Saturday, March 30, 2013

Japan Part 2: The food, oh my, the food

The food on this trip was good enough to merit its own post.  While in Japan, we had the best noodles, tempura, and sushi we have ever had.

In Niseko we found the Ice Bar which was this awesome igloo made of ice that you would crawl through a tunnel to get into.  Inside there were lights frozen into the walls and it was an awesome atmosphere.

There were limited drinks on offer, and after you got your beer and had a few sips the bar tender would top off your can of beer with a glug from a vodka bottle and then take a swig himself.

There were several rooms within the ice bar to lose yourself in a few icicles as well.
Now, on to the food itself.  Everywhere that we went, with the sole exception of the one Western style restaurant that we foolishly tried, had picture worthy food.
This one was our first lunch at a hotel at the bottom of the slopes.  For about $12 you got a whole tray of food, including some mystery dishes that we never quite figured out.  My meal wasn't pictured, but I'm sitting next to Chris eating a bowl of ramen the size of my head.
This next meal is another lunch just at a random place that we happened to walk by.  Our two trays of sashimi bento and tempura bento basically took up the whole table.  It was so good we went back there for dinner a few nights later.
The sushi itself had a starring role.  After leaving NY we were pleasantly surprised to find that the sushi in Sydney was a bit fresher, but the fish in Japan put it all to shame.  Even the stand up place in the Sapporo airport had better sushi then the best sushi we'd had before, with the exception of the fish that we've caught and sashimi'd on the boat.
These two sushi shots are from the little restaurants outside the Tokyo fish market, and yes, this fish was consumed for breakfast around 7 am.  All that Chris can say to sum it up is "best sushi EVER".
We also had the pleasure of eating many bowls of ramen, each one seeming even better than the last.  The one above was a king crab ramen that was just amazing.  
In Tokyo we managed to eat with some of the locals and our last bowl of ramen surrounded by a bunch of Japanese slurping their soup all around us.
In addition to the awesome raman, as you might expect, the gyoza was also far superior to anything that we'd had before.  Anyone else drooling over this bowl of ramen??  The search is on in Sydney now to find something comparable.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Japan Part 1: Skiing in Niseko

After a 9.5 hour flight, four hour layover, two hour flight and two hour bus ride we arrived in Niseko. Living in Australia has definitely redefined our ideas of a "reasonable" flight since it's so far from everything.

As the bus wound through the hills from the airport to the mountain we were all excited to see the snow piled up on the side of the road getting deeper and deeper the further that we went.

The roads happened to be clear on the trip up for us, but that evening it started snowing and only stopped for brief intervals for the 8 days that we were there.

Every morning we'd wake up to 20-30 centimeters of fresh powder, as excited as kids on Christmas morning.

Luckily the condo that we were staying in was only about a five minute walk from the gondola so just after breakfast we'd trek out and start our day.

We started skiing on a Saturday so there were a few crowds at some of the lifts, but especially later in the week it was never more than a few minutes wait to get on the lift which was awesome.  Less time in line = more time on the slopes!

Throughout the days the snow would be dumping down, at times thick enough that you'd have a hard time seeing where you were going.

Our video of skiing is too awesome/big for blogger to handle.  CLICK HERE to view it on youtube.
Be sure to click on the little gear in the lower right hand corner of the youtube window and up the resolution.

After the first day we took a strategy of escaping into the trees and were thrilled to find powder well past your knees and very few people amongst the trees.

If you can't tell from the smiles on everyone's faces, the snow in there was AWESOME!

The last few mornings we managed to drag ourselves out of bed for first tracks and were lucky enough to be the first ones down through the trees after the fresh powder from the night before.

In the gondola, by myself

We did get a few glimpses of sunshine during the day most days - usually about an hour or so.  If we were lucky the sun would come out while we were in the trees giving us a chance to remember just how beautiful winter can be.

Living on the beaches all the time, we'd forgotten a bit just how amazing everything looks covered in snow.

One of the days we actually caught some fog in the trees briefly while the sun came out - it was like skiing through a dream.

In one of the rare patches of clear weather we decided to try our luck on the peak.  After a gondola up to a chair lift we were greeted with this horrifying chair lift that was literally a chair on a pole.  No bar, really no back rest, we gripped that pole and managed not to slip off.

Sooooo much snow

After grabbing a quick picture from the top, the boys decided to hike the 30 minutes straight up hill to the peak while I decided to head down from where we were.

With snow the theme of the week, it of course started dumping snow again before they made it to the peak which made the descent a bit challenging, but with 5+ meters (around 17 ft) of snow at the peak above the tree line, this was the most like the back bowls of Vail that we saw that week.
It was lucky that we ventured to the peak when we did because between the snow and the wind, the top chairs were closed for the rest of the week.

Nice lines in the trees

Webs in a moment of victory

Sunshine and powder

White trees

Us on the chairlift

Overall the skiing part of the trip was amazing.  Although the mountains were not as big as the ones in the western US, the snow was as good as we have seen.  Niseko is a world class ski destination and we had an awesome time!!!!

And just in case you missed the link above, click here for a video of us skiing.