100 Happy Days / Day 56: Beautiful Iwatake

The past few days passed very quickly; probably because we would sleep very early from all the intense workout on the slopes. How does anyone stay awake to do any proper work in winter? When I am not on the slopes, I just feel like hibernating like these lazy polar bears.

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Since it was our last day at Hakuba, we decided to try a new mountain today – Iwatake. We read that the mountain has slopes running down in all directions of the compass, so it should have plenty of views for us to take in! Plus, it just seemed such a waste to have a ski pass that could access five to six ski resorts and spend the entire time at just one. So off we went on a new adventure!

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Best decision of the day. The weather was perfect and the surrounding mountain range is simply so beautiful. From our vantage point at the very top of Iwatake, we could see Goryu, Hakuba 47 and Happo One, rising up majestically side by side. There was also such a great variety of runs too – from narrow, wooded trails to vast snowfields. With much less visitors than Goryu (not sure why), the mountain almost felt like it belonged to us! And just look at those beautiful ice-covered trees, so magical!

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Here at Hakuba, it seemed like 90% of young Japanese on the slopes are boarders. So nice to be among the “in” crowd! Today, I also saw the youngest and oldest boarders I’ve ever encountered in my life. One who is probably 4-ish (?), and another in his 50s. The 50-year-old dude was dressed in a full body rat suit, which put his mental age at around 15 years old – exactly the right mental age to be in when you’re 50! I only managed to catch his tail as he was racing up the stairs, but trust me, really cute and absolutely ridiculous.

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We didn’t have lunch as we wanted to maximize our time before we take the 3pm bus back to the hotel to pick up our luggage for our 4:30pm highway bus ride back to Shinjuku. Such troopers we were! I managed to get some rhythm into my turns this time although our muscles were practically at the breaking point near the end. 5 days of snowboarding is no mean feat for noobs! Kenneth ignored his busted ribs and made several more spectacular falls before we called it quits for the day. Our reward this time – chocolate and banana crepe before our bus came. So much win!

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Back at the lodge, Kenneth was playing the piano when a little girl appeared on all fours, acting very much like a cat. She would even pause and scratch the vertical post for dramatic effect. I found out later that she is Aruka-chan, Tetsu-san’s granddaughter. I showed her my cat cafe pictures which of course made me her instant BFF. Scrolling violently through my phone, she discovered the pictures I took of the lodge and promptly started to run around taking pictures of every nook and corner. Here is one she took of the pianist:

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I chased her around and she was being a cat; playful and yet always looking to hide. When 4pm came around, I was sad as I had to leave and I could not play with her anymore. Maybe if we come back to Hakuba again, we can resume our play! Sayonara for now!

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We took a 5-hour direct highway bus from Hakuba to Shinjuku. Tonight is going to be our first couchsurfing night. We are excited and nervous at the same time about staying with someone we don’t know at all!

Seiichi-san turned out to be a really nice host. Not only did he travel to Shinjuku just to meet and show us to his apartment, he also trusted us with the keys to his place immediately as he had to leave for his night shift shortly after. We won’t forget his graciousness! Hopefully he comes to Singapore for a holiday so that we would have the chance to host him as well.

Lying down on the futon in a safe home made us feel glad about returning to Tokyo. It was warm so we decided to help him save electricity by not turning the heater on. Bad mistake. But we had enough win for the day so it’s ok! Here’s to new city adventures tomorrow!

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