Holiday Trip to Mainland Japan: Hakuba

Mark and I headed to our first stop, Hakuba, on a Sunday via Jetstar. We flew into Narita and, immediately, bought a bus ticket to Shinjuku Station. We'd bought a bus ticket straight to Hakuba from that station through Willer Express and it left at 7:00 pm with an arrival time of midnight. Our flight landed at 3-ish, which gave us just enough time to grab dinner and jump on the bus.

When we got to Shinjuku Station we met up with my friend, Amy, from my hometown. Her boyfriend had sent her on a worldwide scavenger hunt and I had her next clue! It was so exciting! She didn't know where she was going next or how long she was going to be gone... or that her boyfriend would soon be her fiance because he was proposing to her at her next stop! It was an incredible honor to be a part of their amazing engagement story. (Congrats, guys!)

When we made it to Hakuba, we planned to hail a taxi to get to Tabi-Tabi. Turns out, Hakuba is a bit of a ghost town at midnight. Who knew?! It was snowing like mad, too! So, in our normal clothes (read: not warm) we started walking.

Before we even made it a few steps from the bus stop, a van pulled up. I said a little prayer that this person would give us a ride and, what do ya know, she did! She opened up the back door of her van and asked if we'd mind riding on all of her empty kegs. Nah!

So I get settled. We're good to go. Then, BAM! She floors it... in the snow... and starts fish tailing. I go flying with nothing to catch me. Next thing I know, I'm on the floor of the van and surrounded by the kegs. Mark and I were CRACKING UP! She yells back, asking if I was okay, and continues on. It was hilarious and a fantastic way to start our trip.

The next morning, we woke up in a winter wonderland! It was so beautiful! Our lodge was welcoming and warm (both literally and figuratively). We got up, made some introductions, and headed out for our first day of skiing!

I decided to take a ski lesson since I was a complete newbie and Mark headed for the slopes to see how he would do after a few years. My lesson was pretty good! I mean, I was definitely wobbling around, but I didn't fall. I was pretty excited to tell Mark about my morning and try a bunny slope.

After a pretty traumatic hour of looking for Mark and thinking that he was dead on the slopes somewhere, he appeared with icicles on his eyelashes and a huge smile on his face. Long story short, my phone died quickly because of the cold weather and he'd gone down a slope on the other side of the mountain and had to wait for a bus that took forever to show up. After some hugs and tears of relief, we decided to get some lunch and beer at the top of the mountain and, then, Mark said we could just ski back down... no problem.

The mountain was terrifying. I fell all the way down... Well, actually, I only made it halfway down. It was terrible. Mark and I ended up not really speaking by the end of it all. Ha! I was wet, tired, and defeated. He was mad at himself for thinking me, a beginner, could take on such a trail so quickly. Then, to make matters worse, the store where we rented our gear closed early and we had to walk back to our lodge carrying it all with us. 

We made it back, I warmed up, and we regrouped. We headed out for dinner at Canada Tei and totally redeemed ourselves after the way we ended the day. I got a huge beer... something that helped ease the pain of my sore bones and muscles and we laughed about how awful I'd been on the mountain.

Our dinner was so delicious that it made me forget all about the bad parts of the day. I got wagyu beef sukiyaki (pictured above) and it wiped away my tears. Ha! Okay, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic... but with a buttery broth and amazing flavors, it did help.

The next day, after a small run-in with another mountain that I decided to hate, I had a great time! Mark went off on some slopes by himself and I stuck to the tiny ones. I didn't fall at all and I started to get really get the hang of it towards the end. I was still nervous and a bit wobbly, but I managed to enjoy myself! Success!

We ended the night with a trip to the lovely private bath (an accommodation at Tabi Tabi) and relaxed something serious! It was pretty amazing. I highly recommend staying at a place with a private bath because it's heavenly after being out and about on the slopes all day.

The last day, I stayed in the PJs all.day.long. I had a book to read and my nice, warm New Zealand wool socks. I was set! Mark headed out for this last day on the slopes and really did it big - he even managed to tear some tendons in his shoulder. Go big or go home, right?! (ps, he's fine)

We made one last stop at the delicious Canada Tei before leaving the next morning around 8:00 am and said farewell to beautiful Hakuba. Looking back, we could have spent our entire trip in this area. It would have been a very "snow bunny" vacay of onsens and hot chocolate, but we could have done it. It's just so beautiful! However, there was no time to waste. It was Christmas Day and we had Snow Monkeys to visit!!

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