Monday, 14 February 2011


Spider-Ben and Jake lead the way.

The best thing about winter in Japan is the snowboarding. Certainly, sitting at home slowly freezing to death isn't much of an option, making the choice rather easy. This weekend we headed up to my favourite Japanese resort, Myokokogen in Niigata, the prefecture to the north of Nagano. To say they get a lot of snow is an understatement. Most of the roads there are flanked with 12ft drifts of snow, shifted off the road every day by huge snow-eating machines.

Spider-Ben losing momentum.

My boot considers the ride down.

We headed up on Saturday for a two-day trip, staying in Landmark Onsen Cafe, the lovely place we stayed at last year. On our first day of snowboarding the visibility wasn't fantastic but ok to board in. Unfortunately we managed to miss our last shuttle bus back to the cafe. Cold, hungry, alone and scared (slight exaggeration), we sat huddled in a rental shop pondering an hour walk back in a heavy blizzard. Much to my delight and our saviour, my brain wasn't as cold as I thought and was working quite well. I spotted a staff shuttle bus in the carpark outside and went over to him to see where he was going - if we could reduce the distance to our lodgings from within the comfort of a bus it would have been preferable. I explained we missed our last bus and needed walking directions to the cafe and he looked at us if we were crazy. Then we experienced, yet again, the incredible kindness and helpfulness that I love Japan for most: he offered us a lift home with the staff. An hour later we were sat roasting in an onsen, then an hour after that we were filled with ramen and chilling out at our lodgings for the night.

Trees trees trees.

Snowboarder style.

The following day visibility was amazing and we had an amazing time. I managed to master toe-edge (it's been a long wait since last winter) finally, as did Ben, and we snow-surfed that mountain to our hearts content.

The icicle of Damocles: 6ft of impending doom.

I think this shrine is closed for, er, some time.

Digging the car out after a long day of boarding is what I really look forward to.

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