Even though I’m not the most stylish or fast skier going around, I just love skiing. So when the opportunity came up to write about our trip to Nozawa Onsen for Flight Centre’s award-winning, Travel Ideas mag, I jumped at it. You can read my take on skiing in Japan here.
As you’ve probably guessed I love skiing, and I’ve had a great time skiing in Japan over the years. This piece, for Jetstar Asia is comparing the big boy of Niseko with the traditional little resort of Nozawa Onsen. Both are great, but for very different reasons. Check out my story Two Sides, Two Rides to find out why.
In Niseko, one of Japan’s best ski resorts, the dining options are endless. I think in my week long stay there I managed to only put a small dent in my list of potential restaurants. Izakaya style dining was popular and I loved it. Beers hover around the 500 yen mark (about $5 if I’m being generous) and the menu of small dishes is designed to accompany them. Ebisu-tei is in the lower Hirafu area of the village and seats around 20.
The menu has a range of sashimi by the fish, I chose the salmon and tuna at about 480 yen each.
After dinner, on the way home I popped into the Fridge Bar, also known as Gyu Bar, a folksy, wooden, cosy cocktail bar, nicknamed after it’s tiny little fridge door.
Have you ever tried cross country skiing? While in Niseko, Japan recently, I decided it was time to try. With so many great days skiing in Japan under our belt, it was easy to take one day out to try something new. As we drove up to the cross country course near the town of Kutchan, our guide Tadashi mentions that Saori, our instructor was once a national champion cross country skiier. Wow, no pressure to perform at all! I’m not an advanced downhill skier so it was going to be interesting.
We laced up our little booties and connected into our thin, thin skis, were given some pointers and away we went. There are two types of cross country skiing – classic, where the skis sit in grooves in the snow and you propel yourself along the track, or skating which is a bit more freestyle and you propel yourself from side to side. For the record, harder than it looks (and it looks funny!).
The track is about 10km long which took us about 45 mins to complete with photo stops and technique lessons. It was so relaxing, yet hard at the same time and I can see why cross country skiers are so fit. Saori mentioned casually that she used to run 60km some days in the off season to stay fit. Ah ha.
Hills were quite exhilarating – technique is to hop in the tracks, crouch as low as possible and push off and hold your nerve. I lost my nerve on one corner but to my delight so did Tadashi, so I didn’t feel so uncoordinated. I also totally messed up the track so it was no wonder he fell over after me!
After our lesson, we all went to lunch together, in the shadow of the mighty Mt Yotei. Some people visit Niseko for a couple of weeks and never see Mt Yotei, which is very close, due to it dumping snow all the time. On this day we were lucky enough to not only see it, but have lunch in the foothills of it at a place called Houzuki, an udon cafe run by Ito Katsuya, originally from Tokyo. At lunch I learn Saori is quite the go getter. She runs a business, N-Souls providing private childcare, maid and cooking services to guests in Niseko lodges, runs the cross country ski school and coaches a team from Tokyo University, has her own cross country ski magazine and is a Mum to the gorgeous little Clare.
I order the same dish as Saori and Tadashi, the cold vegetable udon noodles that are topped with tempura. It was divine. The cold udon noodles were rubbery (in this case that’s a good thing!) and had a dressing of soy, ginger, radish, lemon and spring onion. The tempura of sweet potato, capsicum, potato and zucchini is light and crunchy and divine when dipped in the dressing…aaah I’m craving this now!
Thanks to Tadashi Takehara for the photos, and SkiJapan.com for organising the cross country ski tour.
You wouldn’t expect a fine bowl of piping hot Tempura Udon on a train platform…except in Matsumoto, Japan. With 20 minutes to kill and two hungry bellies, we found the restaurant with no name (Japanese language specialists feel free to translate the shop sign). Japanese fast food joints love a ticket machine. Looking at a very confusing wall of options, I found the tempura udon with the help of the ladies behind the counter. It came out fast and we sucked the noodles back in record time. A crunchy pattie of whole prawns with shells on, carrot, potato and unidentified seafood sat on top a clear broth, thick udon noodles and spring onions. All for 500 yen! Bargain and delicious.