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THERE'S MUCH MORE TO JAPAN THAN SKIING - James Cove, Nozawa Onsen, Japan
Tuesday October 8, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Which is rather fortunate as we're in the mountains of Japan before the first flakes have fallen. Checking out resorts & more besides.




Who says monkeys, mushrooms and sake don't mix?

Today we failed to see the former and ended up having rather a lot of the latter.

And then there were the mushrooms.

Regular readers will know we are on an autumn tour of a few of the ski areas in Japan.

Doing a reccie for next winter.

Here is our last blog:

And more about the skiing in the resort:

Now the snow monkeys of Japan that inhabit this area of Jigokudani Yaen Koen are known throughout the world.

Here they are in the winter months:
Snow MonkeySnow Monkey












They are known for their boldness and ingenuity and have been know to steal shopping bags and brake into cars to get food.

They have been legally protected from hunting by the Japanese government since 1947.

Snow MonkeySnow Monkey














The park area opened in 1964 and is located in the Yokoyu River valley that originates in Shiga Kogen National Park in the northern Nagano prefecture.

They come down to the natural hot springs outside of winter, even though they don't need to warm up.

My quest for the day was to see the snow monkeys.

On the way to the snow monkeysOn the way to the snow monkeys
















Only on my visit they had decided to stay up in the hills.

Apparently 50 or so were here yesterday from the troupe of 160 or so that live in the area.

Nozawa Onken, JapanNozawa Onsen, Japan
















Just not today.

Nozawa Onken, JapanNozawa Onsen, Japan
















Though one woman seemed determined to sit it out until they made their appearance.

Nozawa Onken, JapanNozawa Onsen, Japan














No matter - it is another good reason to return to Japan in the winter months.

Not that I really need any more - I'm coming back next ski season!

Besides the 20-minute hike up was worth it.

Nozawa Onken, JapanNozawa Onsen, Japan














I'm a sucker for any walk up a hill and here in Japan they have been rather special these past few weeks.

It gave me more time in the Tanaka Sake distillery to look around and try out the different tipples.

It has been brewing sake since 1873.

Nozawa Onken, JapanNozawa Onsen, Japan














I can't say I know much about sake, but apparently this is one of the best areas for it.

Something to do with the water.

It is made from the natural spring water in Nozawa Onsen at the foot of Mt Mizuo.

Nozawa Onken, JapanNozawa Onsen, Japan














"The water is famous for its clear and sweet flavour and is indispensible for making Mizuo, known for its rich flavour and pleasant aftertaste," I was told.

This particular sake is the Grand Prize Winner of the Kanto-shinetsu 83rd Sake Awards.

And it's also something to do with the rice.

The brewery in Liyama uses the Kinmon-nishiki and Hito-gokochi varieties.

So, it seemed rude not to taste a few.

But what I failed to realise was how strong sake is.

It is perhaps more like a spirit than a wine, but I sampled it like a wine.

With the inevitable results.

Nozawa Onken, JapanNozawa Onsen, Japan















And as I staggered out of Tanakaya Sake distillery my guide for the day, Masashi Moriya, had an idea.

"Mr James, Mr James, we must go to the supermarket," said Masashi.

"Why?" I enquired.

"Wait, wait you will see."

And so we went to the supermarket.

"As well as Sake, this area is famous throughout Japan for its mushrooms. See how many varieties they are and this is just in the supermarket. There are many more."

So I did.

I counted 32 different species - ranging in all shapes and sizes.

And that was the end of my day away from the ski resorts.

Failing to see any monkeys, drinking far too much Saki and a tour of a supermarket to see 32 different types of mushrooms.

Only in Japan.

And next?

It's temple time.

We're off south to Kanazawa:

Kanazawa, JapanKanazawa, Japan














Kanazawa, JapanKanazawa, Japan














And then on to Kyoto.

Kyoto, JapanKyoto, Japan














Kyoto, JapanKyoto, Japan














Both essential visits on a ski trip to this part of the world.



Inghams offers a five-night trip to Tokyo and Nozawa Onsen from £1,952 per person based on two sharing.

Price includes return flights (direct from London Heathrow), coach transfers, accommodation with ensuite facilities (including the Nozawa Grand Hotel), four breakfasts and a three-day lift pass.

The package is valid for travel departing on 29th February 2020.

To book, visit this section of the Ingham's web site.


Nozawa Onsen started life as a hot spring village for resting travellers: the first onsen (traditional Japanese bath house) was constructed in the 16th century.

Today, the onsens are still managed by the local people and are a perfect remedy to aching muscles after hitting the slopes all day.

There is varied terrain, long runs and a great section of tree-lined off-piste skiing, plus the area has a reputation for the heaviest snowfall in the Nagano district.

Accommodation in these resorts range from more Western in style to traditional Japanese-style hotels with communal onsens, offering a choice for all who seek convenience, comfort and an authentic, cultural stay.

The Hakuba Valley, which spans across 10 diverse ski areas, is all included in one lift pass (which is included in the price of the holiday).

Inghams guests will be able to stay in the main resort of Happo-One, with easy bus links accessing the other resorts.

Put on the map after the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the Japanese Alps provide abundant snow and pristine powder conditions for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities to enjoy, making them the envy of their European skier counterparts. Inghams in Japan:

This vibrant country offers plenty to discover beyond the ski runs too, and Inghams guests can also lose themselves in the bright lights of Tokyo or the tranquillity of the temples in Kyoto since Inghams ski holidays to Japan also encompass an immersive city break.

Combinations and durations are flexible, with the option to ski in either one of Inghams' resorts and add on Kyoto, which was the Imperial Capital of Japan for over a thousand years.

All trips start with at least one night in Tokyo.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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