I knew that travelling in Japan in April would mean cherry blossom – sakura – and sure enough we arrived in Tokyo when it was mid-bloom. I have to say though, after living through a Japanese winter and desperately watching and waiting for the sun’s warmth to tease open the little buds, flying in right at the height of the season didn’t give me the same feeling of elation – it kind of felt like cheating.
But who am I kidding, I loved it. It was breathtakingly stunning as always. Even on our walk home to where we were staying in Tokyo we were treated everyday to a beautiful sakura-lined street. However, it seems that Roberto’s enthusiasm for sakura was not quite as fever pitch as mine (admittedly I can go a bit overboard on this subject) as I can’t find any good photos of it to show you!
April in Japan doesn’t just mean sakura – in some parts it is also the last month of the snow season. So with Roberto keen to snowboard, and me keen to go the onsen (hot springs) we set off for Hakuba, a little skiing village nestled in the mountains of Nagano, home to a winter Olympics (cant remember when) and known as the Japanese Alps.
Hakuba ended up definitely being one of the highlights of the trip. We stayed at a cute backpackers guesthouse that was empty except for a few other guests. So we had a dorm room to ourselves (and once the bunk beds were repositioned room to practice!), and a big kitchen to cook in – believe me a real treat after six weeks of eating out.
While Roberto hit the slopes of Happo One, I sampled the local onsens, finding one with a stunning view of the mountains, followed by a bowl of steaming soba – the local speciality and one of my favourite Japanese foods.
Roberto returned with a face more tanned than what three weeks in Burma had achieved. I took him for his first onsen experience. Perfect end to a perfect day in the mountains!