaka-nov-16yudanaka-jan-17

3, Yudanaka Station from the front

yudanaka-station-nov-16yudanaka-station-jan-17

4, A street with no name just outside Yudanaka Station

yudanaka-street-nov-16yudanaka-street-jan-17

5, A restaurant outside Yudanaka Station

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I’m not saying that you can always see the snow and scenery like this with snow but one thing for sure.

In this part of Japan, when it snows, it really snows.

I’m pretty sure Snow Monkeys must be staying hot water for your viewing pleasure to stay warm on a day like this.

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Nagano Dewa Yukiga Takusan Hurimasu 長野では雪がたくさん降ります = It snows a lot in Nagano

Listen and keep practising so you can have a chat with locals!