We all dream of skiing on the edge, the far away places we see in the Warren Miller ski movies. Sure we ski our local and regional areas and if we are lucky we get to do our week long mecca to one of the mega resorts; Vail, Aspen, Whistler or maybe even snowcat or heli skiing. For me it has recently been bent on skiing the far away places.. and doing it sooner than later. While spending day with both sons, Nick and Alex, over the holidays our conversations always include skiing, the where, when and "how deep" it will be. Talk evolved to discussing the exotic destinations, AK, Chamonix and of course Hakuba Valley Japan. Why not? Now retired, with some coin in the pocket we started planning. The best snows in Japan usually come in through late December and the month of January. Could we still sneak into the Northern Japanese Alps and get the famous powder before the weather changed and started producing spring storms?
Flights were booked and we flew Seattle to Narita (Tokyo, 12+ hour flight). I flew into the largest city in the world a few days before Nick. Alex was unable to join us due to previous commitments and timelines. The notion was to do some recon and gain insights on the mass transit systems (rail, bus, subway) before Nick landed Japan. I could write a book on my experiences in Japan. Having been to Europe and south into Central America I will say the Japanese experience provided maybe the biggest culture shock I have dealt with to date, but one I will gladly visit again next year.
I was extremely lucky to connect with a friend that lives in Tokyo. He (Rick) and his native wife have lived in the central Tokyo area for over twenty years. With Rick's support and guidance I was quickly, and necessarily so, orientated to Japan. For maybe the very first time in my life I could relate to what it would be life to be illiterate. I could not read, write nor understand in any way the Japanese language. I learned how and where to find the usual info centers along the transit lines, and luckily a decent percentage of residents spoke some (usually little) English.
More to come on ski experience in Hakuba!