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30 January 2014

Hakuba Ski Resort, Cool!

Last week I went to Hakuba Happo Ski Resort in Nagano Prefecture.


Surprisingly beautiful place to be because it was really clear day. Views from mountains were spectacular.


On top was like lunar surface.


The courses are great.

One more surprising thing was that there were many foreign skiers or snowboarders. At least one out of 10 people skiing or snowboarding were foreigners, mostly from Australia.

I spoke with one Australian woman about why she chose to come to Hakuba. She said the place is better than Australia in terms of skiing or snowboarding because Australian snow are not good quality and snow leisure are more expensive. Since the season is opposite over there, people want to get away from summer heat, so snow leisure in Japan are very popular. There are repeaters of Hakuba visits. She said locals in Hakuba were so friendly and she and her family enjoyed spending vacation there.

I met many Australian skiers in Niseko, Hokkaido 3 years ago. Niseko is 2 hour flight from Tokyo. It is great in terms of snow quality, better than any other places in Japan or even the world. That is why I could meet skiers from Sweden in Niseko. Recently US Ambassador, Caroline B. Kennedy skied there.

Hakuba and Niseko both have other great tourism resource, Natural Hot Spring, Onsen. I bathed in hot spring bathes over there and of course met foreigners naked in bath tubs. Warming your body by natural heat water from volcano after skiing in the cold weather is one great feature of Japan's skiing.

But it seems Hakuba or some other ski resorts are better in the sense that the resort is closer to Tokyo, biggest tourist spot in Japan.











I heard some Australian tourists spend several days in Tokyo for sight-seeing and then got on the train to Hakuba. It took about 2-3 hours by train. Some use Japan's state of art express train, Bullet Train (Shinkansen).


After they got to Hakuba, they spend a few days skiing and then took a bus to Narita International Airport to go back to their homeland. There is a direct bus line from the local bus station.


Wow, Japan has great tourism resources. Cool Japan!

If only no nuke accident like Fukushima happened 3 years ago, I can clearly state that. But I am so glad that so many foreign tourists stay in Japan even after such horrible accident that polluted all over the world occurred.

Japan should welcome them heart-warmingly. So we have keep healthy relationship with foreign nations. We must abandon nuclear power plants that jeapordize our nation and our planet.

For Australian we have to halt whaling in Antarctic Sea. No necessity for eating whale meat sailing so far away. Whaling in Antarctic Sea was never our tradition, only coastal fishery villages in a small scale.

I hope our people can improve ourselves by being aware of foreigners eyes. Knowing how other people see us lets us know ourselves better. We can view ourselves objectively. We should be grateful to foreigners.

By the way, I will come back to Hakuba soon.  

I just come up with a good novel idea that can be a good travel course. The title is like "Hakuba International Lodge." I actually saw the sign of lodge over there. Skiers and snow boarders from all over the world joined the lodge and spend wonderful time and share meaninful experiences. Not just skiing or snowboarding, sight-seeing to Tokyo or Kyoto and naked bathing in natural hot spring (sometimes, co-ed style) and learn tea ceremony, zen mediation, etc.

Don't you want to try?

23 September 2013

Destroying "Finding Nemo"s World

Last weekend I visited Okinawa, Southernmost prefecture island. Over there I saw such cute view like Disney's animated film "Finding Nemo."

okinawa, military,

Clown fish over sea anemone with a blue fish. Looks like Marlin and his son, Nemo and their friend, Dolly. I was amazed but felt so sad at the same time. Because their lives are now in threat by planned construction of US Marine Base runway expanding from Camp Schwab.

The fish were in Ohura bay, which has been designated as most vulnerable place for environmental destruction because of rich bi-diversity such as clown fish, blue coral reef (the world biggest and Northernmost of its kind), dugongs and so on. If the runway is constructed by reclaiming the sea, the sea current will change and environmentally harmful substances would be released from the base. That must give adverse effect on wildife there.  

okinawa, military,

  I scuba-dove into the sea from the opposite side of the bay to the U.S. Marine Base. Far away behind me in the above picture is where US Marine Camp is and where runway is planned to be constructed.

Growning opposition has emerged recently from localies. But the US and Japanese government are pushing hard to implement the project.

That coincides with hypocrisy in the film. That was, of course animated fiction. Fish don't talk and read. The film portrays them as good living creatures like human beings. In reality we eat fish and hunt them and put them in small aquarium unit just for viewing. In fact after the release of the film, clownfish were hunt overwhelmingly.

U.S. pretends like tropical fish loving and environmetally friendly nation but the reality is opposite and their act is very hyporitical. Not just Disney's fantazy but US policy against Japan's whaling. US is accusing Japan of whaling but at the same time it is harming most endangered marine mammals, dugongs in the bay with Defense Ministry of Japan. Some environmetal activists like Sea Shepherds even oppose dolphin hunting in Taich town of Wakayama Prefecture.

"Finding Nemo" is after all, Finding Nonesense and Hypocrisy.

20 April 2013

Entertained by Geisha girls

That was first time in my life. I saw them on TV or films but never met actual ones until that time.



I went to one of tea houses in Mukojima, Tokyo, famous Geisha town.

I joined lunch party course set up by tour agency, which cost around 100 US $.

It was great. The meal was delicious and 3 Geisha dressing up in beautiful kimono served and entertained guests by performing music and dances and playing games.


When I drank sake, a Geisha came up to me and pour that to my cup and start chatting with me. They did it very nicely. One Geisha gave compliments to my kimono. I was really glad. I talked about my favourite Geisha film, Memoirs of a Geisha. A youngest geisha, apprentice one said she saw the film. Then she said that portrayal of Geisha in TV shows and films is exaggerated. She did entertain foreign guests many times.  

Many may wonder what Geisha means. Gei means performance or art, sha means person. Geisha is performer or artist or entertainer.

I really enjoyed their entertainment. It was a bit expensive but worth it.


Why not try if you have a chance to visit Japan?

13 February 2013

Learning Japanese heritage from a Canadian

I went to Kyoto last weekend holidays. The main purpose of the trip was to meet a foreign instructor of Japanese Sado. Do you know what Sado is? Sa means tea, Do means way, meaning "Way of tea." You can learn how to serve tea and sweets to guests and how to be served as guests.

Some people not only foreiners but even Japanese claim that it is too much of formality. I always thought that way. But my encounter with this Sado instructor changed my view.

His name is Randy-san. He manages a cafe in Kyoto. He is a Canadian man who has lived in Japan for more than 20 years. He first came to Japan to learn martial arts but later found out he had to be skillful for both martial arts and academic things. Then he chose Sado.

I joined his cafe's tea ceremony lesson for beginners. 6 students including me attended the lesson. His Japanese is excellent. He wore a very suitable kimono for tea ceremony. Only I wore kimono among 6 Japanese attendees. Actually my kimono was not suitable for tea ceremony.


He could explain every detail of Sado such as how to prepare and proceed.  

Then each student was instructed to perfom how to do each act of pouring hot water, mix with tea powder and then serve guests and how to be served. It is precisely ruled like social dances. No free form on your own. You have to memorize each act and perform that in public to be a good host and guest. That is kind of a hard thing to do. Interesting those things should be taught by a Japanese instructor but this time the other way around. I, Japanese was a student and Randy-san, Canadian was an instructor.

kyoto,kimono, tea ceremony,

He said "up, pull, cover" when I try to bring up hot water from the pot. I had to repeat that 3 times. Weird, just for bringing up, you have to know how to do each act. But that is the way of tea ceremony.

I asked him why we should follow so many rules just for tea ceremony.

He answered that we should not consider them rules rather these are manners. It is fun to have meals and drinks without manners in casual clothes relaxing at home. But you can also enjoy formal dinner at high class restaurant wearing formal clothes. Just like that. You can enjoy such formality.

He said significance of Sado is like significance of life.

Wow, it seems a foreinger, westerner had a better view on Japanese culture because he sees things objectively.

Maybe that is a dilenma we, Japanese including me have had for a long time. He just seemed to solve that instantly.

It is like how I learnt why Geisha girls put thick white make-ups on their faces by a Hollywood film "Memoirs of a Geisha." In the old days party rooms were so dark without strong lights that Geishas needed such make-ups to shine their faces to be recognized. Japanese films don't usually show indoor darkness of the old days. Without knowing darkness of that period, you can never learn how the old time people live and see the world. Hollywood did a better job in that sense.

Ironically Randy-san got me more interest in one of my country's heritage. Similar thing happened in sports field recently. Judo has been criticized for causing scandals such as harrassment and violent instruction to female athletes. International Judo organization denouced that scandal saying that violent instruction is against original philosophy established by a founder of Judo, Kano Jigoro.

We, Japanese are forgetting what we really are. We have to bring it back!