One of the highlights of our recent trip to Nosawa Onsen was the tour we took with ixsmtravel.com to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Parkwhich was about an hour away from Nosawa by bus. Some say travel is more about the journey than the destination and at first I would have had to agree: the view from our windows was breathtaking.
Arriving at the Snow Monkey Park, our bus driver had to park a fair distance from the entrance but not deterred we plodded up the hill to the starting point. We all thought that the two kilometre walkto the Snow Monkeys would be a walk in the park. But no-one had warned us about just how slippery the narrow path could be. Although we were all wearing proper hiking boots, we all found ourselves slip sliding away as if we were on an ice rink. And I can’t skate! So we had to go slowly, very slowly for I could far too easily imagine myself turning into a human toboggan, hurtling down the mountainside.
Still inching one’s way along has an up side. There was plenty of time to admire the scenery.
The narrow path eventually led to the valley of the Yokoyu-River where steam and boiling water bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground earning the name ‘Jigokudani’ meaning “Hell’s Valley.” But it didn’t seem too hellish to us!
It was worth the effort. We saw monkeys frolicking with their babies, monkeys enjoying a dip in the steamy waters and monkeys scampering up the mountainside.
And one was keeping watch, checking out the tourists. Examining us as we were examining him.
All too soon, our English speaking guide, who was a delightful girl from Northern Italy, asked us to start making our way back.
After visiting the Snow Monkeys, the tour took us to the historic village of Shibu Onsen. This was once a village that was frequented by samurai, wandering poets and travellers who, while bathing in the healing waters of the village’s onsens, took the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Indeed legend says that good fortune will come to those who bathe in all the town’s onsens.
In this village, we were able to get a feel for the ‘old’ Japan. The narrow streets were lined by wooden buildings which were hundreds of years old.
There were interesting shops to explore. Huddy discovered that he loved Japanese biscuits!
There was even a fountain which reputedly bestows good health and long life on those who drink from it. I couldn’t resist. I had to sip. It was a little metallic tasting but not unpleasant and you never know …
And of course there was a temple to visit as well. By now it was mid afternoon and the temperature was dropping. The arrival of our bus to carry us home was very welcome.
This was a great day out. Try to make room for it on your next snow holiday to Nosawa Onsen. And remember wear shoes suitable for snow and ice!
Sometimes the best holidays are those that happen unexpectedly. Kenn and I had no plans to visit Japan until Melissa and Ben asked us to join them on a family skiing holiday to Nosawa Onsen, a delightful mountain village a couple of hundred kilometres north of Tokyo.
While I love being in the snow, I wouldn’t say that I have a natural affinity for snow sports. I am the only person I know who when they first attempted to ski, fell off a poma. Like a beached whale, I couldn’t move out of the way. I watched as fellow beginners bumped over my legs, some actually managing air time! I was on my way to becoming a human ski jump when Kenn took pity on me, leapt off the poma and dragged me out of the way! Despite this inauspicious start and muscles I never knew I had protesting loudly, I eventually managed to gain some basic skills but that was a very, very long time ago. Would I even be able to don ski boots again? I could see a few lumps and bumps on my feet that mightn’t like being squished and squashed. And would I be able to slide down a mountain without killing anyone? Should I even try?
But even if I didn’t ski, toboggan or snowshoe, a holiday in the snow appealed. Kenn and I have never experienced a White Christmas so this was our big chance. And I knew that Chris, Steve Kenn and I would have a lot of fun in the snow with Hudson, our adorable 18 month old grandson. His idea of a comfortable pace on a sled built for two was likely to coincide with mine. We like keeping pace with snails. And I was sure a wonderful, cultural experience awaited us in the land of the rising sun. So I knitted some beanies, bought some thermals and threw them together with some snow gear and my trusty Scarpa hiking boots and before you could say ‘konnichiwa’ I was on my way.
It is only an eight hour flight from the Gold Coast to Narita airport but we all wondered how 18 month old Huddy would cope. With Hudson on board, the time passed swiftly. He introduced himself to his fellow passengers as he stretched his legs every now and then and without any fuss settled down for long naps on Mummy’s lap.
At Narita, we met up with Ben’s parents, Steve and Chris and after a good night’s sleep made our way to Tokyo station where we caught the bullet train north to Ilyama.
Relaxing in our seats, we watched as slowly the urban landscape gave way to countryside … snowy countryside. We were a little concerned when messages flashed across the screen at the front of the train carriage warning of cancelled services due to recent heavy snow but luckily for us, we didn’t have to build an igloo for the night for the trusty Nosawa Onsen bus was waiting for us in Ilyama.
Driving into Nosawa, we realised that when they said a lot of snow had fallen, a lot of snow had fallen.
Melissa had booked us into ‘Address Nosawa’, delightful one bedroom studios. These were very well appointed and centrally located. As well as having its own onsen, the complex had a well equipped children’s playroom and helpful, English speaking staff.
We couldn’t wait to get up close and personal with all that snow! Lissa and Ben grabbed their snowboards and disappeared up the mountain while Kenn and I took Huddy out to explore the village. The powder was so powdery! Huddy nearly disappeared into a drift when his hand disappeared and he stuck his head in to see where it had gone. He soon had snow flying everywhere, creating his own Huddy snow storm. And Poppy didn’t help him at all!
And the village was so pretty.
Even the actual cobbled streets were attractive, shiny black speckles edged with snow.
And there was a dumpling man on the corner of our street!
But there was more. Nosawa has a great children’s snow park at the base of the mountain. All of us couldn’t wait to see Huddy have fun. Granddad Steve introduced him to a travelator which took them to the top of a small slope. Perched on Granddad’s lap, Huddy took to sledding like a pro. We took it in turns to slide with Huddy, rediscovering that inner child that lives within. Then we branched out and tried the tubes which skidded down the slope with more speed and less control than the sleds! Luckily, there was a safety fence!
Huddy also enjoyed being pulled around the park on a crocodile
and didn’t say no to a ride on a blue horse.
He posed dutifully when asked.
With Mummy’s help, he climbed into the castle and onto the big slippery dip.
And so much more. Needless to say Hudson really enjoyed his first visit to the snow. But for us, there was also so much more.
We delighted in the food, trying different restaurants and little eateries for lunch and dinner each day. We found an quirky cafe tucked away towards the top of the village which served delicious soup and made a great cappuccino and orange chocolate cake.
A Byron friend had recommended going to Daimon Soba for a nabeyaki udon. After a couple of tries, we managed to get a table at this very popular eatery and indeed, the udon was very filling. The tempura prawns also looked and smelt amazing!
And never to be forgotten was our wonderful teppanyaki experience on New Year’s Eve where every mouthful was exquisite and memorable. While dumplings are the street food of choice in Nosawa, we found some other offerings to sample.
Sharing wonderful meals with family … a highlight. There were also lots of quirky and interesting shops to peruse in search of that perfect souvenir.
But the mountain beckoned. Steve and I decided to take the plunge and give skiing a go. I was still worried about losing control on the mountain, so after I hired some boots and skis and on the recommendation of the Address Nosawa staff, I booked a private lesson with Remy, a french ski instructor. He was confident that our unused skills would magically reappear under his guidance! So filled with visions of ourselves gliding blissfully down the slopes, We caught the gondola up to the top and a new world opened up.
It looked so pretty. Soon Steve and I were snowplowing here and there and Remy announced that we were ready for a run. While I knew what my feet were supposed to be doing in order to turn correctly, I found that they were very disobedient. Suddenly, to my dismay, I found myself hurtling down the slope about to take Remy out! Just in time, I snowplowed to a halt, caught my breath and under Remy’s watchful eye, pushed off again! More snow plowing! My thighs were on fire! It was a tortuous, slow descent. I felt really bad, having dashed Remy’s hopes but fortified with green tea, I completed another run with Melissa. It felt so exhilarating to be there on the powder, in the silence surrounded by silent, snowy trees.
I loved being up on the mountain, and persuaded Kenn to catch the gondola with me the following morning.
The village disappeared as we soared towards the summit. We had a lovely time with our cameras
In the snowy landscape, I could spot Kenn easily.
After so much exercise, a soak in the onsen was a luxury I’ll never forget. Nosawa is blessed with mineral rich hot springs and the village is dotted with free public onsens or hot baths which are maintained by local families.
Now bathing, Japanese style is not for the prudish. While there are separate male and female baths, the baths are communal and you are expected to soak in them in your birthday suit.
As I mentioned earlier, Address Nosawa has its own private onsen. So I thought that I would take the plunge there first. Grabbing my onsen towel ( which is about the size of a small teatowel) I undressed and entered the washing area. Luckily, I had the onsen all to myself! Address Nosawasupplied beautiful Shiseido products for guests to use and so I scrubbed, shampooed and conditioned till I gleamed and then gingerly made my way to the hot bath. While hot, I found it not too hot and soaked all the stresses of the day away. Kenn and I were hooked. An onsen or two a day kept the aches away!
There is so much more that I would like to share: our amazing tour to see the Snow Monkeys and our brief stay in Tokyo, but it will have to wait for another post. If you have managed to read this post to the end, thank you for sharing a little Japanese snow magic with me.
Last Sunday, hoping to celebrate and share some of their cultural traditions, the local Japanese community hosted the inaugural ‘Japan’ festival on the Byron Bay beachfront. We knew that parking would be difficult so parked close to Clarkes Beach, just a short walk away from the festival.
There were lots of stalls to explore, outside on the beachfront and inside the Surf Club. I was drawn to the beautiful clothing, pottery and jewelery.
All around were members of the Japanese community and their families having fun. The children in particular, looked adorable.
And while a variety of alternative therapies are always a feature of markets in our area, it was interesting to see a Japanese perspective. I was particularly intrigued by the Singing Bowltent. It seemed a little similar to the Acutonics therapy that my sister Maryanne has trained in and which is gaining a devoted following.
And inside the surf club, there were lots of cultural activities on show. Part of the club had been turned into a tea house for the afternoon where still and silent, an appreciative audience enjoyed the tranquility and harmony of the ‘tea ceremony’.
There was origami jewellery, a calligraphy workshop, a landscape artist and Japanese board games to enjoy to name just a few of the activities on offer.
And then there were the food stalls! I will confess, it was the thought of a yummy plate of gyoza ( japanese dumplings), piping hot pork buns and yakitori that had initially enticed me to the festival. Food in hand, Kenn and I found a lovely shady spot under a nearby Pandanus palm and enjoyed every morsel and a wonderful beach view.
But for me, the highlight of the festival were the performances. Firstly a small group of Japanese children who live locally and attend a Japanese language and culture class once a week sang and danced for us.
A musical duet featuring Japanese instruments followed.
And the final performance was a Japanese drumming group from the Gold Coast. They treated us to three, terrific compositions utilising the drums in different ways. Their energy and enjoyment was infectious. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a drummer!
The festival was a great success. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Feel like a gentle stroll or bike ride along a path offering lovely vistas of a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline? Then the Coastal Recreational Path might be just the thing for you. The path, which is being constructed by Ballina Shire Council, aims to connect the coastal village of Lennox Head from the Pat Morton Lookout to Angels Beach in Ballina. The southern section from Sharpe’s Beach to Angel’s Beach has been finished and as Kenn and I discovered, is well worth exploring.
We accessed the path from the Sharpe’s Beach car park as this was the closest access point to Byron Bay. The first section of the path to Flat Rock winds through picturesque heath land
while offering lovely views of the ocean.
When we reached Flat Rock, we found a viewing platform and of course access to a fantastic beach. For those who enjoy camping, there is also a tent park here.
Then the path meanders through coastal wetlands and instead of smooth bitumen we found ourselves on a slightly elevated metal walkway,
wandering past gnarly coastal banksias.
One of the things I loved about the path were the information boards providing interesting information about how the aboriginal people had interacted with the land as well as some of their dreaming stories.
All too soon, we found ourselves at Angel’s Beach.
It was also lovely to see lots of little ones on the path, cruising along in their strollers or peddling their tricycles with Mum and Dad ambling along behind. The path is very flat, perfect for beginners as well as the more advanced to ride along. We even spotted a toy poodle standing up in a bike basket, paws on the handlebars having the best time.
All too soon we were back in Lennox heading home. Next time we plan to bring our bikes and a picnic. Maybe we’ll see you there!
Not so long ago, while enjoying breakfast at the Surf Club in Ballina , Kenn and I finalised the route for a week long trip to the Central West of NSW.
We traveled from Byron Bay to Condobolin via Sydney, Leura, Orange, Cowra and Forbes to help celebrate 150 years of Public Education. While it was a very scenic trip (who doesn’t love the country in springtime), spending time with family and friends who live over 1000 kms away from us, was the highlight. Catching up and reminiscing about the good times we’ve shared, the adventures we’ve had, the things that have made us happy or sad was great. There was also a special bonus: Kenn was invited to launch his second novel, Snow Chains as part of the celebrations.
And so, a few days before the Long weekend, we set off. The Byron to Sydney leg was a little frustrating. Too much traffic and too many roadworks especially between Ballina and Coffs Harbour. Still, we reached Christian and Kelly’s home in Balgowlah Heights with enough time to play with our adorable grand daughters before bed-time and lend a hand the next morning. Kelly and Christian were getting ready to take the girls on their first camping trip. While we would have loved to be able to join them, Christian’s pic of Baby Francesca in their tent filled us in on the fun had by all.
While Kelly and Christian headed off to the South Coast, we headed west to the Blue Mountains, stopping in Leura for lunch. The village was awash with blossoms and that almost spearminty green of new leaves on deciduous trees.
A lovely lunch and we were off to Orange where we caught up with my sister Maryanne. We really enjoyed taking her dogs for a walk through the outskirts of Orange but I will admit to some sisterly pangs of jealousy as I admired the lovely collection of spring bulbs in her garden. Tulips! Need I say more?
All too soon, it was time to head for Woodstock via Canowindra along the Cargo road. Travelling this road as the sun set was beautiful: enough clouds for the sun to watercolour with shades of pink and mauve while the rolling green hills and vineyards seemed to stretch away forever on either side of the road. Magical!
The next day was full of surprises. Firstly, Jenny and I played 9 holes of golf at Cowra Golf Course. It was less of a game and more of a Jenny Dresser masterclass but such fun. Secondly, I ended up enjoying a long lunch with two of my oldest and dearest friends who just happened to be in Cowra that weekend! Serendipity indeed!
Time to head for Condo. We stopped off briefly in Forbes to meet the latest addition to Kenn’s side of the family, gurgling, cuddly baby Ava before making our way along the South Forbes road to where Kenn’s great grandfather is buried overlooking the river.
This little cemetery is very poignant because it’s also where the Fitzgerald children are buried. It reminds us of how difficult life was in those early pioneering days.
Shaking off the past, we arrived at the Condobolin Library to prepare for the book launch.
The Librarian, Theresa and her team had ensured a great afternoon. So many familiar faces showered us with country warmth that we were quite overwhelmed and very touched. Some had already read his first novel, Sugarcane Laneand endorsed the general consensus that it’s a very enjoyable read. It was very affirming for Kenn to hear how enthusiastically they were looking forward to Snow Chainsand Castles Perilous.
A lively discussion about writing and publishing ensued followed by a delicious afternoon tea. Nothing beats home made scones, jam and cream! I might have had two …or three… Alas, Kenn was so popular that he missed out on his favourite treat! I’ve included a snippet from the Library’s facebook page, which sums up the event.
Book launch finished it was time to put on our dancing shoes. We were attending a dinner to celebrate 50 years since the opening of the High School in Condobolin. Again it was wonderful to reconnect with former colleagues and students. Then the music started. As soon as I heard Steve Still’s ‘Love the one you’re with’, I was back in the past. A first year out teacher dancing the night away at the Golfie.
The organising committee did an amazing job of the whole weekend. We attended the breakfast at the High School the following morning and it was delicious. I wanted to explore the school where I taught for so many years and which my children attended. It was fun to search through the photos in the various historical displays for our children and their friends. They haven’t changed much! The school has grown since I left, a new wing has been added as well as the largest cola I’ve seen. Some respite from the heat for kids in the playground at last. There’s more landscaping and there’s even a learner car! It’s evident that kids get a quality education here. There’s much to be said for a country upbringing and education.
Later on, we visited Eryn and Simon Carey’s place on Melrose Hill. They have established a beautiful, very unique garden featuring a breathtaking view of the western plains, so immortalised by Banjo Paterson in ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. Like Clancy, we saw ‘ the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended’ and could readily imagine ‘at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.’
Even though, the garden features natives like ironbark and black wattle, there is a beautiful pond area, a little reminiscent of an English garden.
There are fascinating rock walls and even a boules court.
Closer to the house, there is a delightful courtyard area which is full of detail and Eryn’s artistic flair.
We could have lingered for ages. All too soon, it was time for the long trek home. Looking forward to returning!
Are you one of those people that weird stuff happens to? The sort of stuff that has everyone else around you in stitches while you are left stunned, attempting to extricate yourself from an embarrassing situation with a semblance of grace but not necessarily succeeding? Welcome to the club.
For example, you might think that nothing untoward could happen to you on the Golf course. After all, golf is a civilised game where players amble from hole to hole, hoping to hit their balls nicely down the fairway. Even if their ball runs away and buries itself in the rough, or seeks shelter behind a tree or takes a dive into the duck pond or falls in love with a hazard, this might be an unfortunate but not necessarily, an embarrassing situation.
A week or so ago, I took unfortunate and embarrassing to a whole new level. I was having one of those rounds where too many balls ran out of steam right on the lip of the hole.
I know what happened next was probably my fault. I was on a tricky par 3. The green on this hole lies on a fairly steep mound, protected by two deep bunkers to the right and a band of trees to the left. But undaunted, I was determined to make up for the near misses on the previous holes. Teeing off, my ball sailed into the heavens but tracked a little to the left. Mmm, this could be unfortunate, I thought. But down the fairway, I saw that all was not lost. My ball was nestled between two trees with a clear line to the pin. Great, a little chip shot and all will be well. Maybe I’ll be in for par! I lined up. My chip cleared the rough and raced across the green where it kissed the pin and promptly leapt into the second bunker.
Reluctantly, I retrieved my sand wedge and … hit out of the bunker first time. But alas, I hit too hard. My ball raced across the green and disappeared from view down the other side. Definitely unfortunate! Rhonda broke the bad news: it’s gone into ‘out of bounds’ and I had to take a drop. But first, I had to retrieve my ball. I had never hit a ball into this out of bounds area before but soon discovered that the ground fell away steeply to a little creek where I spied my favourite ball lying a pool of water. I scrambled down to retrieve it and was just reaching over to pick it up when I heard an ominous crashing sound. It was my buggy, doing somersaults while nose-diving into the creek! In my haste to retrieve my ball, I had forgotten to put the brake on. Luckily the buggy didn’t land on top of me and didn’t appear to be damaged. But how to get it and me back up? The bank was too steep to push it up, so I had to pull it. With Rhonda holding one hand, the other hand dragging the buggy and digging my spikes in, I inched my way up the bank, bottom slide by bottom slide like a geriatric slug. Eventually, I was up and so was my buggy. Needless to say, Rhonda found it very difficult to keep a straight face. And I still had to play a shot! Taking a deep breath, I nudged the ball forward and finally putted it in. Taking stock of my appearance, I realised that I now, from top to toe resembled a SAS soldier ready for jungle warfare. I wasn’t going to be able to live down this escapade for a while.
To add insult to injury, three days later disaster struck again. It was a perfect spring day and I was hitting cleanly down a long par 5 which has lovely water views on both sides of the fairway. Even though it was warm, I was very comfortable under my new sun-safe umbrella which I’d purchased from the Pro shop the day before.
I was secretly chuffed at how well I was doing and foolishly began to day-dream about my approach shots. Bad, bad move! I didn’t notice that the wind was picking up. While I was navigating a ditch, a gust toppled my buggy over, tearing my umbrella away. My good friend Annie gave chase while I rescued my buggy. Two falls in one week! Maybe I should get a new job – as a golf buggy road tester! But alas, Annie couldn’t channel her inner Usain Bolt and the umbrella raced away. The wind dropped and for about ten seconds, I thought there was hope for a successful retrieval. Then, it changed direction, sweeping my new umbrella towards the pond. I tried to catch up to it but running has never been my forte and I watched in horror as my umbrella pirouetted around the edge and then set sail for the middle. There it stopped before slowly sinking, like the Titanic on its maiden voyage. Very ‘unfortunate’ and now that I look back on it, very funny! It could only happen to me.
For the time being, I’m making do with an old yellow umbrella which has seen better days. On the plus side, It shows no desire to find another home and some shade is better than none! Could this happen to you?
Spring is almost here and in the Northern Rivers, the weather of late has been perfect for golf: cool mornings and warm days brushed with gentle breezes. Out on the course, everyone seems happy, even the ducks. Indeed, we had so much sunny weather in August that I have developed ‘golf foot’. This condition is not to be confused with ‘trench foot’ which is caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions and which afflicted our WW1 diggers. Rather it is a condition in which your lower extremities come to resemble your driver in reverse. Legs are tanned by prolonged exposure to the sun while from the ankles down, your feet are silvery white. It’s not a look that you’ll see on the catwalks of Paris anytime soon!
And while it is lovely right now, we’ve had our fair share of wintry conditions. It hasn’t been super cold. Unlike the lady golfers from the Central West of NSW who ventured out to play their weekly comp despite fog and frost and being buffeted by icy winds fresh from the Alps, we haven’t had to contend with freezing conditions. However we have faced storms, hail and very, very wet conditions.
In June, we experienced a series of big storms. We could see them approaching but luckily made it through a game without a drenching.
But the storms brought water, a lot of water! The Mullumbimby golf course went under and was closed for a time. It reopened to walkers only. What we didn’t appreciate until we got to the course was that we weren’t really walking: we were wading and sloshing our way down the fairways.
Did you know that a golf ball can land on a puddle and skip along, skimming the water like a low flying ballistic missile? And just like a ballistic missile, have a homing device attached? I discovered that mine did! Without fail, my balls would come to rest in the deepest, most inaccessible drainage ditch. I’m a slow learner. It took a few lost balls before I dug out my most decrepit balls. But these balls wouldn’t get lost. Isn’t that always the way?
Even with preferred lie, conditions were tough. Balls would soar beautifully through the air only to come back to earth with a plop, nestling comfortably in the oozy mud. They needed and received a good talking to from our irons! Even the greens, where I have felt most comfortable posed real problems. On one green I watched in horror as my ball parted the waters, slowing down as it did so. What should have been a gimme putt became a three or four or five putt but who was counting? On the next, I of course over-compensated. My ball sailed past the hole onto the other side of the green and into the welcoming arms of a bunker. So considerate of it. Wiping: holes, balls, sticks, shoes, legs, shirts and buggies became the order of the day.
Even when it started to dry out, and we could see most of the fairways again, there was still a lot of water and mud about. All the water hazards were full and a mistimed shot spelled disaster. We beginner golfers very quickly came to appreciate the benefits of ‘laying up’ even if we couldn’t execute perfectly.
It was not all doom and gloom. We played with preferred lie and other benefits for over a month. I loved being able to place my ball on top of the rough grass with which I have had a long standing love affair. And it was good to get in all that iron practice. But I was glad when all was dry again. As a beginner golfer, I need all the run I can get.
And so Spring beckons. Determined to make the most of the great weather before the summer heat and humidity set in, we have found ourselves playing up to three times a week: some social, some comp. While like many, I have preferred playing Stableford, on Saturday I’ve agreed to play my first stroke round. Wish me luck, I’ll need it.
Oh, I almost forgot. As I was having a golf lesson on Tuesday, my coach Nicky told me that in Japan, Amateurs and Professionals stop for lunch at the end of 9 holes. Having consumed a delightful lunch and possibly some sake, they cheerfully resume their match. Beats our ten minute comfort break hands down! What do you think?