Snow here we come …

Our final train rides today on the Japanese Rail system. It has been great riding the trains, in particular the Shinkansens. Our first ride would also be the last Shinkansen trip from Kyoto to Nagoya on Hikara 464. Top speed today was 280 kph but it was a 16 car train.

It was short lived on the Shinkansen with a 35 minute ride then it was a train change at Nagoya onto the Wide View Shinano to Matsumoto. This train was only half the speed of the Shinkansen but travelled through some picturesque countryside which reminded us of travelling through the Rocky Mountains in California. We were on this train for 2 hours and started up into the mountains.

Our next transfer was at Matsumoto Station and we had 6 minutes to do it from Platform 2 to Platform 6. It meant going up steps but we were lucky enough for the elevator to just arrive as we got off then run across the top of the platforms to the next elevator down. Others in the group weren’t going to wait for the elevators to get them so they ran the stairs with baggage. We all managed to get on but were spread over 3 carriages. This was the Oito Line from Matsumoto to Shinano-Omachi and took 54 minutes. We all managed seats for this train.

We had one more transfer at Shinano-Omachi, still remaining on the Oito Line through to Hukuba. Luckily the train stopped at Platform 3 and our next train was waiting on Platform 4. This was on adjoining platforms so it was a 20 metre changeover onto the 2 carriage train and we had 5 minutes to do it. It was about half full but we all managed a seat in the same carriage. This final train was a 40 minute ride getting higher into the mountains with snow becoming more prevalent.

The closer we got to Hakuba, I went up the front to see the drivers view and the railway tracks just could be in the snow and we were clearing as we went. The snow was 1 to 2 metres deep the closer to Hakuba and all the farms were covered in metres of snow. Apparently the farmers become lifties during the winter season at the various ski fields until the snow starts to thaw.

We arrived at Hukuba Station to be met with a guy holding a sign and a bus to take us to the Hotel Oak Forest. There is plenty of snow around here on the streets with channels ploughed through where the roads are. There are a few traffic lights but not a lot and once you get out of the Main Street everything is spread out with modern hotels/hostels/lodges and a lot of very old ones too. Hotel Oak Forest was right at an end of a road at the base of the mountain and it was like we had gone back into the roaring 20’s. It was modern but built in the style of a 1920’s hotel. There was 1 floor of Western rooms and 2 floors of Japanese rooms with a Dining Room, Shop, Ski Room and Onsen (more on this tomorrow) on the ground floor.

Finally we had real beds that weren’t on the floor but the bathrooms were still Japanese which is OK.

After everyone was settled we walked down to Echoland which is the main shopping / eating / bar area near our Hotel. We were looking for somewhere to eat and as we had come accustomed to street food, our family settled on the food vans while the rest of the group headed off to a Western Pub. Our dining area was a hut with tables and chairs made out of sake crates but the food was great. The others had a normal pub meal but not at pub prices so were not too impressed.

It was back to the Hotel for a few drinks in rooms before hitting the hay. Only 9708 steps today but most of the day was spent on trains.

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