Winter, in Japan
Chilly air, crisp morning, hot coffee, white white and white as far as eyes can see. Or, speeding down swerving zig zag through powdery snow in an exhilarating journey down from top. Imageries that conjure up in a city birds mind as the skiing season comes by. December in Japan is unique amongst a broad swath of countries in Asia as it is the only country with Olympic standard skiing facilities in the region. The north wind ushers in a huge cache of snow across the West of Honshu all the way starting from the Hokkaido island in North. No wonder that Santa gets company of young upwardly mobile crowd flying in from neighboring China to as far as Australia, and Singapore.
Let’s go on a day out
But folks of all kinds may not have had that luxurious trip booked an year back. Or say you just thought yureka lets get go for skiing! For such folks, there are Quite a few options for a quick last minute hop onto the slopes. Swipe your credit card, get into a Shinkansen bullet train and ski out straight as you alight at Yuzawa. You can have a fine day trip skiing in a world class facility.
www.galaresort.jp › winter › english
Now say you are a newbie, or you have kids whom you want to introduce to the joys of skiing, a shinkansen trip may be a little too ambitious. You want a quick day trip, safe gradient with kid-friendly facilities, open to last minute booking and kinda easy on pockets. And you also want it to be memorable by way of having visited one iconic location of Japan. Ahem. Close your eyes, Abra ka dabra. yay you got it. Take a bus trip to Fujiten!!!
A day Skiing on Mt Fuji
Yes friends there is indeed a ski resort right at the foot of Mt Fuji, offering gorgeous views while having facilities to enthrall newbies as well as experienced alike. Not being on the main ski area map though, Fujiten is generally more available compared to other facilities in mainland Japan such as Hakuba or Niigata. And yes you can go in the morning, have a 7 hour ski session and come back home by 8pm in the evening, all taken care of for half a grand (5000 yen) per person. Rentals extra. Irresistible, do you think so? Then read on.
There are several bus companies traveling between Fujiten and Tokyo. A very popular service with multiple departure points in Tokyo is run by Orion tours (http://www.orion-ski.jp/sp/). As usual if you have been following the articles on this site, you are advised to use Chrome browser and Google translate to convert the Japanese to English. It’s workable, so long as you know what you want. Select destination, select date, select package ( with or without ski rental), make payment, and you are all set. Ticket includes ski lift charges.
This is how we, your Team Couchflyer, made a one day trip recently to Fujiten. Being largely weighted on the newbie side, we chose the safest option namely all rentals included (no thinking needed) package. But it was worth it, especially if you consider the steps involved in choosing what to rent what not to rent once you are there, and do the conversation largely in sign language!.
All set we started on a sunny morning. The bus was full of students, reported “sick” in college, presumably. Some trying to hang onto their missed hours of morning dozing, after ahh ahem late night studies. Some Kawai ones busy with makeup. We kept ourselves busy recalling the steps seen on YouTube How To learn ski boarding in 30 minutes video the previous evening. It would be easy, we kind of all thought as we looked at one another.
Within a short while the bus left the big city behind. Snow capped mountains appeared closer and closer. The bus switched to lower gear as the road started ascending, adding a deep groan to the otherwise sedate scenes passing us by.
We could see the tops of the roller coaster of Fujikyu Highland, a sprawling amusement park at the base of Mt Fuji. The towering peak of Mt Fuji kept us guiding as we proceeded on our journey into its lap. Snow zone started.
Forest of silvery white birch trees, shorn of leaves, stood in contrast to occasional green of spruce and pines. Log houses, rambling road curving its way up, all indicated we were in ski country. Snow frozen on the branches of the trees turned into crystals shining bright in morning sun. Not long after our driver san announced our arrival at destination.
It was fairy white everywhere around, with distant peaks appearing in light blue shades on the horizon against a deep blue sky. The rentals being all prearranged it was a quick process for us to get all set and hit the slopes.
We trained ourselves for snow boarding, so started with it. Walk up the slope with one foot lugging the board, turn, step into the other socket, lean sideways, and zoom. Well that was the theory. The practicalities were to be different. Somebody forgot to attach brakes. So we found ourselves more slipping and hitting the ground than sliding down like the fellow on YouTube. Our junior most member in the team soon rebelled. It was not quite the fun he envisioned!!!
So change of tack. Boards swapped for skiis we went back to the slopes. This time it was better. Soon the team gained confidence to go higher up and ski down together. The ski lifts took us up almost to a touching distance of the top of mighty Mt Fuji. Sun rays fused through the bare branches. Barring the occasional excitement of us skiers it was quiet up there. A snow scooter lay idle, as a emergency vehicle to aid someone in distress. Safety is paramount in Japanese culture, living as it were through a constant threat of earth quakes and tsunamis.
Not only safety though, consumer convenience is also of prime importance. So no points for guessing that there will be a drinks vending machine ready to serve there at the top of the slope!
On our way here in the morning we noticed quite a few warning signs cautioning motorists to presence of wild deer and monkeys. Not sure if they would bother to come up this high but the two sides were dense forests suitable for wild habitat. Snow flakes solidified into crystals, hanging from the branches and shrubs. The powdery slope curved its way below through the midst of the forest. Not one but there were several slopes suiting various skill levels. Snow boarders, skiiers broke through the silence as they hurled below, creating and recreating tracks on their wake. We joined them, several times as we skiied down and came back up by the lifts.
The restaurant facilities in the resort were upto the mark, with several restaurants serving fares of different types, including ice creams! Spicy ramen did the favour for us.
The post lunch session was more leisurely, more fun than sports. This included sliding down sitting on a skiboard, taking selfies and action photos, not to mention taking lots of snaps of Mt Fuji shining in the background. Evening falls fast in hills. The sun rays turned a glorious yellow, shadows grew longer. It was time to say goodbye.
We boarded the bus back. everyone was tired, but satisfied. As the bus winded its way back past the villages and towns, Mt Fuji appeared all the while towering above. As if it was guarding the hamlets below. We were sleepy, the headlights of the passing vehicles were breaking the stupor as we dozed off. After a while how long we didn’t know the bus slowed down, on the outside there were suqare patterns of dots on a black background. We reached the big city, passing by the skyscrapers of Shinjuku.
The day ended. We did go out ski on the slopes of Mt Fuji. A royal day out indeed…
For more on Adventurish Sports in and around Tokyo:
Ice Skating in TokyoTokyo