This year is special for us as we finally have good health in terms of healthy joints. For the last 10 years, one or both of us have suffered with bad hips, shoulders and knees. We're thankful that we've recovered and can fully enjoy our favorite winter sports: skiing and snowboarding.
For the first time, we decided to meet old PIC friends in Nozawa Onsen, a quaint village in northern Nagano for a ski trip. We landed in Narita, took the Narita Express to Tokyo Station and then the shinkansen to Nagano station, an express bus to Nozawa Onsen and finally a taxi to the Kamoshika Lodge, located just meters from the lifts.
Gardner had arranged the accommodation for us and we shared the Lodge with a few other groups, one being a famous New Zealand Band called Shapeshifter! They were performing that weekend in Hakuba for the Snow Splash.
This was Russ' second trip to Nagano, but first on the shinansen. It took roughly 75 minutes from Tokyo... not bad.
On the third day, it rained so we took a side trip to see the snow monkeys at the Jigukodani Park where the macaque monkeys go into the onsens on their own to relax and warm themselves. This monkey had such soulful eyes.
Atsushi drove us there and took us on the tour which was fantastic. We've encountered monkeys in Bali, but they were much more aggressive and mean. These monkeys were quite the opposite. They didn't mind the attention and just enjoyed the environment, full of tourists.
50 monkeys was the approximate number we saw at the park. They roam freely and the park rangers feed them barley, seeds and nuts.
That evening was the village's Holy Light's Festival and we toured the area and headed to the "Hikage" section of the hill.
The villagers and tourists were out, drinking the free sake, watching the taiko drum performance, fireworks and skiers.
One of the most interesting performances was the display of skiing from 1911 as depicted here with one paddle and for the lady, a kimono.