It was not a good night’s sleep. The loose-fitting metal windows of our mountain hut rattled all night long in the gusty wind and just before dawn three small earthquakes shook us from deep below. These were linked to the series of earthquakes that hit Kumamoto in Kyushu causing such devastation and loss of life. Lack of sleep immediately became an irrelevance.
The Japanese Alps were an unusual sight as winter had only brought one fifth of the usual snow, the lowest amount in 50 years. There was sufficient to ski but we had to adapt the programme as has so often been the case this season. Weather was mixed but thanks to smartphones and reliable forecasting we were able to be in the right place at the right time.
Days started and ended with the delights of the onsen – natural hot springs. Between onsens we enjoyed a continuous loop of 7-eleven and Lawson stops, skinning, skiing, green tea ice creams, beer, plum saki and delicious food. Nights were spent on futons of varying degrees of comfort, laid out on spotlessly clean tatami mats.
After the Alps we headed south and on a truly beautiful day Mt Fuji failed to deliver, for the second time for some, due to lack of snow and dangerously icy conditions. We about turned at 3160m to the disappointment of all and found solace in the cultural delights of Japan’s ancient capital, Nara, the monastery complex at Koyasan and the gardens and temples of Kyoto.