Month: February 2014

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park

In the nineteen countries I’ve been to this was one of my best travel experiences. My main reason for going to Nagano for the weekend was to visit the wild monkey park in Yamanouchi. Japanese macaques, more commonly called snow monkeys, are drawn to this mountain area […]

Golden Week traveling

Golden Week traveling

If you’re not familiar, Golden Week is a week in late April and early May that has many close holidays in Japan. Most companies give their employees the week off. At JTEKT, we get from Apr 26th to May 5th off. Since I booked my […]

Snow skiing in Nagano

Snow skiing in Nagano

We met at work Saturday morning at 6:30 am to carpool for the ski trip. The only problem was that I didn’t have a way to get there so I had to bike. I left my apartment at 6:00 am and got there 20 minutes later. The 2.5 mile ride carrying a weekend worth of stuff in 25 degree weather didn’t make waking up so early any easier.

The ten of us packed our stuff into three cars and we left. I didn’t know the other people in the car I was riding in and they naturally prefer to speak in Japanese, so the car ride was uneventful if not boring.

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We also hit bad traffic and stopped for breaks four times so instead of the trip taking three hours it took six hours. We didn’t arrive at Pilatus Tateshina Snow Resort until 12:30 pm and hadn’t eaten lunch yet.

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The first problem was renting ski equipment. The largest ski boots they had were around a size 10. Being a size 12, I didn’t have any choice other than to take what they had. And on the way up the lift, I noticed one of the ski poles was three inches shorter than the other. Not the best start.

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Obviously can’t tell from the picture, but my toes were pretty much curled

My first ride down the mountain was slow. Outside of the ski boots being too small, I hadn’t skied in probably 4 years. I took the lift to the highest point with everyone else not realizing that they clearly do this more often than me. But I was getting it and by the third time down, I mentioned that I wanted to try a different lift so we split up and agreed to meet up later.

I ended up taking four more lifts up the mountain, but due to my ski boots being too small I just ended up taking pictures for the last hour.

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Got a mouthful of snow getting this one
Got sprayed with snow getting this one

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The lifts closed at 4:30 pm so we got about three hours of skiing in on Saturday. I’m not sure why the lifts closed so early when there was 1.5 hours of daylight left. As I said it’s been while since I’ve been skiing, so maybe this is normal.

We checked into our hotel at 6:00 pm and got dinner together at 8:00 pm. As much as I like eating Japanese food, I don’t enjoy sitting on the floor. So when I saw ‘Japanese style’ dinner on the itinerary, I wasn’t thrilled. But to my delight there were chairs and we had a nice meal of various small plates. 

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Tuna and foie gras
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Sea bass, lotus root, and sweet potato
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Braised beef

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After watching parts of the Olympics together, we called it a night.

Sunday ended up being much better than Saturday.

After meeting for a buffet breakfast at 7:30 am, we checked out of the hotel and arrived at a different ski park (Kurumayama Snow Resort) by 10:30 am. This one was already better than the one yesterday as they had ski boots up to a size 12 which fit much better. Someone with any larger feet would still be out of luck.

However, I did not learn from my mistake Saturday. I took the lift to the top of the mountain with my coworkers but quickly told them I’d meet up with them later. I took some pictures at the summit before tackling the slopes.

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I ended up sliding down the highest slopes like a loose rock on a hillside. At points, I pretended like I was stopping to admire the scenery, but I was really trying to not fall. Last thing I wanted is a kind Japanese lady rushing to help me as I tumble down the mountain. It finally leveled out and reached a point where I could ski properly. Looking back, it probably would have been a good day to try to learn how to snow board.

I took some different lifts and ended up being much more comfortable on my skis than Saturday. The hardest part for me is turning – my inside ski would get crossed under my outside one. Luckily I one fell three times.

I found another course that opened up a good bit and I stopped to take some pictures of people jumping on the slopestyle run.

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At 2:30 pm, it was time to leave. Sunday was a lot more fun than Saturday and although I didn’t get a ton of skiing in, I’m glad I went. It’s something that I likely wouldn’t have done by myself due to having to rent a car.

We got back to work at 9:00 pm and thankfully someone drove me home. Now it’s back to work. I don’t have any other business or personal trips planned yet, but I’ll probably take a trip to see Mt. Fuji within the next few weeks. There’s also a good amount of day trip opportunities from where I live so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Ski trip costs:

Transportation, hotel room, and some meals: $180

Ski fees:
Day 1 lift pass: $27
Day 2 lift pass: (included)
Day 1 ski rental: $25
Day 2 ski rental: $25

Meals:

Sat lunch $10
Sat dinner: included
Sun breakfast: included
Sun lunch: $13
Sun dinner: $10

Total: $290

The Tokyo skyline

The Tokyo skyline

Well it took me about a month, but I finally managed to get a good picture of the Tokyo skyline. My first few attempts weren’t that great. I first tried the observation deck at the Bunkyo Civic Center. It’s free to take the elevator to the […]

Lack of traveling

Lack of traveling

The business trip to Osaka went well. I wasn’t able to see much besides the manufacturing facility and my hotel, but that was expected on such a short trip. Hopefully next time I’ll get to spend longer and see the cities of Osaka or Nara. […]

Snowpocalypse 2014

Snowpocalypse 2014

Over the weekend Tokyo got 10 inches of snow, with Fussa City collecting closer to a foot of snow! I’ve experienced snow like this when I lived in Rhode Island, but 12 inches in 24 hours didn’t happen very often. It was an unusually high amount of snow for Tokyo – the highest in 20 years!

It started with about 2 inches of snow on Tuesday February 4th. But it wasn’t much and it melted by Friday night.

Entrance to the Tokyo facility
Entrance to the Tokyo facility
After three hours
After three hours

The heaviest snowfall came early Saturday morning and throughout the day. When I woke up, I found a few inches on the ground.

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Doubtful that the snow was that bad, I dusted off my bike and rode about a half mile to a bagel shop near the air force base. It took much longer than usual and the traction on my tires wasn’t the best, but I managed to get there without crashing.

However, the waitress didn’t speak very good english. I ordered 2 blueberry bagels and a hot chocolate. What I received was 4 regular bagels and hot chocolate bagel. Clearly she thought I could eat 5 bagels because she didn’t hesitate at all.

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I managed to eat three of them and took the other two home with me.

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View from my window seat

With the snow picking up, I dropped my bike off and went to a small neighborhood park 100 yards from my apartment.

Hard to see, but I made a snow angel!
Hard to see, but I made a snow angel!

I did my best to make a snowman. Growing up in Florida didn’t really prepare me for this, so my first one accidentally looked mean.

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My second one was much better though – it’s all in the eyes.

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I’m pretty sure I put the buttons in the wrong place. Also my snowmen don’t have noses.

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While in the park, a girl came up to me and said hello in english. She was taking her black shiba for a jump in the snow.

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I headed to Fussa Station to grab a bite at a local curry shop as the snow started to pick up.

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It seemed like everyone had an umbrella except for me.

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Here's the same scene on January 19th, four week earlier.
Here’s the same scene on January 19th, four weeks earlier.
There wasn't a snow plow in sight
There wasn’t a snow plow in sight

I went back to my apartment and ended up staying in for the rest of the day – that was enough for one day.

Sunday morning I was greeted with this scene outside of my apartment door:

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From the column in the background, we ended up getting about a foot of snow. Even the bicycle baskets were filled.
Neighborhood street adjacent to the park
Neighborhood street adjacent to the park
In the open area of the park, the snow came up to mid-calf on me
In the open area of the park, the snow came up to mid-calf on me
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My snowman did not survive the snowpocalypse of 2014
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View of the park. My apartment is just to the left behind the transmission tower
View of the main street in Fussa
View of the main street in Fussa

Overall, the snow wasn’t too much of an inconvenience; I just had to walk instead of riding my bike. The temperature got into the 40s today, so I expect a lot of it will melt. I had a great time though.

Tomorrow I’m going on a business trip to Osaka which is about 4 hours away by train. I’ll be staying there until Thursday when I return to Tokyo.

Sushi Santa

Sushi Santa

Near the Yokota Air Force base there is a sushi restaurant called Sushi Santa. From my apartment, it takes me 3 minutes on my bike. Inside is a sushi bar that can seat at most 15 people. It has a family atmosphere, where the chef […]