I love snowboarding. The family and I used to go skiing most every spring break, from elementary school through early high school, usually in the Rocky Mountains. I made the transition from skis to snowboard around the time I became a teen and really enjoyed it as a snowbound extension of all the skateboarding I did. It's been at least 6 years (possibly 8 ) since the last family ski outing and as time has gone on I've only wanted to go again more and more.
Moving to Japan, home to two winter Olympics, I had thoughts of possibly strapping back onto a board before even leaving Miami. However, not having a car tends to put a hamper on planning road trips, but I have been sidetracked by a lot of amazing Japanese experiences, so I haven't paid it much mind.
Before I'm asked, it does not snow in Fuji City.
An opportunity arose when I saw my buddy Atsutoshi make the following post on Facebook
Sure, why not? We settled on going to the village of Hakuba within Nagano prefecture and off we went Friday evening after we had both finished work.
The one caveat would be that we didn't have a place to stay and would be sleeping in the car. Not something I'm against at all, but I was really surprised to hear that it's an extremely common practice in Japan. Since people don't get a lot of time off, and you are probably never further than an 8 hour drive away from a resort, people will drive to the mountain after work on Friday, sleep in their car that night, ski first thing Saturday morning and drive back that evening. Sure enough, when we got to the parking lot at a little past midnight, there were at least a dozen other people sleeping in their cars.
Known as being the location of the Alpine, Ski Jump and Crosscountry events during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Hakuba dense with places to ride down mountains with great snow. I had originally thought that the ski resorts in Japan, being a relatively small country whose mountains aren't particularly high, wouldn't be all the great. Naturally, I was wrong.
Hakuba can certainly stand up next to most resorts around the world. It was a great place for me to ease myself back into the sport after so long away from it, a lot of varied terrain ranging from easy to moderately difficult and the weather was amazingly clear. On one chair lift ride we spoke to a Finnish man who was just wrapping up a 6 week ski trip in Hakuba because it's his favorite place to ski in the world and also doesn't really get too crowded.
It turned out that Atsutoshi had a friend from New Zealand that lives in the area and invited us to a "Hip-Hop Party" at some bar. It would mean sleeping in the car another night, but sure, why not?
The featured entertainment of the night would be live rap music, but before and during that there was also an ongoing mural/graffiti demonstration.
We met a lot of really nice people, most of which were from Tokyo, and had a really great time. Sleeping in the car this night wasn't too difficult, we were extremely exhausted from a long day of snowboarding and all the beer we drank didn't hurt either.
On our drive back to Fuji from Nagano we passed an amusement park...of course we did.
Fujikyu Highland, home to three record setting roller coasters: Fujiyama, formerly the world's tallest coaster; Dodonpa, the fastest accelerating roller coaster in the world, doing 0-172kph/107mph in 1.8 seconds; and Eejanaika, the world's second "4th dimension" coaster ("whereby riders are rotated independently of the orientation of the track").
I'm here to say that Eejanaika is by far the best roller coaster I have ever been on, was it ever terrifyingly amazing. It is high, extremely high, and words cannot describe it. Words can describe Dodonpa, extremely fast.
This really made for a great end to a great weekend. But I think seeing this in the parking lot on our way out made it even better:
Nothing compares to you Sankaku.
For a quick digest version of the weekend, watch this video: