It was going to be my first exploration of Japan outside of Tokyo, we were going to Karuizawa and ski on a resort off Mount Asama. I’ve explored the subway system of Tokyo and was starting the get the hang of navigating my way through this interconnected network of trains and had a few destinations picked out to explore but this was someplace far off and exciting, not your tourist stop by any means at least not for foreigners. This is more of a get away place for locals from Tokyo, it is kind of like my adventure to Buzios in Brazil, not your typical tourist stop unless you wish to revisit the ’98 winter Olympics . McTigger’s brother-in-law works at a company that has a cabin employees can rent out for a few days and where sometimes they show clients, but this weekend it was all ours to enjoy and we did just that except for the little mishap where we almost slid off the mountain.
It was a few hours drive and seeing that most people don’t own cars in Tokyo we rented one to get us there. After passing through and winding around mountains that stretched across Japan we finally began to ascend one where we would go skiing, well they would go skiing I flung snowballs at McTigger’s niece. The slopes and view were amazing, it was the first time I’d seen snow since entering Japan and minus the lifts and skiers it was as if we were out in the wilderness enjoying the beautiful background painted by an artist. Yet even in awe of admiration the cold started to freeze our toes and the sun began to set. The drive up was a winding twist and turn of an adventure with little way for two cars to pass each other and little guard rail if any to keep you from going off a cliff so we didn’t want to explore that adventure before it got dark.
We packed up and headed out, only to slide back towards the ski resort entrance. We got out the snow chains but couldn’t get them to fit around the tires. I would of read the directions for help but seeing I don’t speak Japanese we were at a loss and decided to back up and gun it. After about 4 or 5 tries we finally made it up the hill before we began our descent and that is when I quickly learned the word for ‘Slow’ (Yukuri) as McTigger’s sister pleaded with her husband as we slid down the mountain side. As you would have guessed, we hit ice and not break nor screams would slow us down as we fast approached the snow bank that lined the edge. I was sitting on what would naturally be for me the driver side, yet here I was a passenger desperately reaching for a steering wheel that did not exist, hitting breaks that were never there. Seconds ago I was snapping photos of the sunset from the car drifting off in thought before I was hurled back to reality at just the right moment to slide off a mountain.
The front of the car began to raise as we hit the bank and then it appeared, a thin steel wire fence buried in the snow appeared as it stretched out over nothingness and pushed us back onto road, onto land and out of the air it caught everything but my heart which had for the moment escaped me along with my breath.
The rest of the ride down was filled with awkward laughs and quick breaths every time we reached a bend until we finally safely reached the bottom. The flat level drive to the cabin was a long one but nobody cared because we never reached higher than a few feet off the ground and the ice melted away before we even reached the bottom of the mountain. We had to go up a little to reach the cabin but by then we were all tired and worn out and ready to go inside and what a surprise we had in store.
We entered this large cabin and I ran along with McTigger’s niece as giddy and excited as a school child at how amazing it was. A large open area, fire place, two onsens (hot baths) and multiple rooms equipped with traditional Japanese style robes and green tea, I was in heaven. We all quickly headed to our rooms to unpack and head off to the onsen where we sat and relaxed as the hot water relaxed any tensed muscles. Once we came out refreshed as if new altogether we sat down to an impressive display of culinary wit as our housekeeper prepared a traditional Japanese style meal for us to gorge ourselves on.
That day we reached all levels of emotions, discomfort and anxiousness from a long car ride, anxiety and fear from a hill side ice slide and relaxation and a full belly from the onsen followed by a full meal and in the end we all slept soundly.
The next morning we lounged around and enjoyed the cabin for all it had to offer before embarking on our return journey home, which included a complimentary experience of Tokyo traffic.
For more photos click on one of the thumbnails listed below to check out all the great photos from my trip to Mount Asama!
Don’t forget to fling this post to others if you like what you see!