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|Takasu Snow Park|
Altitude - 950-1550m
Lifts - 10
Runs - 30
Snow Depth - 240cms
A short drive from Shirakawa-Go village are the Gifu Prefecture ski areas of Dynaland (pronounced dai-na-ran-do) and Takasu Snow Park, two large neighbouring resorts that are linked on the one lift pass. Together they are one of the largest ski areas in Japan, and are among the most popular for Japanese from Nagoya and Osaka.
These two snowy places complement each other beautifully. Takasu has long cruisey skyline runs that go on forever. There are also bits of tolerated off-piste through the trees around the higher runs. Great views as well, although it was a bit overcast that day.
More pictures from Takasu can be found here and a couple of videos from Dynaland can be found on YouTube here and here.
Lunch - At Dynaland there is a big canteen-style restaurant which had a good selection (no English menu but pictures helped!) of Japanese lunch dishes.
There was a most delicious sake sashimi don: salmon sashimi; salmon ikura (roe), nori (seaweed); wasabi; egg; a big shiso leaf; and rice. Mmmm ... hmmm! And a tasty, more-ish tempura prawn udon noodle soup. Click the picture for some close-up yummy goodness!
|Ouka No Yu Onsen|
By the side of this wonderful river just a short drive from the skiing at Takasu is the charming Ouka No Yu onsen.
This is a large onsen complex but there are few people around this early in the afternoon. The inside is very good with its high wooden ceilings, but the outside is lovely!
After warming up and soothing ski legs inside, the cold air is so refreshing, and then I settle into the soaking hot water once more. The outside area has a water feature where the onsen water is piped up high, from where it then cascades in a waterfall. You can sit in little caves in the rocks behind the curtain of water.
Refreshed from our onsen on the banks of the Shokawa River, we have a drive now to the city of Kanazawa that takes just a few hours and delivers us out of the Gifu mountains and on to the Japan Sea coast.
|Iox-Arosa Trail Map|
Altitude - 350-850m
Lifts - 6
Runs - 7
Snow Depth - 240cms
Iox-Arosa is a small ski area less than an hour from Kanazawa with brilliant views over the snowy plains to the Sea of Japan.
The positives: a gondola to the top of the resort where there are fantastic views over the surrounding countryside, and a massive, wide run all the way down to the bottom of the ski area. Glory GS turns all the way down!
The negatives: well, the main run is really the only skiing - one brilliant run! After that, there's really nothing much more to do. Oh well!
|Omicho Market in Kanazawa|
Back in trendy Kanazawa it is lunchtime! In this coastal centre that specialises in seafood straight out of the ocean a visit to the bustling Omicho Market is in order.
Winter is crab season and these catches are highly prized in Japan for their high quality. There is seafood of so many varieties it is mind-boggling.
The Kanazawa Castle Park is a mix of old and new. Most of the fortresses here had burned down at some point in their history, but much of the castle has now been reconstructed, surprising recently. However, one gate dates from the 18th century, and much of the 400-year-old castle walls remain.
The wonderful Kenrokuen Garden is by far the most famous part of the city of Kanazawa. It is really what the Japanese tourists come here to see.
The formal Japanese gardens are set right next door to the Kanazawa Castle Park, and they were originally part of the castle itself, overlooking the city around them.
Kenrokuen is often cited among the top three formal gardens in Japan, spreading over 25 acres.
According to the tourist literature, the Japanese "Kenrokuen" means "having six factors" or six attributes that make up the perfect garden. They are: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water courses, and magnificent views.
You will notice how the trees often need to be supported as the branches have been twisted and shaped over the years into unnatural positions that need some assistance.
In winter, the weight of the wet snow that often falls here on the coast means even more additional support is required for the tree branches. The arrays of ropes are known as "yukitsuri" and they protect the branches from snapping under the weight of a heavy winter snowfall.
The prettiest parts of the garden are where there is water - in ponds, streams or waterfalls. The reflections are magical, and the old teahouses sit prettily on the banks of two lakes.
Elsewhere there is a cherry tree grove where the trees are now bare but the buds are sitting patiently at the end of the branches waiting for Spring to arrive.
There is even a "mountain" or two to climb - one of the features of Japanese gardens are that they give the impression of larger-scale scenery in miniature. Mosses can be fields, raised ground a mountain, lakes are inland seas, and streams are roaring rivers.
Kenrokuen is truly a wonderful garden, and many more pictures from Kenrokuen, the Kanazawa Castle Park, and the market can be found in this gallery.