Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Japan Road Trip: Nagano


The next day we were bound for Lake Haruna, Ben and I had visited the lake before in the summer but since it's so beautiful we definitely though it was worthy of a winter visit as well. Boy oh boy, that one decision to include snow in our holiday (without snow tyres!) wound up to be one of our worst decisions of the trip. Driving up steep iced hills, in a car, is now guaranteed to give me mad doses of anxiety!


Despite being our worst decision, it was so incredibly beautiful to see the snow covered towns. It was Ben's second time to see snow in his life and I'm not too far behind him so it was pretty special :)



Unfortunately not lake Haruna, we had to turn around on the road up to the lake - argh, I still clearly remember that ordeal. Japanese roads are extremely narrow with no safety pull off zones. We're in a campervan, going up a mountain and finding ourselves sliding and then completely bogged. Ben literally had to push us out of the snow and around so we could head back down - stressful driving 101! In between the stress we did manage to fall in love with how pretty everything was!








If anyone knows what these mystery bags are that we saw dotted along the roadside, I'd love to know!


Since our luggage had to be light I pretty much wore this outfit 90% of the trip, I had mad plans for Ben and I to be in matching outrageous outfits - I was leaning towards 80s neontracksuits and then, I got on the tracksuit route and then I was super inspired by my friend Alex who works for Adidas (I always see her awesome outfits pop up in my Instagram feed) and thus I somehow ended up with this outfit :p Ben remarked I looked extremely gangster, so I ended up swapping out my black beanie for a my cute Twinkie chan cupcake hat later on :) Good call Ben!


The theme for the next few days seemed to be us having super scary slippery ice road encounters trying to get away from the snow and then retreating to a Michi no eki, to calm down and try to figure out our next plan. I did suspect at one point our holiday would be restricted to snow filled photographs :p


A fun side note Michi no Ekis have stamps, with each station having its own unique design. Unfortunately most of them kept their stamps inside their office complete with normal office hours and since we usually rocked up after 6pm and left before 9am I only ended up with a handful - still a fun endeavour!



On our fifth day, we decided we weren't going to attempt anymore up hills without some chains on our tyres, so our plan was to hit the service station and use our feeble Japanese skills to try and fix our big problem. The first service station was run by a sweet old man who took us inside and put us next to his heater whilst he tried to understand what the heck we wanted. He ended up writing us this note below (still no idea what it says) and told us to head to another service station. That turned out to be a dead end, so were the other seven servos and home department store we tried. We kind of worked out that if you lived in such a snow heavy town, you'd simply have snow tyres and thus not need chains and therefore the town had no need to stock them.

I can only imagine that underlined sections says - crazy gaijin who need much help! :P

The very last service station on the edge of town, before the big scary hill (the hill we'd managed to come down but feared so much going back us) was our last hope. We told ourselves, if this was a dead end we'd just attempt the hill and put our hazards on if things went pear shaped - gulp! I don't think I'll ever forget the lady we met at this last service station, with our broken communication between us she pointed to the sun and made actions that the snow would melt. She gave us a map and pointed to an onsen nearby and told us to go have a nice relaxing bath, wait till the afternoon and by that stage there would be no more snow on the road and we'd be fine without chains. If I didn't believe in angels beforehand, I surely did after that encounter. The onsen was amazing and despite hyperventilating and wanting to cry as we got closer and closer to the hill to ascend it, the servo lady was absolutely right, the snow had melted and we were on our way to the penis festival in Aichi - to be continued!

12 comments:

  1. Sounds really stressful navigating the narrow slippery roads. So glad you guys managed to meet some nice locals and that lady's advice was so spot on! Gorgeous winterscapes..

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    1. so so stressful! I think the complete lack of knowledge about driving in snowy conditions was our true downfall! That lady was amazing :)

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  2. Wait - penis festival?? Lol! Loving reading your Japan blogs Fee! I don't get to comment on all of them since I'm usually reading them while feeding Joshy, but I'm definitely reading with much excitement! :) I'm so glad you found the nice lady here to help you guys out of the snowy pickle!! Sounds very nerve wracking so I'm super happy it turned out ok.
    The snowy trees etc are so beautiful! And super cute strawberry sign! <3

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    1. :) :) awww hello Heather and Joshy! It was so hard to be angry at the snow when it was so beautiful :) Penis festival photos to come! he he he

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  3. Great photos! The note says: Please direct this person to the Ito ENEOS Petrol Station (underlined). It appears they need snow tyres.

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    1. oh yay! THANKS for the translating :) I'm slightly or crazy sentimental and have definitely kept the note to remind me of this helpful man, so it's nice to know it doesn't say - we're too crazy :P

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  4. Sounds like quite the adventure, although I couldn't help but chuckle a little bit as living in Montreal I am no stranger to snow, but that must have been stressful for you guys. I'm glad everything worked out alright in the end. An onsen after all that stress and cold must have been heaven.

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    1. I was thinking my snow friends would laugh at me for this post! he he he. Even not knowing we needed different tyres is I'm sure a laughable offense. I will say I have driving in, crazy-arse rain under my belt though but will probably never get the snow thing :P

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  5. Oh that underlined note and your caption!! LOL! And that lady must be an angel :) So glad it worked out in the end!

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    1. You would have loved the hospitality! I mean we still had a few service situations that were a bit of abrupt, though I imagine being faced with language barriers is a little scary for some but the majority of people really went out of their way and were super angels!

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  6. Wow that portrait of Ben with the snow in his beard should be his avatar :) love love love it! Oh travelling in the snow without snow chains is too too scary, glad that you didn't have any huge problem after all, what an angel the lady was! Definitely you need something like this to happen when things aren't going as expected. Aw, and on a random note, how comes a random plastic bag is so cute (Can-Do), only in Japan <3 - another random note, I was too excited to read ichigo (strawberry) on your flag picture!

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    1. You're Japanese is pretty good Damaris! Couldn't resist taking a photo of that bag for that exact reason - love Japan!! I'm always telling people they should make photos I take of them their avatar :P They don't always listen!

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