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bye bye Andy

Tokyo Travel Blog

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In the gondola

Emma : We got back from our trip to Hokkaido a couple of days ago. While it's good to be home, the sad reality that Andy is going home in a few days is now clear as day.

Our first 4 days in Hokkaido were spent at the ski resort Niseko. Neither of us had skiied for several years, so we were very excited, and a bit apprehensive! We stayed in the Yamada Onsen Hotel - a Japanese-style inn with a hot spring and dinner and breakfast included. The hotel was very practical and not exactly luxurious, but perfectly situated at the foot of the slopes. It had easy access to the chair lift and gondola. We could literally ski out the door and back in.

Niseko is famous for being over-run with Australians, and it is true you can purchase Vegemite and Tim-tams in the convenience stores.

A lot of the staff on the mountains, particularly the skiing instructors were Australian. We seemed to be the only non-Japanese people in our accommodation though....

We skiied pretty much between 9 and 4 every day. Unfortunately, however, I made no progress on my dreadful skiing technique and was still tumbling down the mountains on day 4, but it was great fun anyway. It snowed heavily from day 3 onward so the snow was super-soft on day 4, but on a down-side it was horrible weather by then and we had to call it a day at about 3pm.

After 4 days of skiing we made our way to Obihiro, where my friend Hisako lives. She boarded as an English-language student for one year at my family's house in Brisbane about 12 years ago and we have been friends since.

I have visited her in Obihiro several times before, and really love it there - it's a small town with about 170,000 population. And it's absolutely freezing at this time of year. Actually, it's below freezing....it was minus 10 at 10am in the morning on the day we left.

Andy:  Our skiing trip was well worth it with great conditions and soft powder snow. We had been to the gym many times prior to leaving Tokyo and my thighs were trim, taut and terrific looking - and thankfully my knees only gave me minor twinges while skiing. I have still not lost any of the magic and could be seen carving my way down the mountain - mostly 'easy runs' I have to admit. Emma organised the trip with a local travel agent and so our hotel was very Japanese - they didn't even have western tea! The food was very tasty mind you and was served in a buffet style where you could help yourself.

The Yamada Onsen Hotel
There was lots of raw fish, rice, soup, beans and a variety of vegetables boiled, stewed, fried and pickled - this was the breakfast menu! No muesli or cornflakes in sight :(

On our final day the weather turned bad and at the top of the mountain we lost eachother in the poor visibility. I skiied down and chair lifted back up again to look for Emma and began to worry as the wind started to huff and howl and the snow began to sting as it fell in large flakes. Arriving at the top again the weather had worsened and I was more than a little concerned and struggled to find my way down again without seeing anything of Emma anywhere. I arrived, frozen, at our meeting spot and realised that most people were leaving the mountain and snowmobiles were out and sirens were wailing. I hoped she wasn't injured and stuck in a hole somewhere.

the finished article
After another 20 mins I went to speak to the snowmobile drivers for help and out of the blue Emma skiied past. She told me over a cup of cocoa in the warm mountain restaurant that she'd skiied all the way to the bottom of the mountain and got the gondola back up rather than go back up to the peak and ski down (ie; the easy way!). The weather didn't improve and so we called it a day and went straight to the hotel for an onsen.

Our next 4 days were in a place called Obihiro and we were well lokked after by Emma's friend Hisako. She took us everywhere ! We went to visit some igloos that were made on a frozen lake. I did some ice carving which you can see in some of the photos attached. It was such a great holiday to end a fabulous experience.  I have only a couple of days left in Tokyo and will soon go home leaving Emma on her own for another few weeks.

Sculpting a cup out of a block of ice
In the time I've been here I've learned a fair bit of Japanese, become an English teacher, played soccer in several different parts of Honshu, met some great people (and some bad ones too!) and made new friends, eaten loads of wonderful and exciting new foods, learnt to find my way around on the subways, been skiing and enjoyed the delights of Japanese onsen, I have been a bicycle citizen and have enjoyed summer, autumn and winter seasons in all their diversity.

Thanks Japan for a great experience - and sayonara until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the gondola
In the gondola
The Yamada Onsen Hotel
The Yamada Onsen Hotel
the finished article
the finished article
Sculpting a cup out of a block of …
Sculpting a cup out of a block of…
in the ice bar
in the ice bar
the igloos on Lake Shikaribetsu
the igloos on Lake Shikaribetsu
Keiko and Hisako at Ikeda winery
Keiko and Hisako at Ikeda winery
Andy Skiing in Niseko 2008
Emma in Niseko
Tokyo
photo by: maka77