Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – JAPAN – Day 9/10 – Nozawa Onsen

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on March 19, 2010

WT2010 – JAPAN
Day 9/10 – Nozawa Onsen
[On the iPOD] Arctic Monkeys / M83

Waking up sore and tired is never a good sign before a big day of snow boarding. The word around the lodge was it was snowing up top and it was sunny, an awesome combo. I kitted up and set out early to find rock hard ice on the first slope without warming up I went straight up the cross lift to get to the centre mountain gondola only to find yet more Ice.

I’m still only a beginner/Intermediate and Ice seriously psyches me out, especially when you have to go down a 4m wide pass with a sheer drop off with no barrier. I had a few stacks and got in a grumpy mood from the on-set. Perhaps it was because I’d skipped breakky but I headed to the top only to find a nice small covering of snow covering a frozen solid ice underneath. Crappy crappy conditions. I struggled around for a bit but it was just no fun on this hired board, which is a little short hence not wide enough for my boots which causes your boots to catch the snow if u try and get a sharp edge for grip on ice.

I went for a long lunch and rest and was cheered up by one of the chefs at the station at mid-mountain Japanese courtesy and service wins again. After chilling out for a bit with some beer and ice cream. I lulled myself into confidence again and went for a few more runs down the right side of the mountain. It was a little lighter here and things started to pickup. I didn’t have much energy though perhaps due to getting up 5am the day before and traveling + boarding and getting to bed at 1230am.

I decided to stop on a nice bend in the middle of nowhere and build myself a little “kicker” jump into some soft powder off the track. It took me a good 15minutes of effort and I was buggered afterwards but It worked pretty well. I’d built it off a slight drop so I could practice landing off some good air. I did this about 4times and had enough, legs were giving out and it was near the end of the day.

So I decided to head back with one goal; walk as little as possible to my lodge. There was a pass I’d traveled the day before but I took a wrong turn near the end and had to walk a little. I was certain if I carried enough speed I could reach the lodge (there were a lot of flattening out areas where you’d stop if you weren’t going fast enough leading up to them)

So I went down the rest of the home run and made it to within 30metres of the lift to centre-right mountain. Technically you can get to here from the top of the mountain. It’s about a 3km run. I got off at the lift and gunned it, down and across and then across a the downhill centre slope at top speed aiming for a gap in the trees to a connecting path. The track connected to another and another and then finally the final turn which looked like it was out of bounds or something. I didn’t know I couldn’t read the sign. I didn’t care and gunned it and the track wound steep and narrow through some trees (tight s bends) and then opened up towards a carpark.

I skipped off to the left and continued to the home straight with enough speed. Making the final turn I was headed down a ‘driveway’ towards the road where cars fly past and pulled up right on the edge of the snow, sitting down, my board hitting the tarmac. Unbound and walked 100m to my lodge. Utterly amazing really. Technically you can ride the length of the mountain down the opposite side of the lodge and catch ONE lift and get to your door. A good 6km+ of winding awesomeness!

I decided to stop playing hermit at the lodge and the Australians who run it had it smelling like home in no time; a BBQ out front with Japanese beer, cool. I got to know a lot of cool people with some eye-opening stories. Everything from traveling around the world on a surf adventure in the 1970’s! to working 4months a year on a farm and then spending it all on holidaying around the world snowboarding the rest of the year. These people have their priorities in order!

After dinner we all headed to the main foreigner bar in town; next door and downstairs is a little bar called ‘STAY’ the vibe of this place is everything I dream about what a local pub should be. It’s about 10metres long by about 5metres wide, has a drum kit and guitar/bass/amps/pa in the corner, a bar and two tables and is covered wall to roof in a variety of local and international music regalia. We don’t a few local beers and then headed to karaoke joint up the hill. Some old locals were already in there but the 6 of us or so ordered yet more drinks and destroyed some classic songs. A bunch of 80’s tragics mostly but the Karaoke system was two touch screen wireless pads with a huge selection of modern songs across all categories, this is Japan after all.

Headed back to the lodge nice and early; walking through the pin-drop quiet winter cold town; the only sound was of running water; the village has a big system of under-road covered gutters which let the melting ice flow through it. I got in just before 2am. Had to be up early to hit the slopes and was hoping for a better day.

Up nice and early but intent on not rushing things on the Thursday morning incase conditions were like yesterday; a nice big breakfast this time which sent me jogging and skipping towards the first lift. I decided to do a warm up run on the first lift slope rather than take the cross mountain lift. It was mildly soft and was utterly brilliant down low. I did one run and then decided I’d do another upon which I decided I’d do a few more runs practicing riding goofy.

Up and down, rinse and repeat until i felt an entire level more confident riding that way, the odd stack had me looking sideways down the run. I somehow had completely missed a seperate track built that morning down the side of the mountain; it was a bunch of mini slopes leading into a set of kickers down 3/4 of the slope! So I decided to practice some jumps. Starting slowly and landing only one and aborting the last two “big” ones.

By the end of the day I was utterly buggered and had landed 7 consecutive airs including the last one; which has a lot of dug out snow after the kick; you probably get a good 2metres off the lip of the jump. Later; lodge-mate Arwin said one of the guys he runs with lands back-flips with a twist off it! I wasn’t going to try that just yet.

Somehow I was having way too much fun just trying to get better on this simple course on the first slope of the mountain and just like that it was all over, approaching 5pm.

But before I left there was one thing to try for the first time; A local Onsen (that’s a natural hot-spring public bath for those unawares) I’m all for public nudity, just as long as it doesn’t involve me. At least that was my view before I went in. It was full of locales and dads bathing with their sons. Once you get your kit off it just kinda feels right, you get the vibe of it and relax. When in Rome!

Funnily enough though a few minutes later one of the other lodgers turned up; also an Onsen virgin like myself. I think the locales where either totally amused or bemused at our faces when we got into the boiling water. Unknown to me was I got in the hot-end of the spring where there was only one older dood and most of the people were in the other end. They either thought I was crazy getting in that end or thought I was a wimp making ‘ouch’ faces as the water burns every part of you.

Theres a strict method to entering and a system you have to go through before you get in; first you take off your shoes to get onto the wooden slatted area with ‘lockers’ and take your clothes off, put them in the lockers. Take a small wash towel and bucket and soap over to the wash area. You have to sit cause splashing people is rude. You soap up and wash down making sure you have no soap on you at all before getting into the water.

I eventually caught on and moved over to the cool end where it was bearable, I was convinced my knees had sustained 3rd degree burns… but if the old guy could take it I thought whack the heck. Whilst ‘chilling out’ in the ‘cool’ (which was still burning me) I got splashed on purpose by a little 5 yr old kid, I thought it was pretty funny actually but the kids dad promptly hit him on the head with a bucket and told him how rude it was. Respect is primary here; even to silly foreigners like myself. I’ll definitely be doing it any chance I get now. In a town with natural hot-spring water, why waste energy heating water (taking a shower) when you can get it for free? It’s a way of life.

I was already thinking about boarding the next morning after checking out of the lodge! But it wasn’t to be out of cash for a lift pass which means I’m headed back to Tokyo as I write this on a Friday morning.

I’m actually really peeved about leaving here; the lodgers are all great and some have been here for months or are here on second and third visits; so they know all the jaunts in town and all the local characters. Even more worried about leaving the snow and all the cool people, in the back of my mind is leaving Japan in four days. I’m starting to regret I haven’t stayed longer.

I’m thinking this won’t be the last I’ll see of Nozawa Onsen. Farewell!

*Unfortunately no more photos the last two days, I have a lot taken from the LOMO which is Film, so no uploading them. Conditions were just too harsh to use the DSLR (Snowing both nights and freezing!) I will try and get out this morning to take some final shots of the town in full light. Don’t think I can get up the mountain without a pass though! 😦

Stay tuned for an update of photos perhaps.

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