January 2019. It’s wintertime in Japan. I was on a family holiday and taking a bullet train from Tokyo to a place called Gala-Yuzawa. Before the trip, my mum told us that there won’t be any snow in Tokyo because the snow would only fall on February this year.
When we arrived in Narita Airport, I looked outside and saw no snow. I really wanted to see some snow. We went outside and it was freezing outside due to the wind and you’d think it would snow at least a little. I was disappointed, but not surprised.
Fast-forward to the next day, we were on the bullet train from Tokyo. I woke up and started to see steep mountainsides with white sprinkled lightly on top. “Snow!!1!1” I thought as I looked through the window.
As we advanced further up, the snow got thicker, and we sped past a town covered in snow. I thought it was beautiful since I’ve never seen snow before, and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a town with snow.
After we hopped off the train, what I thought would be extremely cold turned out to be pleasantly cool. When we went up the stairs to the ski resort, we rented some boots and went outside.
It was definitely cold, but it was sunny and there was no wind so it wasn’t nearly as cold as Tokyo where the sun would get blocked out by the buildings and the wind would blow through every street. In fact, it started getting a little hot inside my jacket.
We went on a gondola to go uphill and spotted some weird-looking prints on the snow. We went sledding on a designated sledding path and we took the ski lift to go even further up. It was obviously a lot colder than the gondola since we were exposed to cold winds that high up.
Once we arrived on top, we could see the town that we went to, named Echigo-yuzawa. I took a bunch of photos of the town surrounded by the white-topped mountains. It was good.
A view of Echigo-Yuzawa from Gala-Yuzawa
Fast-forward again to the next day, we took another bullet train, this time to Kyoto. It was colder than Tokyo there, and less crowded. The biggest difference between Tokyo and Kyoto (besides the buildings) is that people actually interact here. In Tokyo, it feels like everybody’s minding their own business, while in here they talk to each other a lot more.
After we dropped our stuff in the homestay and had lunch, we took another bus to the Arashiyama area. A short visit to a cat café and then went to Kameyama Park as it was getting darker.
As you entered the gates, the first thing you’d notice are the crows calling loudly on top of the trees. It was getting dark, and if you look up you’ll see big shadows flapping their wings as they move from the silhouette of one branch to the other.
There’s a path that you walk along, you’ll walk through a bunch of temple buildings before arriving at the pathway surrounded by the bamboo forest guarded by the fences. It had a very peaceful atmosphere to it.
Unfortunately, it was getting dark and there were no lights on the path, and if we were to go on we’d be walking blind, so we opted to walk back out.
Kameyama Park… but darker
After a day of walking and going everywhere, what can be better than to wind down and enjoy some local food? We came across an ice cream shop that sold a flavour I’d never seen before; matcha and sakura-flavoured ice cream.
I’m sure everybody’s familiar with matcha-themed desserts, but cherry blossom flavour is something brand new to me. We bought a few, and it tasted GREAT.
The soft-serve was half green and half pink. The green tea side isn’t overly sweet, and it tasted like actual “matcha” instead of the “matcha latte” in a lot of café’s in Indonesia that is mostly sugar & milk, and only reminisces of green tea.
The only way I could describe the taste of the pink side was… flower-y? You know the smell of a particularly good rose? Now imagine if someone translated that smell into a flavour. Can you picture it now?
Say I have weird preferences or whatever, but I think that cold weather and ice cream fits very well as opposed to hot drinks.
I mean, if you’re not wearing any winter gear or just simply at home enjoying TV with snowfall outside, a hot chocolate might suit you best. But if you want something to eat while walking around the town in full winter protection, I’d choose something cold. Something like the Peach Coca Cola they sell there.
Sumida area. I stayed around this area when I was in Tokyo
There were a lot of fun stuff I experienced in Japan, and these are just the two I chose for this assignment. To make a highlight of all the memorable events there it would be far too long since I enjoyed nearly every moment there.
I’d go there again for longer than a week if I get the opportunity. 7 days is simply not enough to experience everything this eastern country has to offer.
credit to Atala for helping me with the title