Winter in Japan – Day 3 JAPOW!

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As forecast, it snowed all night, laying fresh powder for an incredible day on the slopes! We woke up for a 7:30 AM breakfast reservation. Again, we enjoyed the traditional Japanese offering at the hotel which was a little bit different than the previous day with grilled salmon, tamago or egg omelet, roasted vegetables, sesame bean sprouts and miso soup. Breakfast was tasty and filling again. We already had our equipment from the prior day, so we just had to shuttle over to the mountain and get going. This time we reviewed the shuttle route and were sure to get off at the Sakka beginner’s area to avoid trekking around the mountain in snow boots (ouch!). We rode the Sakka lift midway up the mountain and found a series of green runs to start off.

Today was indescribably better than the day 1 conditions – it was still cloudy and precipitous but it was cold enough (15-20 degrees Fahrenheit) for the precipitation to be fresh snow which didn’t melt on contact and leave you and the slopes a soggy mess. This was our first real experience with “Japow!” as our Japanese friends had described to us on the night we arrived. The fresh powder was so much more skiable and fun for us, we explored the Sakka and Kokusai side of the mountain this morning and stuck with all greens before lunch. We broke for lunch midway up the mountain at the Sunterrace Panorama again. And, again, traded in our snow boots for slippers while we enjoyed coffee and a maguro (raw tuna) rice bowl with miso soup and pickled veggies. We watched skiers gliding down the slopes around the building as we ate and decided after lunch we’d take higher lifts for longer and more difficult runs.

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We found a good “red” (intermediate) slope which merged into a green toward the bottom and repeated it a few times. This mountain is huge and has a web of chair lifts which take you progressively higher on the mountain, allowing for longer and more challenging runs down. The very top of the mountain was closed today (no chair lifts running) due to strong wind gusts, but that didn’t stop some avid skiers and boarders from climbing by foot with their equipment in hand along the chairlift route so that they could conquer the steepest, most challenging courses. The wind gusts were no joke though, toward the top of the mountain the gusting winds swirled snow around so rapidly that it was hard to stay upright and felt like a tornado was forming. The gusts would last 10-20 seconds with variable intervals between occurrences, everyone would wait for a gap in the wind before beginning a run.

There weren’t too many people on the mountain today and there were continuous blankets of fresh powder coating the ground so the conditions were the best we experienced this trip and likely ever. We skied the intermediate and beginner runs until our legs were tired and achy then hopped on the shuttle back to the hotel where we soaked in our private onsen sipping Saporro and matcha until we were relaxed and wrinkled from the water. The combination of cold, exhausting ski time followed by warm, soothing onsen time is seemingly unbeatable.

We had a 7 PM dinner reservation but decided to get ourselves ready a little bit early so we could return to Kihachi for some of the delicious hot sake we had the first night. Kihachi was closed so we settled for Tsumugi which is a yakitori bar and restaurant next door to our hotel. We enjoyed two small carafes of two different local Hakuba-made hot sakes. We really enjoyed these sakes, though not as good as we remembered the one at Kihachi being (this memory could be falsely brightened by the fact that we were indulging in our first hot sake in Japan after 25 long travel hours), these two sakes were both smooth and tasty. Back at the hotel we experienced the “rich course” from the Hotel Hakuba Hifumi Restaurant. This was a similar menu as the previous night but with more food and richer substitutions. We started with tempura spring rolls, marinated veggies, sesame greens, a custard and roasted duck samplings; second course: tuna and yellowtail sashimi (substantially more than offered on standard course, and possibly the freshest tasting sashimi we have had); third course: grilled salmon with sauce and herb salad; fourth course: tempura shrimp and veggies; fifth course: shabu shabu again (finer cuts of wagyu compared to standard course); sixth course: almond cake with cream and matcha drink. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed dinner again and were glad to be able to compare the standard and rich offerings, we had read rave reviews about both and were certainly not disappointed. After dinner we were exhausted and went straight to bed.


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