So firstly if you are just reading this post I should let you know that in March 2020 I honeymoone in Japan. This was at the start of Covid 19 when it was just called the Corona virus and the British government said it was safe to go! So off we flew with the air hostess wearing masks and gloves.
Which felt a bit alien to us…. not any more.
We felt pretty safe in Japan as everything was clean, 60% of people were wearing masks and Japan was quiet. We didn’t face many crowds and the whole world was just getting on with it. Italy had not yet shut down and all the horrific deaths had just been reporting China and the cruise ship off Japan.
It felt safe and quiet.
Really, really quite.
Restaurants where half empty, bars, shops it was really tough to see. Zao Onsen was half closed down due to the lack of tourism and they were suffering for it.
Some places were really busy and others were just not.
We stepped off the bus into crisp cold air and the town was white with snow. We had 3 nights booked and we were excited for this part of our trip.
We went to Zao Onsen to do two days snowboarding up in the beautiful mountains. The trees look like they are made of glass it definitely felt like we were in Narnia . It was too warm to see the famous Zao Onsen snow monsters but we could see there out lines and it was still filled with magic.
We got to see a different side of Japan and in many ways we were really lucky. We definitely lucked out with Snowboarding.
I should tell you that because of all the onsens the whole town smelled like eggs, stinky eggs. You soon get used to it but it did permeate everywhere.
Hotel Matsukaneya Anex
Our hotel was pretty much empty, the owners were amazing and attentive. They picked us up from the station, advised us where to go for food and dropped us back at the station. We had two onsens to choose from and the food was pretty great two. I am going to do a review of all the hotels we stayed in. This on was defiantly brilliant, great budget hotel full of character and wonderful people.
The room was large and the heating was on so it was nice and cosy! We stayed in a traditional futon in the floor which was comfortable enough and we spent our evenings in the Onsen and watching movies on my Amazon Tablet ( the only time I used it!) plus I got to wear the robe to dinner which I loved!
Our hotel was a short walk to a main rope way (gondola) and we went straight to the top of the mountain. Like most of my trips I have no confidence on my first slope but we had no one with us. It was icy cold. My hair froze in its place and matted together. It was so cold but like all boarding trips, when its that cold you keep on moving.
When we went boarding in Le Deuce Alps, we had a lot of blizzards and wind. In japan we had less but still some moments when the slope whited out and you could see nothing. I had to hunker down in fear of being blown off the mountain (that was never going to happen).
The slopes were great wide and flat and unlike any mountain I have ever been on they were filled with trees from top to bottom! It was really stunning and I loved it. We celebrated our 11 years together on the mountain which was pretty special. Definitely an anniversary to remember.
I would love to tell you that this was the first snowboarding trip without tears but that would be a big fat lie.
In Japan they have chairlifts that don’t have a safety. You just sit in them. As someone with a fear of heights I found this unbearable. I hate chairlifts generally, and will happily do my best to avoid them. We took a wrong turn down the most beautiful slope only for the fear to take hold of me. I was angry, blaming Gavin for taking me this way knowing there was a chairlift at the end. I cried the whole way and begged him not to move so much. He decided to take a photo of me in this moment. ( charming)
This would have been fine if we didn’t take anther wrong turn and end up at the same bloody chair lift again. I could not believe it. Gavin looked sheepishly at me and looked like he was prepared to walk back up the hill but I whizzed past him and got on the terrible thing again. I didn’t cry this time but I was scared.
It was horrible.
We rented our boards so we dropped them off at the rental place every night to save us from having to carry them. We soaked our tired bodies in the natural onsens. I really miss the Onsens! And had dinner at the ryokan.
There wasnt any apres ski at all. Everything was pretty much closed. So we went to a little cafe bar every day, I had hot sake and Gavin had local beers ( Japan beer is excellent) and we treated ourselves to a bowl of chips. The food was good here, very french and Gavin craved Ramen every day! But we weren’t here for long.
I am not sure whether Japan has good apres ski, when we come back it will be interesting to see! Renting our gear was easy but it was expensive but it was our honeymoon and we wanted to treat ourselves.
Like all of our trip so far Yamagata was beautiful and wonderful. We wish there had been more to do but with the current Covid crisis we were also great full for everything we got to experience.
The slopes were beautiful and empty, they felt very blue/ green on a french scale. Icy patchy and some blizzard weather but on the whole pretty great!
I would love to go snowboarding again but next time I am back I want to discover more or Japan, explore further up from Yamagata.
Have you been skiing/ snowboarding in Japan?
What did you think?
Hotel Matsukaneya Anex ホテル松金屋アネックス