Day 6, 06JAN2017
Refreshed and reinvigorated today Josh hit the slopes early and I sat down to research the next few segments of our Japan trip.
By “research our next few segments” what I mean to say is I stumbled upon tips for touring Disney Tokyo and subsequently became lost in the rabbit hole that is my obsession with anything Disney. Needless to say I spent my entire morning trying to upload posts to this blog but kept being sidetracked by tips like “best snacks to try at Tokyo Disneyland” and “Sample Itineraries for First-time Visitors at Tokyo Disney Sea.”
Alas, by lunch time I’d manage to resurface from the Disney twilight zone and I caught up with Josh, Foley and Purcy for lunch. In fact, Dave – the Aussie from the train – actually ran into us as well for lunch and the five of us stood around arguably the best hot dog stand on earth sharing snowboarding stories.
Let me tell you about this hot dog stand.
Hokkai Dog serves single hot dogs, double hot dogs, and potato wedges. All three options are loadable with an assortment of awesome toppings: salsa, chili, melted cheese, bacon, sour cream, guacamole, grilled onions, mayonnaise, just to name a few.
Josh ordered the bacon-wrapped cheese single dog with a side of wedges topped with melted cheese, grilled onions and mayo. I ordered a single chili cheese dog. Everyone was blissfully satisfied with their choices. So much so we vowed to try the place out again tomorrow if they’re still around.
Before returning to the lodge after lunch I reimbursed my lift pass (1000 yen for returning a piece of plastic? Yes please). I also made reservations for a massage the next day. I am highly anticipating this treatment since I am still a bit sore.
Once home I strapped on a pair of snowshoes and wandered out into the clear afternoon for my very first snowshoe experience. For those who know, I was once stationed in Alaska, and one of the snow activities I always wanted to do while living in the northern-most US state was to snowshoe. Unfortunately I never managed to experience the sport, and so today was indeed my first exposure – and I definitely looked the part.
First of all, I strapped the snowshoes to my waterproof shoes before leaving the house – this made climbing out of the foyer and down the front path both a loud and slippery event.
Secondly, I had absolutely no idea where I was going. Tony had recommended I head down the hill to the snowshoe tracks in the morning. However it was about 1330 when I finally got around to trying this sport out and Tony was nowhere to be found. So here I was, standing at the end of the North Point Pension walkway at a dead end street looking out over a cliff behind the neighbor’s backyard wondering “how do I get down there?”
It took a bit of loud clomping around up and down side streets until I found a wooden staircase that meandered down from our street to what I imagine is farmland in the spring/summer below. Getting down the staircase was another endeavor in and of itself. Clearly I was not meant to be wearing my snowshoes yet, which became all the more apparent when a pair of gentlemen carrying their snowshoes passed me on the stairs. I tried to act nonchalant and asked “the snowshoe trails are up this way right?” The kind gentlemen confirmed they were indeed, and then he proceeded to explain to me that there were several paths, all maintained and easy to follow.
I stayed back a bit, taking photos of the stream that cut through the snow to my left as they hurried off ahead of me, obviously free to do so since they were unencumbered by pre-mature snowshoe wearing.
I eventually found the trailheads and off I went, basking in the early sunset that occurs here in winter. The orange sky lit up the backdrop of the alpine tree line and glazed the flat white snow fields. It was extremely peaceful, and I snapped up photo after photo of nature in its sleepy, snowy, and barren form.
I returned from my trek to Josh already chilling in North Point. It was onsen time and I was more than happy to oblige since snowshoeing certainly reactivated a few of my stiff joints from snowboarding.
After the onsen the four of us wandered around Grand Hirafu in search of a place for dinner. During our search we happened upon Cocoroya – a hodgepodge store crammed with samurai swords, traditional headdresses, photographs of WWI soldiers, Japanese poems painted romantically on golden paper, and numerous other oddities and curiosities. It was in this store Josh and I almost bought souvenirs, but then reminded ourselves we have 7.5 months ahead of us and nowhere in our bags quite yet to carry anything. We agreed to recoup and think about maybe getting something small in Tokyo or Kyoto.
For dinner we finally happened upon one of the most traditional Japanese restaurants we’ve eaten at yet! Wabi Sabi is located quietly on the bottom floor of a grand Victorian-looking building on the main road in Grand Hirafu. The place is toasty inside and once you walk in you are directed to remove your shoes and replace them with provided slippers. I giggle thinking about this process because none of the slippers were made to fit the boys’ large feet.
We ordered a series of food items at this place: rice bowls with ginger sautéed meats, deep fried octopus, miso soup, and Takoyaki. Takoyaki, although listed as an appetizer, was an entire entrée in and of itself. The meal was described as “octopus dumplings.” Really it was chopped octopus wrapped in an arancini-like substance with various other chopped vegetables, deep fried, then topped with a sweet terryaki-like sauce and a spicy-mayo-like sauce, then completely covered in dried octopus or fish – we weren’t certain of the makeup of the paper-thin topping, it smelled of fish and I honestly did not like it. Everything else about this dish though, was incredible.
In short, the food thus far in Hirafu has been phenomenal and downright delicious. Josh and I headed home after Wabi Sabi and learned how to play a game neither of us had ever heard of: Water Works. We challenged each other to a few rounds, then off to bed we went!