Many travelers plan their visit to Japan to coincide with the flowering of the cherry blossom in springtime. Yes, the season is beautiful and the flowers impressive, but they’re missing out big time because winter in Japan is even more spectacular.
Japan is a country proud of its prominent four seasons. Spring is warm, summer is hot and humid, autumn is gentle, and winter is severely cold. The changing seasons naturally bring changing temperatures and weather, with the gentle warmth during cherry blossoms and the vivid colors of autumn being both gorgeous and pleasant. However, summer gets scorching hot with temperatures close to 40°C while dropping below freezing in winter. Certain areas like Shirakawa-Go also experience more than 2 meters of snow. Nonetheless, winter sightseeing in Japan is beautiful and offers a plethora of iconic sights.
It was my 4th times in Japan. The first one was back in 2015 when we transit on our trip to United State. There was not much we can explore, as it was only 10 hours transit. But this time, we have much time to explore Japan. Our goals on this trip are: experiencing winter vacation in Shirakawa Go, try Snowboarding & tasting the famous % Arabica Coffee.
On this trip I also had a chance to test the new digital medium format camera from Fujifilm, the GFX-50R. This camera was designed to be compact yet packed with lot of performance enhancement for travel photography. It work great for my discreet style of street photography, and not to mention it produce really high quality & resolution images. A perfect gear to capture the winter vacation in Shirakawa Go. Thanks to Fujishop.id for lending me this camera for almost a week.
Exploring Tokyo with our local friends, Aya
Although it’s been four times we been here, We never get bored to explore & walk along the busy street of Shinjuku & Harajuku. Especially this time we were accompanied by our fellow Japanese friends Aya whom has lived in Bali for few years. She took us to try a ramen house which we never heard of. At the end of the day, we also met a balinese friend who live in Tokyo, Kenji. We spend the night at Yakitori restaurant in Shinjuku.
Higashi Chaya District of Kanazawa
During our Winter Vacation in Shirakawa Go, we stayed for 2 nights at the nearest city, Kanazawa. Our hotel was located just few meters away from Higashi Chaya District, the largest Chaya district in Kanazawa. Chaya is a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha (traditional female Japanese entertainers) have been entertaining people by performing dances and playing Japanese traditional musical instruments since the Edo period. The central part of Kanazawa was dotted with a number of chaya houses in the past. These chaya houses were moved into three districts distant from the central part in 1820. Which why i love exploring the area, it’s give a traditional Japanese touch into the photos.
Visit Shirakawa-go Winter Villages
Experiencing Winter Vacation in Shirakawa Go was our main goal on this trip. Wungsu, one of our team in the company has never seen snow yet. So we initiate to take him there to see the snow.
The Shirakawa-go region of Japan was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the mid-1990s to conserve the unique architecture of the houses. The Gassho-zukuri, or hands in prayer, farmhouses have steeply sloping roofs constructed without nails which enables them to cope structurally with the heavy winter snowfalls in the area. Snowfalls begin around mid-December in Shirakawa-go turning it into a Japanese winter wonderland for the entire season, and the Gassho-zukuri farmhouses take on a snow-covered picture-perfect look. The most popular village to visit is Ogimachi which is the biggest and has several of the traditional farmhouses over two hundred years old.
Snowboarding in Yuzawa Ski Resorts
Snowboarding is in my bucket list since I was a kid. I’ve been try to play snowboarding every time we travel on winter, but we keep failing as the weather is not suitable for Snowboarding, weather the it not enough snow, or it was too stormy. But finally my dream come true in Japan. It’s my first time trying Snowboarding.
The Yuzawa Ski Resorts are some of Japan’s top winter sports destination. Yuzawa, in the Japanese Alps, is world-renowned for its fabulous hot springs, snowboarding, and ski trails. Because of its geographical location, the town receives an excellent snowfall and has a prolonged winter season.
Yuzawa is just an eighty-minute train ride away from Tokyo which makes it easily accessible. Traveling on from Yuzawa to any of the resorts is not a problem either as there’s a good public transport network. There is even one resort, the Gala Yuzawa, which is conveniently connected to a Shinkansen station. If you’re staying in Tokyo and want to make a one-day skiing trip, this is where you should go!
Stop for a cup of coffee at % Arabica Arashiyama, Kyoto
% Arabica is the most popular coffee shop in Kyoto, which is the heart of Japan’s third wave coffee scene. Founded in Kyoto and the source of the iconic % symbol coffee cups that are now ubiquitous in Arashiyama and Higashiyama, % Arabica is incredibly busy and beloved. It is worth your time and energy, how to beat the lines, and shares photos from the cafes.
The Arashiyama branch of Kyoto’s artisanal % Arabica chain occupies a superb position overlooking the Hozu-gawa River, just upstream from the Togetsu-kyo Bridge. The coffee is some of the best in the city and the location is great. There’s only a tiny outside sitting area, but that hardly matters when you can just carry your cup to the riverside and enjoy it while watching the boats float by.
The menu at % Arabica is simple enough to facilitate easy ordering, but substantial enough to let you know they are “for real” in terms of third wave coffee shops. There are a variety of espresso beverages, each with the choice of hot or iced and single origin or a blend.
The most noteworthy thing about the interior of the stores is the respect for the process and how this is on full display. Examples of different roasts are on display, beans are stored in a temperature-controlled cases with the roasting being done in-house, and the barista is visible from the counter when they make your drink. % Arabica is fully transparent from start to finish.
Shopping & relaxing time in Osaka
Osaka always be our final stop in Japan before we flew back home to Bali. It so easy to enjoy & relax. Has a lot of great place for shopping along Shinsaibashi Street, as well as experiencing food safari at Dotonbury. Who don’t like eating & shopping?