– by Passionfruit
We made it through our trip with these four words:
Hello = Kon’nichiwa
Yes = Hai
Delicious = Oishi (also Poppy’s middle name)
Thank you = Arigatōgo
We loved Japan. Absolutely breathtaking in so many respects. Our only expectation (which is dangerous to have any when traveling) was so to see fall leaves and we did! And then we got a bonus… it snowed!
Before the snow came, we lived it up in Sapporo, where we spent 2 nights (first and last nights) and ate as much ramen as we could find. Sapporo was basically our launch pad for the focus of our trip, Daisetsuzan National Park.
Daisetsuzan means “great snowy mountains”
This place was magical. We stayed in a lodge, hand built by Nappa-san and his wife Mariko-san, both super lovable and kind. The lodge sits in Daisetsuzan National Park, at the base of Asahidake, the highest peak in Hokkaido (2,290 m / 7,510 ft). It’s a prime location for shinrin-yoku and escaping city life.
The lodge is delightfully overflowing with beautiful trinkets, textiles, books, photos, and musical instruments which are literally everywhere (including a marimba and piano). Nappa-san collects and play them all. The kitchen was always active as Mariko cooked breakfast and dinner for all the guests, every day. Meanwhile Nappa-san kept things lively, social and cozy with drinks, music and stoking the wood fueled stoves (three of them).
Wine & Ginko Balls
The second night a group of their friends arrived, apparently they get together once a year to celebrate their friendship. This was year 28! I was hoping they would fold us in to their shenanigans and soon enough they did and we were all sipping wine and eating Ginko balls in the back room together. They even had cake to celebrate the October birthdays (including me)!
We spent the rest of our time soaking in the onsen (a naturally formed hot spring found around volcanic areas like this area). We spent so much time in the onsen that Nappa-san and the guests became concerned. Apparently 5-20 minutes is a normal amount of time, 2 hours is not. We couldn’t help ourselves!
When we weren’t at the lodge, we were hiking. We took the ropeway up to the base of Mount Asahidake. We attempted to hike to the top, but cloud cover rolled in. Instead of taking the ropeway down, we hiked back to the lodge, through bear country. There wasn’t a soul around. It was wild and blissful.
The other days we hiked in the cross country ski trail system, across the road from the lodge (Nappa-san grooms them in the winter). The woods were misty and peaceful as if we entered a Murakami novel. Later that day the snow began to fall and we did the same hike the following day, but in ankle deep snow, which was dreamy. Not a soul around except for birds flapping overhead and the mysterious snowy footprints of some woodland creature.
The Ainu People call this park, “Kamui Mintara”, “God’s Playing Ground”
When it was time to leave Nappa-san and the remaining guests walked us out to our car. Nappa-san gave us wooden chopsticks to use as cross country ski poles in case we got stuck driving down the mountain (he’s a silly one) and Aiko brought her whistle to stop any traffic as we backed up on to the main road. As I said, a pretty lovable, sweet group of people. It was hard to leave this special place.
Bye, bye Sapporo. We’re off to the wild!
We arrive to the lodge, which is the definition of cozy land!
Yukata tips: Do not close right side over left as this means you have passed away. Also, do not tie off in the front as this indicates you are a prostitute. Apparently I was a dead prostitute the first night and we all had a good laugh over that. Always left over right and tied in the back!
outdoor onsen therapy
Mount Asahidake, the highest peak in the park
Instead of taking the ropeway down, we hiked all the way down to the lodge, through bear country, in a shallow creek. The terrain was lush and peaceful. Thankfully, no bear sightings!
The following day we hiked in the cross country ski trail system
The park lodge is pretty chill
That night it snowed!
Then we did the same x-country ski trail hike, in snow!
Saying goodbye to a very special place
Nappa-san gave us chop stick ski poles in case our car got stuck.
Interesting observations seen while driving
Back in Sapporo we found an entire floor in a mall dedicated to photo booths.
City park strolling
Shinto (“the way of the gods”) is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and as old as Japan itself. It remains Japan’s major religion alongside Buddhism.