Even a mere glimpse of mountains makes my soul want to dance (see photo evidence). This is probably because Toronto lies in a particularly flat area of Canada, so I often play a game with myself and pretend that especially pointy clouds are mountain outlines in the distance. To my delight, Japan had no shortage of mountains—gently rolling hills, snow-capped peaks, and green summits dotted with pines. And as we headed north into the highlands, the views became all the more awe-inspiring.
Our home base was in Yudanaka, a sleepy onsen town where a friendly old couple run a ryokan that is over a hundred years old (probably not too much older than they are). Though it was a little eerie at times, it had many perks like 24hr wooden private onsen baths, dinners with locally-sourced ingredients and traditional decor and yukata. So after perfectly restful nights on the Japanese futons and tatami floors, we’d set off in search of mountain wonders. First, the stoic snow monkeys of Jigokudani Park who tolerate excited humans with grace. And later, the Kurobe Alpine Trail that is traversed by bus, train, funicular and ropeway and takes you up to 3000m, via one surprisingly breathtaking dam and one particularly famous snow corridor.
Kurobe Tip: #1 If there are only one or two of you travelling, use the ‘individual line-ups’ at stations, you will be ushered past the slow and loud groups of school children and organized tours. Time your trip to avoid peak hours, but be prepared for crowds anyway. #2 Bring sunglasses! The reflection off the snow is seriously blinding (Ken’s super squint below).
Next time… a Nagano oasis and more
BONUS: Watch our insta-video of the snow tunnel.