Now I’m feelin so fly like a G6

Tokyo is not a pretty city. Post-war, low level construction, a very few middling signature buildings and an entire city criss-crossed with train tracks, subway tracks, rail bridges, overhead fly-overs have all combined to really make a city that is not pleasing to the eye. And yet, aside from places I have lived, Tokyo is the place I have spent the most time in (well, maybe Bangkok, but I think I’ve been to Tokyo more times). It really is one of my favorite places in the world to be.

With the recent Chinese New Year holiday going on for 8 days this year, my friends and I decided to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit festivities by getting the heck out of China and off to Japan for some days on the slopes and a few days in the capital.

When I used to live in Hong Kong, I used to go up to Nagano and Hokkaido for snowboarding almost every year. And usually our mountain of choice was Happo-one (pronounced “Oh-nay” not “one”)

This year, however, we chose to go to Nozawa Onsen, which is also in the Nagano area staying at wonderful Jonobi Hotel..

Nozawa-onsen and the surrounding ski area were not quite as big and expansive as Happo-one, but the town was much much cooler with many public onsens (baths) on the streets (for free!) as well as a great little bar street, shops selling local pickles and fruit compote – compared with Happo’s, well, nothing.

And the snowboarding? Couldn’t have been better. Here’s some photos:

This is the villagers only outdoor public onsen.

Villagers Only Outdoor Onsen

Having dinner with friends Evan and Colin

I believe Tonkatsu is being ordered here

Look at the sun and the snow! Conditions were PERFECT!

View from mid mountain

Snowboarding PIKACHU!

PIKACHU!!

View over Nozawa-onsen.

Night colors in Nozawa-onsen

Sunny day!

Brilliant day

Back in Tokyo, I just did the usual thing – shopping in Omotesando and Shibuya. Eating. But we also stayed in the super cool Hotel CLASKA which was the Wallpaper* 2004 Hotel of the Year.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

Hina Sushi at Shibuya Seibu

@Shibuya Seibu by [Terence], on Flickr”>Hina Sushi <a href=@Shibuya Seibu” />

Breakfast at Hotel CLASKA

@ Hotel CLASKA by [Terence], on Flickr”>Breakfast <a href=@ Hotel CLASKA” />

The rest of the photos are here

Note: the blog title post refers to the ironic theme song of the trip.

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6 Responses to Now I’m feelin so fly like a G6

  1. Terence says:

    Hmmm, somewhere between transferring this blog post from word to wordpress, a whole paragraph about Tokyo got misplaced. And I can’t find it on the original word document either. So here it is. . . somewhat recreated:

    After having lived, travelled and worked around Asia, I realized what makes Japan (and Tokyo specifically) very different than the rest of East and South East Asia. The realization was this: In Japan, in general, people view quality as the most important aspect of consumer interaction. Whereas, oftentimes in China (and by extension Hong Kong and Taiwan) efficiency and speed (at least in well trained establishments) are viewed as the ideal, every interaction in Tokyo, especially in the retail or service industries seemed to focus on bringing the consumer the best possible service or product, regardless of the amount of time it took.

    Secondly, Tokyo is the coolest city on Earth. I say that with a lifetime of cool hunting under my belt. What defines cool? Well, it’s a combination of street-wise youth culture, cutting edge fashion and a focus on, again quality. While multiple cities have cool districts (say, Changle Lu in Shanghai, Mongkok and Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, Shi Men Ding in Taipei, Melrose in Los Angeles), the entire city of Tokyo was just one giant incubation for cool youth and street culture. I really do believe that the Harajuku-Omotesando neighborhood is the coolest neighborhood on Earth.

  2. sushipanda says:

    Terence, do you mind telling me how much $$$ you spent on this itinerary overall? I’ve never been to Japan and I miss snowboarding, and looking at these pics makes me want to start planning my first ever trip! Thanks!

  3. Terence says:

    @sushipanda – Flight to Tokyo was about 4000 rmb. Hotels were about $125 US/night (but you can definitely go for cheaper – especially up in the mountains), lift tickets were about $50/day, train tickets up and back to Nagano were $100 US/each way and meals averaged out to about $15/meal (but obviously you can go cheaper there too). I have my own snowboard, boots and clothes, but the rental prices for those things were actually very decent. Aside from the flight, snow sports in Japan are cheaper than snowsports in the US.

  4. Catherine says:

    Terence,
    I totally agree with you about how incredibly cool Japan is. I was absolutely enraptured from the minute I stepped off my first train (and that was in Yokohama, not even Tokyo). I felt like I was watching a runway show everywhere I went. I found the energy and creativity of Japan enormously exciting. It made me feel happy, young, and inspired (even though as a middle aged parent of a then 8-week-old I was probably further from any of those adjectives than ever before!). Six months later I’m still hoping my son decides to study abroad and then move to Japan one day so I’ll have many excuses to visit.
    -Catherine

  5. terence says:

    Hi Catherine – glad you could stop by the blog (despite the fact we haven’t seen each other since . . .what 1995?)

    You don’t need to hope your son studies abroad . .. take him as a youth! I travelled to Asia all the time growing up . . . and you can stop by Shanghai and come by and see me.

  6. Pingback: Chinese New Year mean Japan | you used to be alright

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