By MUHAMMAD FARITH ASYRAF
Have you ever wondered what snow looks and feels like? Well, at Hakuba in Japan, you can fulfil all your winter fantasies.
Located in the Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba is 274km from Tokyo. Depending on your mode of transportation, you could get to Hakuba from Tokyo from anywhere between three and five hours.
If you were to visit Hakuba, consider spending at least a week there as there are plenty of things to do. Moreover, you could spend your entire vacation just skiing or snowboarding on the vast Hakuba mountains which are up to 1,831m tall or, spend time looking at Snow Monkeys at the Hakuba Snow Monkey Park.
Whatever you decide, know that there is a plethora of options for accommodation including Airbnb, hotels and snow resorts between RM500 and RM1,700. We stayed at an Airbnb call Kitsune Cottage Blue, owned by a Swiss gentleman named Patrick. It was a big house and has rooms that could fit up to six adults.
Patrick built the cottage in 2016 and started renting it out a year later. The place is quite pricey (about RM1,200 a night) but if you’re there with a large group, it is worth it.
There are also lots of food options at Hakuba such as sushi, ramen, udon and rice dishes for under ¥2,000 (RM74). However, if you’re Muslim and are looking for halal food, you may want to bring some of your own food from home as halal food choices are limited.
I would recommend staying at an Airbnb that allows light cooking as you can buy fresh vegetables and prepare your own meals if you are a little hesitant about eating out.
There are basically two main sports activities at Hakuba: Skiing and snowboarding. If you’re a beginner, you can check out the Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort. This resort was the venue of the 1998 Winter Olympics, and you can learn how to snowboard or ski here from any of the tutors.
Don’t worry about equipment as you can rent all the proper gear at this resort.
Entrance fees are ¥5,200 (RM193) for a one-day pass (excluding night skiing), but there are “half-day” passes available too.
It may be a little expensive but the experience of snowboarding or skiing at Happo-one is priceless as it is considered one of the best ski resorts around.
Besides snow sports, you can also spend some time visiting the famous snow monkeys at the Hakuba Snow Monkey Resorts & Gift shop. The park is 81.5km from the Hakuba town and the drive there will take about an hour-and-a-half.
Don’t expect to see the snow monkeys as soon as you enter the park as you would have to walk and hike the trail for another 1.6km! But all that exercise will pay off once you see the cheeky snow monkeys.
Once you reach the end of your trail, the air might feel a little warmer. This is because of the hot springs. This is where the snow monkeys usually hang out and play. You can also visit an onsen (Japanese hot spring bathhouse) that’s nearby, and take a bath there. Bathing in the hot spring is a good way to de-stress and reenergise your body.
Along the trail, you will see some information boards that will tell you what you need to know about the snow monkeys including their diet, lifestyle and mating seasons.
You are not allowed to touch and feed the snow monkeys, by the way, but just observing them from a distance is good enough.
There’s a gift shop at the entrance of the park for visitors to get souvenirs.
Hakuba really is a wonderful place to visit and to enjoy a winter holiday.