When you let friends and random people know that you are traveling internationally to somewhere new and different, you are
generally not expecting the reaction of “Why there??” (accompanied with a look of worry) Although this was the look and reaction Wayne and I received when announcing our trip to the Japan Alps.
Typical response: “Well we wanted to go on a ski trip.”
Confused friend: “Too Japan?!? Do they have snow?”
Typical response: “Well the country of Japan is a giant mountain protruding out of the ocean, so Japan is actually one big mountain range with snow over the top.”
Confused friend: “Ohhh. Huh.” (Slowly moves away)
Why is it so odd to want to go so far? Why the fuzzle not? Right? It seems like an understandable desire. Why would anyone snuff going off on an adventure? Perhaps I do not want to go skiing in the Rockies!
We attended the ski and snowboard show in Chicago last week, and all I kept thinking was how much I wanted to go on a ski trip
somewhere exciting again. Would I receive the same ridicule? We were suggested to go to the Swiss Alps near Geneva/southern France, and I am certain that this is what we should do next year.
Why is it that people feel this right to ask about trips in any sort of negative form? Hey if I get to travel that’s fantastic! If I get to save to travel in order to go skiing and do something not a lot of people get to do? Even better! I wonder. Is this normal? Has anyone else been asked about a trip in a somewhat accusatory way?
I think that there may be a couple of things I need to wrap up about my trip to Japan. Let’s all get the first thing straight about Japanese people (from my own observations and experience), everyone we met wanted so much to help us and advise us as best as they could. Most times when we would be at a loss and asking for help, the locals
that we would be asking would go out of their way to look it up and try their best to explain it (but in Japanese). The culture of the Japanese seems to be very polite and happy and inclusive. It was just that the language barrier was so in your face, I couldn’t help my frustration getting the best of me. There were many situations where we would ask for help and the person would fully understand us but be incapable of answering. Much of the literature I had read about traveling to Japan said that English was quite present, people I talked to who had visited before had said that English was very common, Wayne’s friends agreed and said the same thing….lies. Not true. I just wasn’t prepared. Especially when doing the research and being completely side swiped by the shock of it.
Also, we were very rushed in Tokyo. I don’t think you could ever prepare to be in Tokyo
and be rushed. There is just so much to see and do there. There are so many places that claim to have the best food of Tokyo, and dozens of beautiful parks and so many neighborhoods. If you have limited time and are headed to Tokyo, do NOT…I’ll repeat…please Do Not ask people of the “must see” places there. I made that mistake. I had it in my head that I knew all the places we “had” to check out. Well while I am sure that the garden in Shinjuku is absolutely incredible in full bloom, it however is NOT a must see on a cold and slightly rainy March afternoon. I think (if you were to listen to my advice) if I were to do it over again, I would lay out each neighborhood and commit to one. There are a million things to see Tokyo. There is a ton of history there, and you will never run out of things to do or places to eat. If you try and hop all over Tokyo in one day, you will be almost guaranteed to spend ¾ of your day in the underground system.
Best parts of my trip to Japan (because I hate to give off the impression to my friends and family that it was a terrible trip, when it just -> Didn’t Go As Planned) were:
Three girls in the park with sign that read “Free Hugs” and just about peed their pants when I hugged each of them
The amazing guys in the black van outside of the train station who saved me and Wayne from sleeping on the streets of Tokyo
Tokyo restaurants and how everyone working at them had our backs, and literally ran to get us the menu in English
The Meiji Shrine. Incredible. Serene. A true escape to one of the most peaceful corners of the world in the middle of a big city
Hakuba. Best little/big town in the middle of the Alps. The skiing is so accessible, and there are secret shrines and temples, and countless places to eat. If I were to go back to Japan, it would definitely be to this BEAUTIFUL town.
Keido (aka Shannon)the Australian who helped Wayne and I with so much in Hakuba.
The history that is very present in the sites around Japan whether they are shrines, sculptures, temples, geishas, or food.
I am so happy I had the opportunity to go to Japan. I am disappointed on how the last few days turned out and I am definitely working on getting a control on my frustrations, but I do not want to dismiss Japan. The best advice I could say about going ANYWHERE in Japan…do your research.
Today was our first day of skiing up on Happo One in Hakuba, and at times it was quite draining. The altitude didn’t really have any effect on us other than our ears constantly popping, but the exhausting difference in standard of ski runs and basic ski etiquette. We overheard a group of Aussies at a cafe talking about the Japanese not being afraid to run anyone down with their snowboard. Which is totally fine because we’re in their culture so gotta except it right??
I had a fairly rough time keeping up with Wayne and at times we were separated until the bottom of the mountain. But in the end, we found one another and continued to enjoy the beauty of the Alps.
I am the type of traveler who loves to plan, and research, and plan, and schedule, and plan and plan. I have a tough time when events are out of my control. It makes me genuinely angry that I couldn’t hold on to what I wanted to happen. It’s not that I create schedules of things to do at certain times but ill look up possibilities of things that I’d like to see or happen. We couldn’t go travel to see Mount Fuji, but I made sure I saw it from an observatory in Tokyo. We couldn’t find our Tokyo hotel, yes I cried out of anger, but I had to let my control go and figure out something else.
Up here in the mountains, I didn’t do research on the people or towns very extensively since I knew we would be on the mountain the majority of the time and its great! I WOULD like to see the snow monkeys of the Alps, but we are here to ski. So if it happens it happens and if it doesn’t then it doesn’t. It’s so relaxing and takes a load off my mind! Im not trying to think of the next place to go or how to get there. So as I’ve come to find out, sometimes it ok to let that control down. I still always suggest some research or reading prior to a trip, but try to enjoy that country as you’re in it! Ski if you must ski!!