Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
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Japan trips: Tateshina, Nagano
In this article I’m going to talk about my stay in Tateshina, Nagano, over the New Year period.
I wake up early morning on the 30th of December, having slept just a few hours. I’m not an early bird. The sun is rising and I am a zombie. I need my coffee. I get ready in what must have been 20 minutes, wait for my girlfriend to get ready, and leave my house. I grab a coffee and get on a crowded train towards Shinjuku station. If I were a real zombie, this would be a luxury buffet, but thankfully I’m having coffee by now.
If you live in Tokyo, you know that Shinjuku station is a maze that even the smartest lab rats could not navigate. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Shinjuku station has more people in it at any given time than the whole town of Tateshina. So we arrive moderately early to make sure we don’t miss the bus.
It’s a four and a half hour trip, so I bring on the bus what I soon realize is a stupidly large amount of snacks, accompanied by not enough to drink. I am too accustomed to twelve hour flights.
As we leave Tokyo concrete turns to grass, then to mountains, and finally to snow. The bus stops at a rest stop and I get a hot cocoa from a singing vending machine. It makes me wonder why so many things talk or sing to me in Japan, from my air conditioner to my office toilet, but I have no time for contemplation, the bus leaves in five minutes.
We finally arrive at the town of Tateshina, though we’re far from the town center. This is why I came here, the snow and the isolation. Around us there is a ski slope, a ski rental shop, a souvenir shop, and that’s pretty much it. In fact, I realize that there is no convenience store. There’s a bus to the town center once a day, but it would take over an hour on foot.
We make our way to the cottage we’re staying at, Bluebell Cottage, and we’re greeted by the couple who own it. They just opened the cottage a few months ago and are obviously very passionate about it. They take care of everything in the cottage. Her English is great — it turned out she’s a translator — and I would later learn that his dishes a fantastic as well. There is a fireplace in the restaurant and a library upstairs, so the coziness factor is high.
After checking in we go to a nearby lake called Megami Lake. It’s frozen and cordoned, I assume so that no one will sink in through the ice. I throw a rock at the lake and it doesn’t break, but then again it doesn’t weigh 75kg like me. There isn’t much else to do for the day and dinner is early, so we call it a day.
The next day, New Year’s Eve, we go on an exciting trip to the convenience store. Here we see Shirakawa lake, which (surprise) is also frozen. It’s surrounded by snowy mountains and the view is really beautiful. We look for a restaurant, but apparently they are all soba restaurants. I realize soba is really popular here. We find one non-soba restaurant a good 20 minutes away on foot, and have a pricey hamburger and equally pricey beef stroganoff. I guess when there is no competition, you’re free to charge anything. At least they’re good and we’re alone in the restaurant.
After lunch, a nice coffee at a cafe nearby, and then we stop by at a souvenir shop that gives us some free barley and candy, even though we just made a small purchase. Then onto some convenience store shopping. Somehow I end up with even more snacks than before. We take the bus back to our cottage and celebrate the New Year looking at a countdown on our phones. Hey, this is what we wanted.
New Year’s Day we try skiing. It doesn’t go well. It’s our first time and we proceed to fall on our butts repeatedly. This one time I manage to move a few meters without falling and successfully stop momentarily, only to then start sliding backwards towards a staircase. In order to avoid major head trauma, I decide to fall on my butt, but this time purposefully. Progress! In hindsight, I should’ve taken classes. I get a free hot cocoa from the ski rental shop and call it a day.
The last day we check out at ten, but the bus doesn’t arrive until four, so we have six hours to kill. Six hours is a long time when you don’t have much to do. Thankfully, we’re allowed to stay in the library and read. On the way back there is a traffic jam, so it takes about six hours to get to Shinjuku. Not the best way to end the vacation, but I still have about 80% of my snacks left.
Overall, I would highly recommend Tateshina to those who want a quiet time. Check out the Bluebell Cottage and don’t forget your coffee and your snacks.