10 to 12th January 2015
Leader: Yumiko #1
Participants: Jeremy, Yuji, Taeko, Ben, Shuji, Kuniko, Yumiko #2, Yuko
Since moving to Sendai 2 years ago, I haven’t made my way to many IAC events, which are usually in Kanto. However, this time the event was in Tochigi, about halfway between Tokyo and Sendai, so it was easy for me to get here. I took the train to Nasushiobara station on Saturday morning. Shuji and the Yumikos drove up from Tokyo and met me there, and we drove up the valley to Shiobara Onsen. There, we met Onsen-man Endo-san, an old-time IAC member who had recently returned to Japan after 13 years working for a Japanese company in China. A neat guy, he received his Ph.D. in forestry in the US, then worked for a Japanese paper company in China, and after returning to Japan, decided to pursue his dream of owning and running an Onsen, and we were his first customers.
After arriving at the onsen, we waited for the second car from Tokyo, with the rest of the folks. The weather was nice and sunny, but super-duper windy, so we hung out inside and helped Onsen-man prepare food. We also discovered the karaoke machine which came with the onsen when he purchased it. The karaoke machine was from the 1980’s, so we had to make some repairs before being able to use it, but eventually it worked, though since it was so old, I didn’t know most of the songs it had. The older IAC folks had a blast with the old songs though. Plus, we were all amazed by Endo-san’s wife, who used to be a professional singer back in China, and whose songs moved us all.
Sunday the wind subsided, and we drove up to a country club in the mountains. In the wintertime, the golf course becomes a 5km cross-country ski course! It was my first chance to use my new ski boots that my Mom had just shipped me from the US. Yumiko #1 also skied, and the others hiked in snowshoes. The weather was warm and sunny, and it felt like a California Lake Tahoe spring ski trip. We had some great views of the snowy Nikko mountains while skiing and hiking. Besides us, there were lots of people snowmobiling on a separate set of trails, and other were mushing sled dogs (big huskies). After about 2 hours on the trails, we returned to the clubhouse for lunch, then headed back to the onsen. After that, more karaoke, food, and hot baths. The onsen here isn’t too smelly, and isn’t too hot, so perfect for a westerner like me.
Onsen-man and his wife brought 2 big sheep-like dogs and 2 cats back with them from China, so we played with them after skiing, then dinner and more karaoke and slideshows from other outdoor trips (Ben’s cycling in Bangkok, my snowboarding and hiking in Tohoku, Onsen-man’s onsen exploration in China).
Monday was a holiday, so the group headed out again to a nearby park for more snowshoe hiking. After returning to the onsen for a bath and lunch, they drove me back to Nasushiobara station, and I took the train back to Sendai, while they all drove back to Tokyo. I can’t wait to float over the snow again with my new cross country ski boots!