My favorite Winter Activity – Strawberry Picking

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
My favorite winter activity and I would not miss it if there is no reason to. This time since we were short of time, I managed to find a small family owned strawberry farm that is close enough with a short drive from Sushi papa’s place.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
We arrived there on Jan 3, the first day they opened for the season. Initially, the Sushi family was a little hesitant that anyone would even come to pick strawberries in this place but we were so wrong, we were there at around 950am and was asked to wait for the next session at 1015am. The cost was little high was early season at 1800JPY per person so 30 minutes of eat all you can strawberries. The price would decrease as we get to warmer months as there would be less red strawberries and less sweet ones as I heard. We all sat down in the heated terrace drinking some green tea while waiting for our turn.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
Once it is our turn, there was a short 5 minutes explanation of the dos and dont’s while picking the strawberries then you are welcome to hunt down all the sweet strawberries. It was a good decision to come in early that day as by 1130am, they had to close the farm as most of the ripe strawberries were gone.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
See, still early in the season so there were a mix of unripe and ripe strawberries.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
Fresh strawberries really taste the best!

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
They are so juicy and sweet with a tinge of sour.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
Care for a bite?

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
See the flesh is so white.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
Let’s us find more stawberries to eat.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
Super yummy!

I love eat all you can strawberries.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
In this greenhouse, you get to eat 3 variety of the strawberries
1) Akihime (章姫) – Sweet breed with no sour tinge, easy for kids to eat, best eaten when it is the cold season
2) Korino (かおり野)- More density in the fruit, balance flavor between sweet and sour so it doesn’t taste too sweet. Has a nice fragrance to it.
3) Benihoppe (紅ほっぺ) – The most common breed of strawberries that is sold in Japan. Favorited by ladies due to its sweet and sourish flavor.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
We wanted to buy back some of the strawberries back but we were too slow as everything was sold out… T_T See, it is not often you can get to buy such freshly packed ones.

Lake Town Strawberry Picking

Lake Town Strawberry Picking
For people who are interested to visit this strawberry farm, it is about 1 hour of train from Tokyo and another 15 minutes by food to this farm. There is a really big shopping mall + outlet at the nearest station (Koshigaya Laketown, 越谷レイクタウン駅) so I think this strawberry farm is recommended for those who don’t have time to head out too far for strawberry picking. Do check out their site for the latest opening time and hours.

Link to farm: http://senbikiichigo.iinaa.net/index.html

New Year’s Day with Ichiran Ramen (一蘭 ラーメン)

Japan New Year First Day
[Throwback January] Woke up to rice cake seaweed and rice cake soup on the first day of the new year. Kinda lucky to have Sushi papa who is always feeding us with tasty home cooked food whenever we visited.

Japan New Year First Day
The Sushi’s dont like crowds nor are they religious, so they do not join the large crowds in the shrines waiting to have their first prayer on the first day of the year nor are they out in the malls snatching for new year goodies bags. I guess I am the odd one out, I braved the crowds at the malls to check out the new year sale but I did not go for any clothing goodies bags (since most of them would include a coat which I don’t need) this year. Some big malls have temporarily counters for you to deposit your goodies bags so that you can free up your hands to go snatch more.

Japan New Year First Day
just top of the ice berg. People people everywhere.

I didn’t get much this year and these 2 items are my favorites for this winter

Ichiran
Finally taking a break at 330pm for a late lunch, still there was a long line for it. I have to wait for at least 20 minutes before I got a seat.

Ichiran
You can request for a English one if you don’t read Japanese. Basically they are asking you how flavorful you want your soup base to be? What type of soup thickness? Do you need garlic? Do you need spring onion? Do you want the cha-siew pork (of course!)? Any chilli powder? How do you want your noodles to be cooked, tough? basic? soft?

Ichiran
Finally I get a bowl of steaming famous Ichiran ramen on the first day of the New Year, which is the best present for me! I miss my Japanese ramen.

Too much snow in Hakuba

Hakuba Ski Trip
Woke up to see a thick blanket of snow.

Hakuba Ski Trip
We were one of the latest group to head for breakfast, everyone was already half way through their breakfast in their ski wear. We were still in our yukatas.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Back to our room to change….

Hakuba Ski Tript
Luckily the bus stop was just right next to our bed and breakfast place, though it wasn’t too punctual so we had to wait in the falling snow. Won’t be too bad if you are wearing waterproof ski clothing but I wasn’t.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Snow! Snow! Snow!

Hakuba Ski Trip
Stomping around to pass time.

Hakuba Ski Trip
See so much snow!

Hakuba Ski Trip
Getting our rentals.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Since I suck at skiing so We decided to go for snow walk hiking instead. You can either join snow shoe guided tours or choose to walk by yourselves. However, not recommended on bad blizzard day as most of the hiking routes would be closed which we didn’t know. You got to rent snowboarding snows, stokes and snow shoes.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Next, waiting for the gondolas to go up hill.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Arriving to the top.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Let us hike.

Hakuba Ski Trip
I haven’t gone on a “ski” trip with nice sunny weather, I always meet up with such blizzardy weather which really sucks.

Hakuba Ski Trip
The only part of the woods which was open for hiking but the snow was so thick that it nearly reached our knee so it was really difficult.

Hakuba Ski Trip
giving up, let us go get something to eat.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Heart shaped tonkatsu and fried potato, lots of energy needed today.

Hakuba Ski Trip
After 45minutes of rest, we embraced back to Mother nature.

Hakuba Ski Trip
People getting ready to slide all the way down to the bottom.

Hakuba Ski Trip
Creating my snow angel, super cold!

Hakuba Ski Trip
I was so ready to give up but Sushi san kept pushing me on. He say it is not economical to stop since we had already paid so much to come up here. *slave driver!*

Hakuba Ski Trip
Freaking tiring and the snow pounding on my face wasn’t a great feeling. I just hope the next time I am going for ski trip next, please give me some nice soft powder and bright sun, ok?

Hakuba Ski Trip
Finally calling it quits are 2.5 hours…..

Video of the day.

A night in Hakuba Minamiya (割烹旅館 みなみ家)

Chips!
we continued our journey with our snow resort pass, we arrived back in Nagano station at around 230pm and decided to get on the 310pm bus to Hakuba. Since we were short of time to get a decent meal, we raided the convenience store for new potato chip flavors to snack on our 1.5 hours bus ride.
Fancy a orange flavored chips? Lobster flavored chips or Meitaiko Flavored chips?

Tasty Plum Cinder
This new drink was really awesome if you like strong flavored plum cider. Super strong plum flavor (though may taste a little too artificial for some)

Enroute to Hakuba
Enjoying the snowy view along the way.

Hakuba
already 430pm when we arrived into Hakuba Station.

Hakuba
Into the ski and snowboard wonderland. Hakuba is really popular with foreigners for ski so there was a lot of information in English too.

Hakuba

Hakuba (白馬), located in the Northern Alps of Nagano Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most popular ski areas, offering good snow and several large ski resorts to choose from. During the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Hakuba gained world wide recognition as it hosted several olympic competitions, including alpine and nordic (ski jump and cross country) events. Today some of the olympic facilities remain in use, such as the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. There is also the Hakuba Olympic Village Memorial Hall, a small but interesting museum, located within walking distance of the ski jump.

Japan Guide

Minamiie Hakuba
About 15 minutes in the light snow, we arrived at our accommodation for the night. Minamiie is small family owned Japanese style bed and breakfast. This is also my first time trying out non-western bed and breakfast in Japan.

Minamiie Hakuba
It was really clean and pretty clean as they just newly re-opened in mid-December 2014 after renovations. Ladies can also choose from an array of colorful yukatas to wear.

Minamiie Hakuba Room
We were lucky to score the last loft room as we only started looking for accommodation only 3 weeks before our travel.

Minamiie Hakuba Room
You can choose to sleep in the lowered floor living area or climb up the ladder to sleep in the loft.

Minamiie Hakuba Room
The loft was carpeted with a small TV and some books. I was afraid that it would be cold to sleep in the loft so I was little hesitated but Sushi san assured me that it would be really warm. He was right! It was toasty hot to sleep in the loft, I don’t know the reason though.

Minamiie Hakuba Room
Looking down.

Minamiie Hakuba Room
Alpine water which tasted really good, you can ask them to fill up your bottles with water before you depart for the day.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
As usual after a refreshing soak in their small hot spring (outdoor soak is in their courtyard full of snow), we headed down to the dinning hall for our sumptuous homecooked dinner course.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Apricot sweet liquor to kick off our meal.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Grilled beef steak.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Sashimi

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Grilled salt with salt.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Crab meat salad.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Stewed radish topped with fiskcake.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Vegetable cream stew.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
You have to eat the soba in Nagano.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Already bursting to the fill but the home pickles was just too good.

Minamiie Hakuba Dinner
Steamed apples? Interesting as it was supposed to make the apples soft and sweeter.

Minamiie Hakuba
Every room is entitled to 1 free hour with their private onsen area and 1 free hour in the relaxing corner. We just booked for the relaxation room complete with massage chairs, games and munched on our snacks……Such relaxation in the cold wintery weather.

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑)

Snow Monkey Park
Finally after 40 minutes of hike, we arrived at the entrance of the snow monkey park. Please take a few minutes to read the dos and don’ts for entering this park. Park admission is 500JPY.

Snow Monkey Park
Hello!

Snow Monkey Park
The monkeys are probably used to getting visitors as they just roam freely as they want and not running away from the visitors. On the contrary I was scared of them jumping on me :P

Snow Monkey Park
You can see where all the crowd is in this small park.

Snow Monkey Park
This baby Monkey don’t really care.

Snow Monkey Park
Hmmmm, why are you looking at me?

Snow Monkey Park
I think it is better that I go back to my mummy’s arms from all these weird humans.

Snow Monkey Park
This is the main attraction – monkeys soaking in the hot spring.

Snow Monkey Park
I almost felt that they are almost human like.

Snow Monkey Park
Helping the senior monkeys getting rid of the lice….

Snow Monkey Park
Peek-a- bum

Snow Monkey Park
aLmost human like right?

Snow Monkey Park
Mother and child.

Snow Monkey Park
Cuddling near to mum.

Snow Monkey Park
Look at the older monkey in the background, thoroughly enjoying.

Snow Monkey Park
Do not disturb my sleep.

Snow Monkey Park
While we were enjoying the scene in the hot spring pool, suddenly many monkeys clambered out, giving me a little scare. Ah, meal time! No wonder.

Snow Monkey Park

Snow Monkey Park
Do not cross this border!

Snow Monkey Park
Hey, this is mine!

Snow Monkey Park
We know who is the king of monkeys.

Snow Monkey Park
Dark fur balls amidst the white background.

Bus back to Nagano Station
Then it was another 40 minutes hike back on the same route to take the bus back to Nagano Station

Snow Monkey Park
Good bye! Finally I get to cross this on my to visit list….I am so glad to visit this Snow Monkey Park during the winter.

So, are you interested to see these little monkeys enjoying their hot spring soak?

Happy Meh Meh Year

Almost ready for #cny #chinese new year #新年快乐 #财神折纸 #福神 #折り紙 #折紙

A photo posted by sheyx (@sheyx) on

Happy Chinese New Year
May the Goat Year be full of happiness

I am glad that I am with my family for this festive period

Wishing all the same for my dear readers
Huat ah!

Enroute to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑)

Shinksen Breakfast
The main hightlight of my December trip was to make our way to Nagano for some snow and to visit the snow monkey park. Nagano is about 2 hours by bullet train from Tokyo and as usual we stocked up ourselves with food and enjoyed the comfortable train ride.

Snow Monkey Park
For this winter (Dec 20 2014 – Mar 31 2015) you can purchase the 2 days Nagano Snow Resort Pass for 5000JPY. This value for money pass is for those who planned on visiting the snow monkey park in addition with a night stay at Hakuba or Nagano as the transportation costs of visiting these places would far exceed the 5000JPY you paid. We purchased our pass at the visitor centre at Nagano Station. (Note: Payment by CASH only)

Snow Monkey Park
The staff would also pass you the bus/train timetables to visit the Snow Monkey Park. We took the early morning express bus from Nagano to Kambayashi Onsen which took about 40 minutes.

Heat warmers
In case you are worried about the cold, you can pick up these heat packs that you can stick to your clothes for extra warmth. I bought mini packs to put them into my shoes.

Bus to Snow Monkey Park
Finally bought us some drinks and snacks and headed to the bus stop near to the East side of Nagano station.

Snow Monkey Park
Alighting at Kambayashi Onsen stop and there is enough information for you to follow the directions to the Snow Monkey Park. Only in the winter we have to take this longer route as the other nearer road would be closed due to snow.

Snow Monkey Park
We visited on a day where there was a lot of fresh new snow.

Snow Monkey Park
You definitely won’t get lost as there is plenty of information along the way.

Snow Monkey Park Shop
Arriving at the gift shop.

Snow Monkey Park
Here you would start your 1.6 KM hike to the Snow Monkey Park. Please wear proper hiking shoes if you do not have any snow boots as it is quite slippery due to the snow.

Snow Monkey Park
First part of the trek with some slush.

Snow Monkey Park
The start of our hike…..

Snow Monkey Park
Yeah, we opened our umbrellas since it was snowing heavily that day.

Snow Monkey Park
Half way mark, see you won’t get lost…Lots of indicators.

Snow Monkey Park
Just enjoy your hike, breathe in fresh cold air

Snow Monkey Park
Ok, we are almost there.

Snow Monkey Park
Just a little bit more of this snow trek.

Snow Monkey Park

Snow Monkey Park
I think we are almost there! For those who are interested, you can enjoy a hot soak in the 2 onsens there and sometimes you would get some Monkey visitors to peek at you too.

Snow Monkey Park
Almost postcard view. Stay tuned for the next post with tons of cute monkey photos.

Official site: http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/english/html/top_e.htm

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