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back again

After leaving Japan for several months I’m finally back for the winter season. Japow here I come!

My trip started with the perfect “welcome back” dinner and already the next day Sascha & me were sitting in the plane to Hokkaido. To follow our tradition, we decided to go winter camping again and  travel from ski area to ski area. Tough so, because our own camper is already on the way to Germany. The solution: renting a camper at FujiCar and so we are on the road again.

First stop Furano ski area. It’s smaller than Niseko with a less touristic city but nice slopes and some options for freeriding. We were lucky and had some fresh powder but more important: Sun!! Really, this was the first time for me to have such perfect weather when skiing in Hokkaido.

And this continued when we arrived at Asahidake. -17 degrees plus sun! OMG! We met again with Toshi Totori who was guiding us up the mountain. The gondola is not running yet so we hiked up twice that day which means rougly 14km in snowshoes. Worth every step when standing on the top and having a powder field just for yourself! And Toshi had another surprise for us and send us down a 5m drop in between an rocky Mountainfield. Arghhh! Afterwards it felt good 😄

Christmas was coming closer so we moved to Niseko. More touristic, more restaurants and shopping areas and a large ski area! Snow is not yet as high as expected but it’s snowing like hell which is good of course. And Christmas? We had spaghetti in our camper with some sparkling wine in paper cups and very, very withe Christmas days ….

tamagawa cycling tour

I really thought I’m quite trained at them moment. Going jogging on regular base, hiking, mountain biking…
But the last week showed me the sad truth. I’m still not 100% ready for a Tamagawa cycling tour, following the river from Tokyo up to the mountains an back. Anyway – I did it, but the second day and the last 10km I was really done.
The whole trip included roughly 80km to Okutama, a night at a camping side on a river beach and 70km back home. For almost 60km you can just cycle along the Tama River on a well prepared cycle path. only the last 20km you have to take the main street or the small streets trough the villages to get to the mountains.
We stayed at a the Kawai camping ground and brought our own tent & sleeping bags – not as light weight luggage as it should be 🙂 the area was not crowded at all due to low season so we could enjoy the camp fire at the river all by ourself!
Don’t forget to bring food and drinks – Otherwise the last Kombini is in Mitake!

shikoku – road trip around the underrated island

Golden Week 2015! Time for another road trip to the south.
Until now Sascha and me only shortly passed through Shikoku. It looked really nice so we decided to spend some more time on the not so famous island.
Because of the long distance we spend one night at Mikawa Bay on a parking space next to the sea. Very calm and with a nice view to some island.
Next morning we drove to Awaji island, passing the famous Onaruto Bridge from where you can see whirlpools created by mixing the Japanese inland’s sea with the open ocean. Maybe it’s more impressive if you take the boat-sightseeing tour.
But when seeing the coastline of Awaji island we decide to stay one day and thanks to Google Maps we did not only find a nice beach, but as well a campsite (Fukiagehama Camping Ground). The owners were really friendly, happy about our minor Japanese skills and we could choose any space on the campsite.
After checking the area, where mainly onions are planted, and a nice breakfast on the beach on the next morning, we continued our journey to Shikoku.

There, first stop was Mt Tsurugi – be aware if you come by car – the roads are verryyyy adventurous. Steep, narrow, old serpentine roads up the mountain. We met some friends at the lift station and spend the night on the parking area, to be early for the hike on the next morning. After a 4hours hike (you can shorten it by taken the lift) we enjoyed a beautiful view over the landscape – but we had to share it with a bunch of people due to golden week travel time.
Being in the mountains already we drove to Iya Valley the next day. Again winding roads along river gorges and through old, small towns, ending up at a gorgeous onsen! You have to go by cable car 200 meters down to enjoy the bath next to the river. Worth the travel time 🙂
Next stop: Beach! Driving along the beautiful Shimantogowa including some stops for lunch at the river, we ended up at the sea side of Shikoku in the south-west. The beaches in Futami as well as on Tosashimizu are quite famous for nice waves. Even so the weather was bad on the first day it was crowded by Surfers. So we just pitched in!
But Tosashimizu does not only have beaches so we made a bike tour along the coastline up the southern point of the peninsula. Sun was burning and we had to paddle up 9km first, followed by 30km beautiful coastline.
Impressed by this very calm atmosphere of this part of Shikoku we drove further along the Ashizuri sunny road, ending up at an even nicer lagoon. The parking space included shower and barbecue place, so we just had to stay 🙂
Good decision! The area has very interesting volcanic stone formations which can partly be hiked along the coastline, and an Underwater Observatory. And guess what – I never saw that much Puffer- and Box fishes! Afterwards I learned, this area is famous for diving, so if you ever go there please try!

Being on road trip mode already we drove further to Sokumo Bay, Close to Otsuki. Landscape is getting rougher here, but the water is impressively blue. What else so find here? The whole area contains of small fishing villages and mikan (sort of oranges) plantations. No Kombini, No big cities….
100km further in Ehime, we stayed on the あけはまオートcamping ground next to another white sandy beach, blue water and no person there. When arriving, we were watched a little bit sceptical at first, so I guess not many foreigners have been here yet. But after the first shock the atmosphere got very friendly 🙂
Last stop on our trip, after a short visits of the Matsuyama castle, was the inlands-sea-island-tour. We did this as any good tourist by bike with a one night stay at the sun set beach on Ikuchi Island. Also here the parking area provides showers and barbecue areas and … a nice sunset!

The butt hurts, 10 days travel done – time to head back home! One last Ramen (noodle soup) in Onomichi and we were back on the road to Tokyo…
Shikoku? Beautiful underrated island! One of the most beautiful spots of Japan from my point of view!

last days in the snow

This might be the last snow weekend in Japan for now!
Had a really fun weekend at Ahsahidake beginning of February – Asahidake is famous for being on of the best the powder & free ride areas of Hokkaido. Unluckily when we arrived, there was only harsh snow left over. This was very unusual for February as I learned. Asahidake has only two ski slopes and one gondola, therefore the first day was not really demanding. So we visited the snow festival in Asahikawa which was a funny alternative, even so it might be a smaller festival than the famous one in Sapporo.
Next day the wind was so strong the gondola did not work at all, so we packed some snow shoes and hiked up. Beautiful landscape and even a snow rabbit to see!
Luckily weather and snow were perfect at day three and we enjoyed a real powder day with the local guide Toshi (Totori Powder station), who really knows the area and showed us amazing free ride slopes trough the woods! Thanks for that!
Conclusion: Ashaidake is really a place to go if you are an experienced skier and you want to have some real Hokkaido Powder! But be aware – there is not much else to do (which was perfect for me) and you should not underestimate this mountain! It’s worth spending the money to be guided trough the area!

Now – this weekend it was the time to visit one of Honshu’s famous powder locations: Myoko Kogen, which consist of around 5 ski areas. Best description here: powderhounds. The snow was even higher than in Hokkaido, but also quite different! Even so we had fresh snow it was much more wet and less fluffy. But this is complaining an a real high level! Because on the one hand this years snow is said to be extra wet on the main island and on the other hand: come on – 4m snow and 20cm fresh powder, how bad can it be 😉 I visited Seki Onsen, which is the smallest of the ski areas, but known for a lot of nice back country. I really liked this snowy small village with the tiny Onsen and the nice ski huts! Worth a visit!

So – eventuell war das jetzt das letzte Mal Skifahren in Japan! Snief! Wir waren Anfang Februar in Hokkaido, Asahidake – bekannt für jede Menge Tiefschnee zur Wintersaison. Nach etwas Pech an den ersten Tagen hatten wir dann einen super Tag mit einem Lokalen Guide, der uns die Gegend gezeigt hat! Dank schlechtem Wetter gab’s auch noch einen Kurztrip nach Asahikawa um das dortige Snow Festival zu besuchen.

Und dieses Wochenende musste es noch mal ein Skigebiet auf der Hauptinsel sein, Myoko Kogen liegt in den japanischen Alpen und man fährt entlang 4m hohen Schneemauern hoch in die Berge. Der Schnee ist hier zwar wirklich weniger fluffig als in Hokkaido aber es war auf jeden Fall den Besuch wert 🙂

hokkaido in winter

Pre-warning.
If you are not interested in winter sports, no need to watch this video. It mainly shows snow. A lot of snow.
in addition to my powderBlog entry, some moving images for Japan tourism promotion and to pay off my GoPro 😉

Achtung.
Falls dich Wintersport nicht interessiert, dieses Video am besten nicht angucken. Denn es geht darin nur um Schnee – und davon jede Menge. Eindrücke von meinem Winterurlaub in Hokkaido hab’ ich ja schon geteilt. Jetzt gibt’s dazu das passende Bewegtbild, damit sich der Kauf der GoPro auch gelohnt hat 😉

Musik: ZOE.LEELA,  Pop Up

powder, powder and powder again!

First of all: Happy new year! Hope you all had a great start into 2015!
Speaking for myself, I had quite a adventurous holiday.
After spending Christmas time in Germany, Sascha & me packed our Camper van for some days in the Hokkaido snow paradise!
Just in case you wonder:
Yes, with the idea of sleeping in the car! Yes, it gets quite cold in Hokkaido in winter time 🙂

Because again we were too lazy to book the ferry from Aorai or Niigata to Hokkaido upfront, we drove to Aomori and took the ferry to Hakodate which goes more often and is more flexible to book short-termed.
Arriving on the northern island, suddenly streets were covered with snow, and I was happy that we came with winter tires and brought snow chains.
After another 2 hour drive we arrived in the Niseko area. Puh, in total our journey took 16hours, and I was not convinced at the first day, it’s gonna be worth it.
The first Ski Area we visited was Niseko Moiwa, known for being less crowded. Which is true, but as well it is somehow small.
But anyway a good, easy start with not as much powder as I expected. This changed over night!

Covered under blankets, the first night was surprisingly warm with only -5 degrees. We parked the Car on a parking area close to the Gondola in Hirafu and next morning we had snow up you the lower door ridge. So therefore the day in the Niskeo Hanazono Ski area was just perfect! Even new powder on the slope and in the backcountry you could totally sink into the fresh powder.
And it continued like this! Only disadvantage was, also the temperature decreased and the wind got very strong for some days, so extra clothes and a hot Onsen bath after the day in the snow was necessary to warm up again.

New Year’s Eve we spend outside with a bunch of Australian people, and a fireworks in front of Mt. Yotei!
And the résumé, of 4 days winter camping in Hokkaido? I have to say, the North of Japan is getting my favourite part of the beautiful country and I’m afraid, I will never have such nice powder snow again back in Europe. Therefore, all the freezing was worth it!