Snow, snow monkeys, food and more snow.





Today, we are certain will be the most memorable day in Japan. It started with waking to snow falling softly outside our window and just continued.

We rugged up and had a stroll round the streets of Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, where we are staying on a traditional Japanese ryokan. The snow was so peaceful and pretty.

We then packed up for the day. 2 layers of thermal bottoms were the key. We were going to see the snow monkeys!  Our hosts very kindly lent us gumboots – 2 sizes too small but they would prove to be a godsend in the snow.

It kept snowing lightly as we left Togura station and was getting heavier as we came into Nagano. We grabbed coffees on the way through the station and got the bus heading to Shiga Kogen. The snow got heavier and heavier and most importantly the outside got whiter and whiter.

After about 40 mins we were dropped at the side of the road at Kanbayashi Onsen Iriguchi and quickly piled on more clothes and the gumboots as the snow was everywhere.  We walked up th hill to the start of the trail that heads up to Jigokudani Yaenkoen where the monkeys hang out and stopped for many photos along the way.

Oh the snow.

We walked through a pine forest which we just kept saying things like “whoa” “It’s so pretty” “sigh” “look at that snow” it was quite possibly the most beautiful track I’ve walked on.

The snow continued to fall and we stuck our tongues out from time to time to catch snow flakes.

Then we came to the monkeys, OMG so cool seeing them swimming, bathing, playing and grooming in the Onsen. They were such posers.  We walked back down the other side of the river on a road that is closed in winter. Oh so pretty. We made an armless snow person, snow balls and generally enjoyed the moment.

This took us down into a real old fashioned Onsen town – Shibu Onsen.

We then got the newly opened Snow Monkey express train into Nagano where we had a good preliminary look in a book shop and a department store. Oh the stationary! We grabbed a late lunch from the food hall and then got the train back to Togura where we had a cup of green tea then we walked round the corner to a foot Onsen to revive our sore and weary feet (the gumboots were great but they were tight).

Back to the ryokan where we would be having an amazing traditional meal served in our room. There were 12 different dishes/courses ! OMG it was incredible and it cost us about $35. Similar in Brisbane would be $200 plus we guess. We are getting the matching breakfast in the morning 🙂

I will post photos and more text about the meal when we get home. Tomorrow we are going to see a piggy bank museum and some other local shops before we get on the train to Tokyo.

Miyajima at high tide


This morning we headed back out to Miyajima to see the gate at high tide, we yet again had a little adventure with the public transport system but we build time for those adventures in to our scheduling. We had hoped that the cute little coffee shop we went past yesterday would be open ad the had a sign up for gingerbread lattes that sounded Luke a great breakfast. It was of course not open and we settled with drinks from 7-11. It was a beautiful sight to see the gate “floating” and it was made more beautiful by the fact that it started it started to snow as we were on the beach taking our photos. We had to make a dash back to the ferry but we made it. The coffee shop was still not open but we came across something great at the shop at the station. A 3 pack of green tea macarons for 105 yen. Yep you can pick your jaw up off the keyboard now. They were slightly more cake than typical macarons but they were oh so good. We are going to keep an eye out for more favours.

Back to the hostel to check out and then back to the station yet again which brings us to where we are now – on the bullet train making our way up to Nagano (3. 5 train legs to go) where they’ve had 2cm of snow forecast for this afternoon 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Snow, downtown and other adventures



After getting back from Miyajima yesterday afternoon, we picked up our bags from the locker at the station and made our way to the hostel not before a stop to pick up some citrus Kit-Kats (mmm Kit-Kats).  After checking in and discovering that we have a real urban Japanese view from our room (see the picture), we rugged up and got the street car downtown. We walked the streets and wished our feet were 3-5cm shorter as we found shop after shop that sold all types of socks (thigh high, knee high, ankles and oh so many sockettes) as well as tights, stockings and leg warmers. There were so many pretty things.

Our stomachs continued to grumble but we were yet again slightly scared by the signs we were seeing and our lack of understanding of what on earth they said. We came across a grocery store and our stomachs were saved. The Japanese do prepackaged food very well. I picked up some rice paper rolls and Georgie got steamed salmon and broccolini type vegetable tempura (yum). We also picked up snacks for the train and green tea Kit-Kats. We meandered round some more and tried not to open our eyes too wide at the prices in the gourmet grocery store.

We had look in a book store and I picked up the Cath Kidston spring/summer 2010 e-mook (google book or e-mook – they take gifts with purchases to a whole new level).  Speaking of Cath Kidston I’ve seen more of her bags in 12 hours than I’ve seen in the last year in Brisbane – I fit right in with my Cath Kidston saddle bag.

As we left the covered market streets we walked into something amazing;  it was snowing! Just little flurries but enough to know it was snow. We then made our way back to the hostel. Where the real adventure of the night would begin. You see, during our downtown adventures something was playing on my mind. Where on earth had I put my railpass?  It was not in my daybag as I had discovered on the street car. Back at the hostel we went through my day bag, the paperwork folder, the top of my pack, Georgie’s stuff, even pulled the room apart. At this point I’m starting to think a whole lot of explicit words that I’m not going to type. I thought I must have left it on the check-in counter but nope, nothing there and the lady was not all optimistic about JR replacing it even though I had it for less than a day. We headed up to the rail station and came to the police first and entered into a mix of English, Japanese and pointing to get what had happened across. A lost property form was filled out – I got to see my name written in Japanese and was given a reference number and told good luck.

Next we went to the JR ticket office and were told to go next door to the information office. We walked in and at this point I’m feeling terrible. We’ve got a million train rides to go and I’ve lost my pass and it would be a lot of money to buy all those individual tickets. At the information office we started the English and pointing about the pass and one of the officers asks where we are from, “Australia” we say and they go “ahh Australia” and one man goes into a little room and walks out with a rail pass. He then sits down at his computer and goes back to entering in other lost property with the rail pass sitting beside him. After a while he gets to the pass and prints off a sheet of paper and comes over to the counter. He then has a look at my passport and slowly opens the pass, we continue to grip the counter in the hope that it is my rail pass. He opens the pass and there it is my name!

Oh boy was I happy! I gave them hugs across the counter and then signed the piece of paper saying I had received it.

Oh happy day! I would now be able to sleep and as Georgie said to me as we were walking back to the hostel, she had no idea what to say to me to console me over my likely loss of my rail pass. She was however able to give me a hug and when we got back to the hostel we had a green tea Kit-Kat each and a mug of milky black tea.

It was quite a night.

My rail pass is now very safely tucked in its own little picketing the Cath Kidston hand bag organiser that I got in the book mentioned above.