Around two years ago, just before the earthquake, we went skiing in Hakuba in Japan and 2012 was the first time I’ve spent significant time in Japan since then. It took pretty much that long for my finances to recover. . . Two years ago Hakuba blew me away with its combination of snow, nature and beauty as well as the unexpected discovery of an artisan coffee shop.
There is now a significant ghetto of Australian bars and restaurants and there is no doubt that Hakuba is thoroughly discovered. The disappointment is not because I dislike Australians but there is often something special about tourism in Japan and the feeling of cultural isolation it gives. A bunch of other Westerners overrides that and makes it a bit easy. Also please forgive the Roger Moore-esque picture of me jumping below; it felt like I was at least 20m off the ground rather than cm.
Still what makes Hakuba special is still there and just like the French do in the Alps it is easy to avoid the foreign invaders. The snow is overwhelming. Fresh powder every morning. And often by the afternoon again it comes down so heavy. You combine that with Japanese food and onsens in the evening and it is pretty much what a skiing holiday should be.
And as a food blog I have to rave about the food. We are talking ramen which is better than anything you can get in any European city and udon which is the equal of Koya in London. But on a mountain. In most countries what you get is something fried and then refried and beer.
We spent our evenings first soaking our bones in onsen and then in sake. Unfortunately, or thinking clearly, fortunately, you can’t take pictures inside the onsen but soaking in them is something I am mildly obsessive. When back in Europe one of the reasons I loved Italy even more than the people, food and wine was their network of al fresco hot springs. In Hakuba if you go to private ones like in the picture below you also have the inappropriate privilege of being able to drink whilst you soak.