This is such a cute story I thought I would post it quick before I go to bed here in Nozawa Onsen.
Today I left my buddy Tatsuya and all the amazing Lucas Singapore peeps and Dave and Regina from Weta back at Siggraph Asia in Yokohama and took off north to Nagano. It was a long trip - I left later than planned and then (since I wasn't following any particular schedule, for better or for worse, hehe), I got to Yokohama station at 3 something in the afternoon. Then took off to Tokyo station, and actually found out I missed the Shinkansen (high speed train) to Nagano by like 5 minutes. Bah! But turns out Japan is the most amazing place ever, so there was another one about 45 min later. Hung out for a bit, got some sushi, and then got on the train. From there is was about 100 minutes to Nagano. I got off there and was trying to take a bus to Nozawa Onsen (I heard that was simpler and more direct than the train) - talked in broken Japanese to a travel agent at the station and found out I'd missed the last bus, so I took the local train... coming in... 1 hour! Crap! haha. So instead of standing in the cold for an hour, I bought a burger and it was tasty. Several arrigatos later, I bowed 100 times and then changed into my winter clothes - it was VERY snowy already in Nagano.
Got on the train to Togarinozawaonsen (closest train station to Nozawa Onsen) and 1 hour there, caught up on some emails and journal writing. Then got to the station and there was a girl heading for the same cab as me - "where do you go?" she asked. I told her I was going to Nozawa Onsen and she said "me too, let's share!" So we shared the cab and she asked if I had time for coffee. Turns out she stays with the guys who own the Burton Snowboard store here in town and she was inviting me to their store. I got there, they were very welcoming and she said "Welcome to Japan!" and slammed down an Asahi Beer and a bowl of potato chips. :) It was VERY snowy, so they got their friend to drive me in his car up the hill to my hostel! There I found a note on the whiteboard saying "Hey Mike! Come on in, we're in the TV room in the back!" Everyone here in Australian or Canadian, and SUPER FRIENDLY and AMAZING. I am SO IMPRESSED. This evening I went to an onsen outside, super traditional, bathed totally naked (2nd time so far in Japan!! As they say... when in Rome...) with strangers and this time in a super old school wooden onsen, big tubs and extremely hot mountain water bubbling around you. Awesome times! Then dried off and followed all the customs to keep your shoes away from the bathing area, got dressed again and headed out to the "Stay Bar". There I met 2 Aussies (one was the splitting image of Tim Nash) and a really funny older Japanese guy who lives here. As expected, they were all super nice and welcoming and so awesome.
Had some fancy sochu litchi graprefruit thing and then some hot sake which was nice for a cold winters night. The cool thing is that there was NO SNOW last week - friends in Tokyo said they'd gone up to a ski hill and it was all slushy and most runs were closed. I thought I should do some sort of haka/snow dance :) Apparently it worked :) It snowed a bunch Thursday onwards, and snowed like 50 cm just this afternoon I think. TONS of snow and it's SUPER FRESH. This is gonna be an amazing time tomorrow!
On that note I gotta go get some sleep so I am ready for the slopes tomorrow and lots more partying tomorrow night with all the people in my hostel! AWESOME TRIP. For those of you interested in photos and videos, please hold tight. I will be posting all that stuff, definitely, just not until I get back from Tokyo.
Now drinking a hot chocolate and about to go back to my awesome 4 person room which I have to myself tonight. I love Nozawa Onsen already. Can you believe those guys in the Snowboarding store??!?!?!!!!!!! Nicest and best hospitality I think I've ever seen. :)