Winter in Japan – Day 2 Happo One

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Our hotel (Hotel Hakuba Hifumi) included breakfast and we had scheduled an 8:30 AM reservation however there must’ve been a misunderstanding because they called our room at 8 AM stating they were ready for us and when we got downstairs the food was already on the table. We had both reserved the traditional Japanese breakfast offering which was surprisingly un-breakfast like from an American perspective, but still delicious and energizing before skiing. We had miso soup, rice, grilled fish, an egg, tofu and grilled squash and pickled vegetables. We were told at breakfast that the thunder and lightning that morning had forced the ski lifts to close, so we took our time getting suited up before going to the equipment rental.

We rented our equipment from a shop down the street from our hotel, Woody’s Rental Shop, and received a 10% discount since the hotel referred us (sweet!). Even before the discount, gear rental was less expensive than we had budgeted so that was a pleasant surprise. We caught the Happo shuttle right outside Woody’s to the slope, Happo One (pronounced “oh-nay”, not “won”), where we purchased our lift ticket. There was no 3 day lift ticket so we bought 2 days and said we’d decide on the third day when we got to it. We intended to start at Sakka beginner’s area but as it turned out we got off the bus on the complete opposite side of the mountain at Nakiyama. We took a couple of runs then decided to trek over to Sakka, which turned out to be FAR and ski boots are particularly painful to walk in. We eventually gave up on Sakka, which was still much further, when we reached “Gondola Adam”. We took the gondola up to a skiable point on the mountain, but there was an unpleasant misty-rainy-snowy mixture this day which turned the slopes into a sloshy-icy mess and kept our snow goggles coated in steam and droplets. We found it impossible to see and impossible to get any footing so after a couple of runs we sought refuge in the first place we stumbled upon – Sunterrace Panorama.

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Sunterrace Panorama is midway up the mountain and has decent views with windows spanning almost all the way around the upper level, the upstairs was a warm restaurant/lounge area with slippers available to relieve snow-boot scrunched feet. We swapped out our boots for slippers, grabbed some coffees, and a bowl of ohyokurri for lunch and sat near a window to watch others struggling on the mountain. Ohyokurri is a stew of meats, vegetables and dumplings and is a dish specific to the Hakuba area of Japan; it was tasty, warming and filling. After our break we headed back out to the slopes and the first run was such a soggy frustration that we hopped on the shuttle back to our hotel to soak in our onsen. The conditions this day were just not suitable for a first day back on the slopes (40 degrees and raining).

At the hotel we soaked in our steamy onsen relaxing and drinking Saporro and matcha hoping for better weather the next day. This was no loss though, the onsen was satisfying and we were glad not to have pushed ourselves too hard on the first day in poor conditions.

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We took our time relaxing and getting ready for our 7:30 PM dinner reservation. The hotel offers 2 dinner options, neither is included but we had read a lot of positive things about them and knew we wanted to try the “standard course” one night and the “rich course” the other night. We had reserved the standard course this night and were blown away by how much food we got and how flavorful everything was. The first plate had seaweed, tempura spring rolls and marinated vegetables; second dish: salmon and whitefish sashimi; third dish: grilled fish; fourth dish: tempura chicken, mushroom and onion skewers; fifth dish: “shabu shabu” which is thinly sliced wagyu beef and vegetable hotpot that you just barely cook the meat for a few seconds (the waitress demonstrated two sweeping motions through the broth stating “shabu” with the first sweep and “shabu” with the second sweep, then eat); sixth dish: brown sugar gelatin with cream (which sounds weird but was actually SO good!). We loved this meal and highly recommend trying the Hakuba Hifumi Restaurant even if you don’t stay at the hotel. After dinner we were exhausted and ready to rest up for day 2 on the slopes.

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