Japan in December 2019 – Day Eleven: Niseko to Sapporo via Otaru

The day we left Niseko was an extremely cold -14c and very icy. When leaving our accomodation I immediately slipped over on the ice. Fortunately I wasn’t too hurt and we didn’t have to wait long in the cold for the bus to Sapporo.

The bus ran from the mountains of Niseko through to the northern coast of Hokkaido island and then inland again to the city of Sapporo. While reading my guidebook, along the way, we decided to get off early at a fishing town called Otaru, where we had some excellent fresh fish and seafood for lunch.

After wandering around Otaru, we the caught a train to Saporro. Our accomodation in Saporro was a traditional Japanese Ryokan inside a modern apartment/office building. Where we were welcomed into our room with a traditional tea ceremony. Overall it was a great experience and something that was certainly different to places I’ve stayed before.

Japan In December 2019 – Days Nine and Ten: Skiing Niseko

The planning of our trip was very last minute, in fact, we didn’t book our accommodation in Niseko until we were already in Tokyo for a few days.

Because of this lack of forward planning, we ended up staying in a small village called Annupuri, which my guidebook did point out was an area with less tourists and more locals.

As it turned out, our stay in Annupuri was fantastic. The hostel where we stayed was family run, with a fresh cooked breakfast each morning, and a very friendly host who we communicated with through a very well thoughtout flip chart of common questions he gets asked.

For our first day of skiing we caught a bus to the Grand Hirafu ski area, as we had booked ski lessons in English for my wife. While my wife learnt to ski, I ventured up the mountain and very quickly discovered a mix of both ice and powder.

One thing that was particuarly different about skiing in Australia is the “expert” runs would be similar to a blue run in Australia, except they had not been groomed. I very much prefered this style of run.

On our second day of skiing we decided to ski at the Annupuri resort. Overall both days skiing was excellent and I would love to return to ski more.

Japan in December 2019 – Day Four: Fujisan

Our trip to see Mount Fuji was not planned. Much like the rest of our trip, we decided what to do each day, while eating breakfast. By the time we had decided we were going to go to Mount Fuji it was around midday and we quickly hoped on a train from Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto.

Mount Fuji as seen from the train heading towards Hakone-Yumoto.
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Reflections on 2021

In the middle of 2021 I saw a simple cartoon which was two calendar’s talking to each other. The first calendar, 2020, says “I’m the worst year ever”, the second calendar, 2021, says “Hold my beer”.

In reality it is hard to tell if 2021 was really worse than 2020. In many ways it was the same, in some ways it was better and in others it certainly was worse.

To start with the good, in Australia, we had a decent run from February to May of near normal lifestyles. Early in the year I moved house and, for the first time in over ten years, I have a backyard where I can spend a lot of time gardening and talking to the birds, lizards and spiders. Furthermore, in the later half of the year, we were all able to get vaccines and to travel interstate again.

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Japan in December 2019 – Day One: Tokyo

In December 2019 I went for a two week trip to Japan. At the time I had no idea it would be the last overseas trip I would take for more than two years and just how much things would begin to change only a month later.

On the morning of my first day in Tokyo I explored the area around Ginza, the Tsukiji Fish Market and the Hama-rikyū Gardens.

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