A fun day!

Very good skiing today at Naeba / Kagura. Plenty of snow and virtually no icy spots at all. I am probably spoiled from only skiing at huge resorts in the Austrian alps for the last five or six years, so the runs seemed pretty short, but there's definitely a good couple of days' worth of skiing here. It did get pretty cold in the afternoon, with high winds and fairly heavy blowing snow, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of any lift lines. I think the longest I waited was for the Mitsumata Ropeway (the first lift from the 'Kagura Powder Station' where the bus stops up to the actual skiing), about 5 minutes. Otherwise I didn't wait more than a minute or two all day, and most lifts had no lines at all.

One more hurdle to go – changing my shinkansen ticket to an earlier train. I'm at the front of the bus so with luck I can get one sooner than 8pm (the train for which I have a ticket obtained from Mr. NoCash Surly-san yesterday.)

En route

At the third stop the train basically filled up. We’re out in the countryside, and there are some hazy mountains all around the large plain we’re crossing (the Kanto?).

Hooray! Coffee cart! The canned stuff isn’t bad, but a real cup is a ‘nice to have, even for JPY 300.

TOKI 303 Superexpress

7am, 20-jan-08. Aboard the shinkansen bullet train to Echgo-Yuzawa.

I’m bound for Kagura, a ski area about an hour and a half north of Tokyo. I had originally planned to go to the Yuzawa-GALA area, where the lift actually rises directly from the shinkansen station, but after reading a few articles it seemed that Kagura, a 20-minute bus ride from Echigo-Yuzawa station, would be larger and relatively less packed with Tokyo day-trippers on a Sunday in January.

And we’re off. The train is quiet, and unlike the regular trains I’ve been on in Japan has forward-facing seats. I’m in the ‘green card’ section, so there’s plenty of leg room, though the seats are pretty narrow. I’m glad I opted for the extra room!

The train is not full, so I’m not sure why the surly ticket agent put me in a middle seat (he refused to take my gredit card despite the sign which listed the cards accepted, crossing his arms and repeating flatly, “only cash!”). Ah well, I’ve moved to the aisle and we’re in a tunnel having left Ueno and the Tokyo metropolitan district.

So I’ve had my hot can of coffee (“Georgia kickoff”) from the kiosk, and the delightful aroma of my seatmate’s pungent fish/rice ball is filling the compartment.

This type is better than the ‘Georgia Kickoff’ brand.

Next stop, Echigo Yuzawa.