Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Asian Invasion: Part II and a half, Furano, Japan

We planned to do a backcountry day with a guide while we were in Furano. The first day we arrived, we got a message saying that the date we had planned to backcountry was forecast to have severe weather, and we might have to cancel. When the day came, our guide was still unsure if going out would be a good idea. We tried to drive to the usual starting point, and found an unplowed road.

We decided to give it a go despite the high winds, with the idea that we could give up if it totally blew (see what I did there?). We parked in front of a local resident's house, and he came out to see us off. He also brought out hot baked potatoes wrapped in newspaper for us when we returned (I think the house was situated next to a potato farm, the area is well known for potatoes, corn and melons). At first I was a little perplexed--a plain baked potato?--but upon tasting it, it was more like ooh, a plain baked potato!! The region is known for their spuds for a reason.

Actually, he came out to say the Japanese equivalent of 'seriously, you're going out in this weather??' He's the guy in blue talking to our guide, who's in red. I think he was a little worried.
Our guide was a Japanese woman, which was really neat considering we were expecting a burly white guy (as all of our guides have been in the past). Norie was a total badass.

Hiking down the road.
Our snowboarding friend had to use snowshoes for the hike, since as you can probably imagine, snowboards are worthless for going uphill. The snowshoes Norie had brought for him were a little too small in surface area and he kept sinking into the snow, which was hilarious for everyone except him.

After a couple hours of hiking, we took a break for lunch. At that point were were at a relatively high altitude and it was getting cold!

Nom nom convenience store lunch.

Norie dug a snow pit to test the snowpack stability. She wasn't entirely pleased with the results, so she chose a fairly conservative route for the descent.

Snowpit for stability tests.
But it was still sweet.

All smiles after the initial descent.

Snowboarders also have to be careful not to end up on flat or uphill terrain, something our friend got into trouble with a few times and had to hike uphill. This even happened in the resort, as their runs are seemingly not designed with snowboarders in mind. Again, amusing for everyone else.

We ended the day early and spent a nice amount of time warming up in our inn's onsen, traditional Japanese mineral baths. I don't have any photos of the pools, since clothes are verboten in the onsen. Nobody wants to see that. 

Since it snowed throughout our backcountry day into the night, resort skiing at Furano the next day was a ridiculously nice powder day. As I sit here in Madison where it is 65 (!!!) outside, it seems like a long time ago.

My favorite meal of the trip was that night, at a Japanese hot pot restaurant. The idea is, they bring you food and you cook it in the pot at your table--but we were totally clueless and our waitress had to show us how to do everything.

Best...beef...ever. You were supposed to dip it in raw egg before you ate it, which sounds bizarre and tastes totally awesome.

The extremely specific, itemized receipt.

 It has to be said: I really miss the toilet. It had a heated seat, had multiple shower-your-butt options, and in general made me excited to use the john. I want to have one of these babies imported when we buy a house.

I miss you, friend--we'll be together again someday.

Onward to Sapporo...


  1. Looks like you guys have been having an amazing time! I agree on the toilet by the way. My friend had one installed in her bathroom when they redid it, and she let me use it. It was amazing. Hehe.

  2. Ooh! Shabu shabu is deelish.

  3. Haha.... Hubba has great stories about the toilets from his first trip to Japan. Both the heated seat and multiple shower options are quite a surprise when you're not expecting them.

  4. The toilet has a remote? It almost looks like it could be a transformer.