I always found skiing and bicycling to be two of the most enjoyable—not to mention invigorating—sports for families. While living in the U.S., our family frequently took to the nearby slopes or spent weekends exploring new bike paths, yet somehow we were hesitant to pursue these activities in Japan. Ski trips seemed far too complicated to plan in a foreign country, and perhaps too expensive anyway. And, although the whole family loved bicycling, we limited our outings to the local parks for fear of getting run over in Tokyo traffic.
All this has changed with my introducton to David Green and his wife Yoshiko. Long-time residents of Tokyo, David and Yoshiko are teachers in the local international schools and are quite renown for their annual community ski trips and bicycling lodge. Our family was fortunate to have been a part of their most recent ski trip to Shiga Kogen in Nagano. For the past 14 years, David has booked the same lodge in Nagano for his outing and this year, it was to be the site of the Winter Olympics, which made the trip more exciting.
For three days and three nights, we skied the slopes of Yokoteyama together with about 100 other parents and their kids, and it was all so easy and affordable. Payment included round trip reserved seats on the bullet train, charter buses from the station to the lodge, delicious and plentiful breakfasts and dinners, lovely tatami rooms overlooking the mountains and round-trip delivery service for ski gear and bags. The only extra expenses we incurred were rental fees for ski gear at ¥2,000 a day and daily lift passes for ¥5,000 (less for kids), good for any of the 84 lifts serving the 22 runs in that area.
Our group was housed in two adjoining lodges about halfway down the main slope. For lunch, the kids and I would slurp down a bowl of steaming noodles or take the lift up to the very peak where the inn’s specialty is fresh baked goods and rich hot chocolate. At night there was nothing more soothing than a steaming ofuro, followed by the coziest futon I can ever remember. The Japanese owners of our lodge were good-natured about the high pecentage of gaijin.
Several weeks before the departure date for Nagano, David sent out pages of information to all the families going on the trip. Thanks to his organization skills, every detail was taken care of, and the trip was most enjoyable. Those three days in the mountains took us all far, far away from Tokyo—in mind as well as body!
Anyone interested in next year’s Community Ski Trip should contact David or Yoshiko Green at tel./ fax 3708-4012.
If you can’t wait until next year to ski, I just heard of another group trip designed especially with gaijin in mind. For several years, Marsh and Tomoko Warfield have operated a series of ski and snowboard trips which have proved quite popular with the foreign community. They have at least one more outing planned for the Naeba area in the next few weeks, and the price of the trip includes round trip on the Shinkansen, bus transfers, lodging with two meals daily and Japanese baths—and ski lessons, if necessary. Contact Marsh or Tomoko at tel./fax 3707-3908.
As if David and Yoshiko Green weren’t busy enough teaching school, raising their own kids and running ski trips, their real passion is bicycling. They began cycling in 1976 and, since then, David has become an avid cyclist, having toured extensively throughout Japan. For the past 17 years, David and Yoshiko have been leading bicycle tours for students, families and other groups. Seven years ago, they realized a dream with the completion of their lodge for Japan Bicycle Tours in Hakkakuso.
Located near the ocean in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, this area is a bit of paradise only two hours from Tokyo. The beach is just five minutes away, where fishing villages dot the coastline in Minami Boso Peninsula. Also nearby are tennis courts, botanical gardens and Kamogawa Sea world.
Hakkakuso Lodge itself is surrounded by brilliant fields of poppies and nanohana for which the area is famous. The yellow-and-red flowers are in bloom from January through April, then the fields are planted with rice. Sunsets any time are magnificent.
Comfortable and well-designed, the lodge sleeps 20 people and is operated on a reservation basis only, open on weekends and holidays. English and Japanese are spoken, and food and accommodations are a combination of western and Japanese style. For a daily charge of ¥7,200 (¥6,700 per child), breakfast and dinner are included with lodging. Bicycles are available at no extra charge.
The Greens have 10 mountain bikes for use or, if you want to transport your own by car, David will lend you one of his racks. Visitors to Hakkakuso can request any number of routes mapped out especially for the area, from a two-hour trip to all-day adventures, while enjoying beautiful scenery and fresh air.
Hakkukuso Lodge is the perfect place for several families to take their kids, or for school groups to use. David can organize barbecues on the beach or other special touches, depending on the needs of the group. He has put together shukuhachi concerts by famed musician (and Kamogawa neighbor) John Kaizan Neptune, in addition to paper-making workshops and others.
Each spring and autumn, Japan Bicycle Tours organizes weekend bicycles trips for parents and children. These trips are designed mostly for the beginner or intermediate cyclists, generally grades 3-6, and each student should be accompanied by a responsible adult. Other tours for grades 7 and above offer a slightly faster pace, greater distance and perhaps a few more hills. If your children are younger or you prefer a less strenuous challenge, David can set you up with a map, his phone number, and you can take off on your own.
The address of Hakkakuso Lodge is: Hakkakuso, 422-1 Sunomiya, Tateyama, Chiba 294-02. Tel./fax: (0470) 28-2824 (or contact David Green in Tokyo at 3708-4012).