Saturday, January 8, 2011


Today is suddenly the last day of the holiday. As with all holidays, the time has shot by in the most enjoyable way. By the second or third day of boarding, we had found our niche, out in the diamond valley. The valley was beautiful; from the top, you can see down into the valley of diamonds, the diamonds being the beautiful sparkling White tree tops, glistening in the distance. The scenery here is just amazing. Everywhere you look, there is White. It's a precious White, that i have never seen so much of before. Every step you take crunches deep into thick snow, leaving a mark, showing the next skier or barred that you trod this path.

So, as far as blogs go, I don't think that a snowboarding/onsen trip is particularly one to fill the pages of an immense blog, but then, we remember that I am not really doing this for the reader, more for my memory.

This trip was a magical indeed. We went from the first paragraph of this blog on a cable car. Now, bearing in mind, we were considering leaving early because the weather looked a bit naff, we did quite well.

There are two cable cars up to the very very top where the snow monsters live. Of course, they are not real monsters, although I would not like to be up there in the dead of the night (or rather late afternoon judging by the time of dusk on the slopes). No, these are the tops of the trees, the really really tall trees you see on the mountains the tops of those, covered with thick, thick snow. It really is amazing and, chances are, if you are a city girl, like me, you might never have seen so much snow before....seriously!!! Except, I had, because I had been here trekking before, but today, like four years ago, my jaw was on the ground. Yamagata ken and , in particular, Zao Onsen town, were awe inspiring places. For someone scared of heights and the odd wobbly cable car, I saw no fear as the ropeways carried us up to the misfired mountain tops. The wind screeched through the openings and the car swayed to each side, but we somehow knew there was awesomeness ahead.

It is up in this area that there is the Zao course that leads to an area known as 'boarder's paradise'. Sadly , today it was more of a nightmare. The moment we stepped out of the second cable car, the frosty wind blew us away. The magical monsters swaying with the force of the cold air and our fingers already frozen from a shot too many. Our only respite, the restaurant with it's spicy tan tan men and beer.

Zao onsen is definitely a place to remember. It seems it's perfect any season. We just found out that our lodge is open in the summer time too, for private hire...that means no Paolo! Thank goodness!

Until the next holiday blog gets typed, so long x


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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Them drumsticks...

It's just day two of the boarding but we are pooped! Last night's dinner, not to mention alcoholic endeavours, may have helped to knock us for six, and I am not even going to mention the boarding.

So, we were served, wait for this, chicken drumsticks on a small bed of pesto pasta! I have to say that I was quite shocked. I mean, I could have done that, although, I can even go so far as to to say that my cooking, as weak as it can be, is still better than that! And I am not really sure when it all went wrong. The starter was nice enough, similar to the night before, it was a mid of three tasty, tiny snippets of food. But then came the drumsticks. One of mine was a bit pink when I bit into it. Enough said.

We caned a fair bit of alcohol at dinner to put up with the noise and disturbance from the new arrivals, a few families and their kids who all knew each other so were gassing away loudly. Basically, the vibe at the lodge was a a bit off. Especially since the arrival of these families, we had noticed that it was like we were intruding, which was rather odd, considering it was an alpine lodge. There was no greeting for the evening or morning,for fear of interrupting a conversation. How strange. I had thought that the drumsticks had been made for the kids, but there were only five of them. Basically it all remained inexplicable.

Today, we woke up relatively wiped. Breakfast was better, but nowhere near enough. Scrambled eggs and a slice of ham with thick semi-sweet bread tasted good, but multiplied by two or three would have really satisfied. So, it is easy to understand that, after a morning up, up high in the beautiful snowy mountains, working our way down with our new boards, we didn't have the super strength to plough on through the day. We went back to get Elbi and realised, that, even after a good lunch inside us, (we were, and still are on the hunt for the mountain spaghetti Bol!) we weren't up for any more boarding. Amusing. We made plans for some sulphuric onsen water to soothe our aches and general chilling at home.
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Up in the mountains

We are staying at a lodge in the resort of Zao Onsen. When you walk down the hill, there is a little town, with many omiyage stores and a great waft of sulphur at every turn. It is a really calm, cute and quaint place. In terms of boarding and snow fun, there is plenty. The slopes are just on the road outside the hotel and there are so many lifts to choose from. In terms of the area itself,it is a place to wander and relax. There area many eateries, sake shops and, of course, onsens.

Day one began with what is always set to be a treat and that was breakfast! You really never know where you are in a Japanese
Ryokan/ski lodge, or even hotel, but chances are, your stomach will be longing for that ''meat sauce pasta'' long before lunch time arrives.

Well, today's delight consisted of one hard-boiled egg, accompanied by a surprisingly tasty, but equally as surprisingly small sausage and salad. Oh, and access to a personal toaster and bread. Nice. Even more surprisingly, this breakfast, barring a few snacks and a sneaky tea and mochi, actually lasted us until dinnertime. How? I wish I knew! Well, we the slopes, one crap slope, to be precise, but we endured it nonetheless, dragging our boards across flat paths and exhausting ourselves or just as bad, burying ourselves in too much powder. It was still fun, but, by the time we went and walked with Elbi, the snowy air had got the better of all of us and we were out like a light.

The afternoon snow fest involved a cable car, and for the first time in a long time, I was not so scared. It was huge and we got there so fast that my heart had no time to palpitate. The slopes down were great. We were picking up pace, getting the knack back, finally. As dusk fell over the mountainous region, we felt the frost on our faces, but still pelted down the slows as if the sub had been shining on us. It was great. We had found our snowboarding niche, snow fun, onsen, dog time, nice.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Family holiday....round one

Wow, the Hawgoods have gone away!

And, I mean all of us!! Husband, wife, puppy and hamster! We are all in the north west area of Japan, having taken the lovely Shinkansen up here. (we even had to buy a ticket for Elbi! Mimi was just a clandestine transportation! Nevertheless, we are all here warm and safe in our lodge in the mountain of Zao where the snow monsters live and the kokeshi dolls stare.
It is a magical land, and anywhere coated in snow, where the icicles hang from the roof of the sake house where we can drink late into the night all warm and cosy, thanks to the hot sulphuric hot spring just next door.

It is also the land where the odd, weirdly wonderful characters of the universe might live.

"Come into my shop," says the very old looking lady. Her face is withered with wrinkles, her smile is somehow welcoming. But, it was her sudden appearance at the dark, unlit shop, that was surely closed on this public holiday day, that startled and scared us. It was uncanny, it was unnerving but it was also the cutets thing to experience in a local village.

She welcomed us into her apparently 200 year old shop, (I believed this based on appearances alone!) and fed us some sweetened green bean. Was it safe? Was she part of a fairy tale and we were to be poisoned? Murdered? Lost in a snowy paradise forever?
No. We were to be somehow gently coerced into buying not just this random bean that had sugar on, but an old favourite called 'zunda mochi', the tone of which, exited her lungs with a pitch so high, the nightmares shall continue for the rest of the holiday!.


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