Not too long ago, I was surprised to find this while roaming the streets of Japan:
It's springtime! The trees are blooming and Cherry Blossoms are beginning to sprout. BUT, before winter is officially over, I have another winter story I'd like to share...
My friend Tango, who took me up three mountains in the Okutama adventure back in November, invited me to go snowboarding in Niigata. The cold Siberian winds from Russia cross over to Niigata, hit the mountains, form thick rain clouds, and pour down snow all day long. That is why Niigata Prefecture is the best place for anything snow-related.
Tango's younger sister and last's years HIPPO intern, Sakkun, also came along on the adventure. The four of us met at Shinjuku late at night to catch the bus that would arrive in Niigata the next morning.
The moment we stepped off the bus in Niigata, we were transported into a winter wonderland.
Lots of snow also means lots of cold. We quickly changed out of our commoner peon clothing and put on some hardcore snowboard gear.
Even though I live near the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, which gets tons of snow every year, this was the first time I had ever snowboarded in my life. As a result - I fell. A lot. Evidenced by this picture:
The best thing was that we came on a weekday. The entire ski resort was practically empty. The ski lift had absolutely no line, so we could snowboard down the slope, quickly get on the ski lift, and snowboard down again.
I had an awesome time snowboarding with my friends...
... and forming a Snowboarder Rock Band!
A couple of days later, while we were still sore from snowboarding, Sakkun and I decided visit Tango at his family's Soba restaurant in Okutama. I heard many good things about that restaurant, but never made time to check it out. Once I learned that it offered all you can eat soba and udon, I quickly found time. Sakkun and I were on our way to Okutama.
Not surprisingly, the morning of our trip, it unexpectedly began to snow and almost every single train was delayed. Because of heavy delays, we began to doubt if all you can eat soba and udon in Okutama was even worth it.
After a few seconds of consideration, we decided all you can eat soba and udon in Okutama was worth it, and continued on our trek. All you can eat soba and udon in Okutama is always worth it.
To our surprise, even though Okutama was the epicenter of snowfall, our train wasn't delayed once. In fact, our train car was completely empty! We had the whole car to ourselves.
WARNING: Do not leave the two of us in an empty train car.
Okutama, which is covered in wild nature, is a beautiful place. When it's covered in snow, it is absolutely marvelous.
Finally, we got to Tango and the Soba shop. And yes, all you can eat soba and udon in Okutama was very delicious. I ate four servings; soba and then udon and then more udon and then soba. It was quite pleasant.
After we finished eating, Sakkun and I stayed to help clean up. We changed out of our commoner peon clothing and put on some hardcore all you can eat soba and udon in Okutama gear.
If you ever find yourself in Japan, and you happen to be hungry, I know a wonderful place. It has soba and udon. And it's in Okutama. And its all you can eat.