Monday, March 05, 2007

Nagano - The Return

This morning started off with an 8AM wake up, breakfast, packing and a ride to the station where I said goodbye to my dear wife and hopped a Shinkansen bound for Omiya and then to Nagano. The whole transiting thing went very well, even though I was carrying a huge bag and a pair of skis, which is a considerable hassle considering the trains and transfers and such. Gotta say my purchase of a bag designed to hold ski boots and clothes was a fantastic decision. As my second shinkansen left the Kanto area and headed into the mountains, I became to feel somewhat uncomfortable at the lack of snow. Karuizawa, no snow... Ueda, snow just covering the tops of the mountains, all ski hills I was able to spot were closed, with only the very top runs covered in snow.

Then I got to Nagano city and saw pretty much the same thing. For a city which hosted the Winter Games a few years back, it certainly didn't get much of a winter this year. Here is a shot I took from the station, the tall building on the left is the Sunroute Hotel where Yoshiko and I stayed when we came last August. Big thanks to my dear Yoshiko who lent me her little camera so that I could take pictures on this trip. I have come to the conclusion that the Canon is simply too big for skiing, don't want to risk having it broken. Yoshiko's camera is very similar to my old Sony which is now in the hands of Mattoto, great little cameras they are.


And here is a shot of the mountains off in the distance, with just a dusting of snow it seems.


At Nagano station, I just missed my bus by a few minutes and waited for an hour, which was fine in the balmy 18 degree temperature. Yes, that's right... 18 degrees! When the bus came and loaded up our stuff, you could tell that the skiers were a little antsy about the 1800yen bus ride ahead. Would it really take us into some snow? Our concern grew as we started to make our way into the mountains and as we passed the 20-km-to-go-before-Shiga-Kogen sign and there was still no snow on the side of the road. Luckily, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the bus rounded a bend out of a narrow mountain pass and we saw a series of ski runs spread along the mountain side dotted with little black dots whooshing down. All of the resorts we drove through as we came in seemed to have plenty of snow to go around, though it must certainly be pretty wet. I got off the bus at my stop at Ichinose, and spotted my cute little Chu Hotel (chu is Japanese for kiss by the way) and got the grand tour from Fujihara-san. Very friendly welcome, I'm sure I will enjoy my stay. This place is quite well outfitted to handle us skiers, the hotel comes complete with a drying room for clothing and equipment and an onsen. Lovely!

I was pleasantly surprised when I entered my room and saw my view. Just outside my window and to the right is lift #28 of the Ichinose Family ski area. Here is what I see when I look out my window. Very cool!


So after taking the 10 cent tour and waxing my skis in preparation for tomorrow, I headed outside for a quick walk and was dismayed to see that it was raining. Thankfully it started late in the day and will likely change to snow as the temperature drops tonight. Ichinose is a cute little ski village, just made up of hotels, bus stops and ski lifts really. I have just started studying the ski map for this place and it is quite simply HUGE. The red spot marks my hotel and this ski area.


Most of the resorts seem to be interconnected by the 71 separate lifts which run around this place and I can ski right to my hotel's back door. With any luck, the weather will be good tomorrow. So here I sit, in the warm and cozy lounge of the Chu Hotel. The fire is crackling in the fire place, people are drying out and relaxing after a long day of skiing, the pitter patter of rain hitting the roof can be heard, and dinner is just about to be served. Quite lovely really, except of course for the part about the rain.

Quick immigration related addendum. Quite glad to have taken my laptop with me to kill the time between lift closing at 4PM and bed time, since I just got an email from the immigration people. It seems they need an additional document from Yoshiko, that also needs to be translated, which really sucks. By the looks of it, seeing as our application is now on hold pending receipt of this document, Yoshiko will need to enter Canada next month on a 6-month tourist visa and we will have to wait for her Permanent Residency there. Things never are easy are they? Oh well, it will get done, no biggie really.

Anywho, off to dinner now. Cheers!

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