Ringing in the New Year (pt. 1)

This winter I traveled to Hokkaido over the New Year holiday to do some skiing and relax.  I had originally planned to take the Twilight Express from Kanazawa to Sapporo, but was unable to get a ticket.  The Twilight Express is an overnight train that runs from Osaka to Sapporo along the Sea of Japan coast.  The trip is said to be scenic, but sadly, I will never know. The Twilight Express will stop running mid-March, when the Shinkansen begins its Kanazawa-Tokyo service.

Unable to travel by train, I needed a way to get from Kanazawa to Nakafurano.  I was planning to ski in Furano and stay at a guesthouse in Nakafurano.  After a bit of research and price/time comparisons, I decided to take a train to Osaka and fly into New Chitose.  From New Chitose I would take a train (or two) to Nakafurano.

I took a late train to Osaka the day before my departure since the earliest train would not get me to the airport in time for my flight.  I slept in an airport lounge.  You pay for the amount of time you are checked in and you get a small booth.  There were a few different setups, but when I arrived there were none with beds available.  I still managed to get some rest so I would be ready for my early flight.  I flew Peach Airlines, which is a budget carrier.  This means you pay for a la carte for everything.  Traveling with skis, camera equipment, and a laptop meant this added up quick since luggage allowances are kept to a minimum.  It isn’t easy to travel to a cold climate for a ski vacation with minimal luggage.  I’m sure people do, but I failed.

The flight from Osaka to Hokkaido wasn’t long.  We did hit some turbulence but made it without any issues.  The view as we came into New Chitose was great.  I always try to get window seats for a few reasons; the view and if all else fails, a place to rest my head and maybe take a nap.  The ocean, snow, and mountains were all visible from my tiny window.  Unable to grab my larger camera and dealing with turbulence, I still managed to take a few grainy pictures of the mountains.  I’m not sure, but they look to be volcanoes.

Coming into New Chitose

Coming into New Chitose

After landing, I booked a train ticket from New Chitose Airport to Nakafurano via Asahikawa.  I had a few hours to kill, so I got some breakfast at a small restaurant in the airport and relaxed while watching TV and trying to stay awake.

The trip Nakafurano was uneventful.  It was also a bit difficult as I was carrying skis and such.  Still, everything made it in one piece to Nakafurano Station.  I was met at the station by the owner of Akane-yado, the guesthouse I stayed in.  It was cold and dark when I arrived at the station, so arriving at the guesthouse was quite a relief.

Akane-yado is comfortable and the owner and his wife are welcoming.  I had decided to book breakfast and dinner for the duration of my stay.  The food was delicious and made my trip that much more relaxing.  I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to eat or preparing any meals.  Each morning and evening the owner would run a shuttle as well.  This made it easy to get to and from both the train station and the ski resort in Furano.  The views around the guesthouse were beautiful.

Night View from Akane-yado

Night View from Akane-yado

Unfortunately I was unaware until after I took some long exposure photos that my camera was having issues.  The photos all have multiple bright red spots (always in the same place).  They aren’t very visible in this photo, but really stand out in most of the others.  This was disappointing since nighttime photography was one of the things I really wanted to work on.  Also, my camera kept freezing up between the wind and temperature.  I’ve never had that happen before.  Despite the red pixels and the freezing camera, I had a lot of fun.

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