Home' Traveller : Scoop Traveller WA 018 Contents 82 Scoop Traveller June-December 2010
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David Hogan gives his fail-safe guide to skiing the Land of the Rising Sun.
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WHEN TO GO
Niseko opened last year on November 19 and all lifts were operating by
December 6. While the snow in early December is pretty good, most
instructors say it’s best to wait until mid-December. The best snow is in
January, February and March. It’s also warmer for the kids in March. By April,
the snow is said to be okay, and it attracts Australian skiers, but conditions are a
little more hit and miss. This spring skiing is available right through April.
GETTING THERE Club Med Sahoro and Niseko are located in the
middle of Hokkaido. To get there from Perth, you can either travel Perth
to Tokyo to Hokkaido, or Perth to Singapore or Hong Kong, then direct to
Hokkaido. An overnight flight with Qantas from Perth arrives at Narita
Airport in Tokyo at 8am and takes about 10 hours. There are plenty of
frequent flyer seats available as the flights are often only half full. From Tokyo,
the flight to Hokkaido takes just one-and-a-half hours. You can fly directly
from Narita to Hokkaido, which is easier because you can check your baggage
right through and no transfers are required, but it is a lot more expensive.
The cheaper option is to transfer to Haneda Airport and fly from there. The
transfer takes about an hour in an airport bus and costs $40 a head (half price
for kids). This is easy to organise at the airport and the buses leave regularly
from right out front. You also get to see a bit of Tokyo and the harbour on the
way. Allow about four hours between your landing time in Narita and your
departure time from Haneda – this gives you time to relax and to grab a bite to
eat at Haneda, and still gets you to Club Med by 4pm.
If you are taking a flight from Haneda, make sure you call JAL (Japan
Airlines) and ask about its special ‘Welcome to Japan’ deals. We paid about
$250 a person for a Tokyo-to-Hokkaido return ticket. In comparison, we
originally received a quote from one global finance company of $900 for each
return ticket, and we met numerous travellers who had paid the same when
booking through their agents.
CASHING UP Very few ATMs accept
international cards – there were only
two in Niseko that we could find. Visa
worked better than MasterCard. If your
card is not accepted, try asking for a
lesser amount. Cashing up in yen at
Perth airport is recommended.
INTERNET TIPS The internet set-up is
weird. Sending emails can be problematic,
but this can be overcome with a simple
change to your SMTP server settings.
THE IDIOT RULE Getting boozed is
not a problem and no one likes a drink
more than the Japanese. However, if you
are up there to be loud and aggressive,
then stay home. No one needs the ‘idiot
Aussie’ making a buffoon of himself and
ruining it for the rest of us.
TAKE CARE Skiing injuries are
common, but so are injuries from simply
falling on snow-covered streets. The other
danger is falling asleep in the snow after a
big drink. There are a lot of near misses,
and a young Australian died in Niseko in
2009 when he fell, paralytic, in the snow...
95cm fell that night, and they didn’t find
his body until it thawed in early May.
WHAT TO PACK Don’t over-pack!
For two adults and two kids (four and six
years), we took two suitcases (one per
adult), and a large backpack/ski bag for
all our gear, so we were totally mobile. For
skiing, take two to three pairs of thermals
SPEAKING JAPANESE In the resorts, language is not a problem;
outside the resorts, there is not a lot of English spoken. The Japanese are
incredibly helpful and warm, and will help in any way they can. You can
most often find someone with enough English to get by. Talk slowly and in
phrases; in particular, when asking directions, ask and ask again because
miscommunication is easy and it is not uncommon to get three different
answers from three different people. Talking louder will not help!
CULTURE COURSE The Japanese have various rules regarding shoes,
eating, their bath houses and social interaction. You are not expected to
understand them, but you are expected to make an effort. The main rule is
to be respectful. The Japanese are very sensitive to body language and a lot
less aggressive and confrontational. Go slow, be polite, acknowledge people
properly and smile a lot. If unable to communicate or get something sorted,
then apologising for not speaking their language in their country is a good place
to start – it shows respect and puts everyone at ease instantly.
and socks, and one set of everything
else, including neck warmer, beanie or
balaclava (this last item, a must for the
kids). Otherwise, pack light. One or two
pairs of pants/jeans, a couple of short-
and long-sleeved T-shirts and a warm
jacket is enough. A pair of hiking boots
took me from the plane to the snow. For
the kids, a pair of shoes for the plane,
then snow boots is enough. If you are
going to Club Med, take your bathers.
Club Med Sahoro seems to have a slightly shorter season. The general consensus
was not to go before December 14, but it’s okay up until the middle to the end
of March. The resort closes in the first week of April. Avoid peak times because
facilities become stretched, prices increase, kids’ class sizes and queues grow,
but apparently it’s nothing like resorts in Europe or Australia. Chinese New
Year – February 3 next year – is the worst time to go. Otherwise, the shoulder
periods are mid-December to Christmas, the second half of January and March
onwards, which are all warmer, cheaper and probably easier for the kids.
CONTACTS SkiJapan.com 1300 137 411, (02) 9938 9900, www.skijapan.com Club Med 1300 855 052, www.clubmed.com.au
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