Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Asian Invasion: Part II, Furano, Japan

On to the north island of Japan, Hokkaido. We brought all of our own gear, which set up many scenes of hilarity where the silly Americans camped out with their mounds of junk.

Waiting for a bus with all of our shi--I mean, our stuff.

Our first day consisted of mostly travel into the countryside. When we arrived at our inn, we were happy to find the one English-speaking employee on duty (hi Ken!). He directed us to an event the locals put on showcasing Japanese culture a few times a month called Sunday Night Live.

Furano residents donned traditional costumes and acted out songs that told epic stories about samurai and their lovers and such, they showed off calligraphy, and even had some sweet flower arranging.

Foolishly, they let us try out the samurai swords. You'll put someone's eye out!

We weren't sure what to expect for day 1 of skiing. The reasons for choosing to visit Furano boiled down to a single quote from a skiing website answering the question of where to ski in Japan: "Well, do you want to visit Australia or Japan?". Japan is a hot spot for Aussie tourists, and the more well-known resorts cater to these guests. We wanted to see what Japanese skiers experience and Furano is a little off the beaten path, but we really weren't sure what to expect.

Technically two resorts connected: Furano and Kitanomine

We were there for the first lift up the 'ropeway', what we'd call a tram. Despite a decent amount of Aussies at our inn, we seemed to be the only out-of-towners there for the first ride.

On the tram: three of these things are not like the others....

Everyone quickly dispersed at the top like a star-burst; they knew exactly where they wanted to go. We weren't so sure--we had read that skiing off-piste (off the designated groomed runs but still in-bounds of the resort) was technically forbidden, but that ski patrol was turning a blind eye in the past few years because it's desirable terrain that foreigners are used to having access to. We cautiously scoped things out: there were roped off areas saying Keep Out, but after we saw our host from the inn enter the area immediately under the lift in full view of the employees, we figured we wouldn't get arrested and beaten with a cane (I think that was Korea anyway).*

What we discovered is that not many locals liked skiing in the trees in ungroomed areas, which is our favorite type of terrain. Two days after the last snowfall and we were still finding fresh areas to go down!

Army guys learning how to ski. They were wearing old-school telemark skis strapped to their jackboots.

My favorite restaurant of the trip was the ramen noodle bar at the base.

I don't think I'm going to be able to eat those plastic packs of ramen anymore.

View from the top.

Ken directed us to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant for dinner, which is literally what it sounds like--it was great, because you could just grab whatever looked good and leave whatever looked creepy. The portions, quality, and price of sashimi put American sushi restaurants to shame.

Day 1 = success!

*Note: I don't condone skiing in 'closed' areas in the United States unless you are trained in avalanche safety, have the proper equipment, and a planned route. Roped off areas in the US mean no avalanche control whatsoever!


  1. That view from the top is amazing ...

  2. So what kind of creepy things did you leave on the conveyer belt? And did you see anyone pick up the weird stuff?

  3. Furano looks like a beautiful place to visit and the skiing looks amazing. One of my favorite things to do in Japan was to eat a different variety of ramen each day. Yum!

  4. Oh I am so jealous. Too jealous for words. Grrr :p hope you're having a good time/had a good time :)