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  1. #1
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    TR: Japan W23 - Hokkaido

    This opener really belongs in the Tammy thread.

    Everything for this winter and beyond was all sorted. But on 3 December I got the mother of all Dear John letters. Engagement shut down. Housing gone. Truck moved off property, snow tires still in the bed.

    What to do? Must move forward. Must have winter. Bought a 90-day ticket on 6 December while still in shock, departure date 28 December.

    Just a few problems:
    1. Residence card expired 12 November (was supposed to fly 7 November but medical issue blew that up).
    2. No place to live.
    3. No employment prospect (not a huge issue).
    4. Truck is 2 hours from nearest airport, 30 minutes from nearest train station.
    5. All winter gear, personal belongings are 1 hour from truck.
    6. Heartbreak (fixable).

    So, I have an inbound/outbound flight and nothing else. No real plan, plenty of anxiety.
    Try to book a room at the The Royal Park Haneda to recover after the mega-hour flight from PBI via ATL but the least expensive room is USD$1200 (normally USD$130).

    Effing that I decide to fly same day to AOJ (risky business due to frequent snowstorm cancellations) on JAL. Now, if you are ever flying within Japan you must check out the Japan Explorer Pass. Most domestic flights (O/W) are USD$50 and change. Not when I'm arriving though, during the holiday season. Flights start at USD$169 but NONE are available for the first three days I am in Tokyo.

    Ok, time to punt. I decide now might be a good time to take my first train trip and experience the highly-touted Shinkansen bullet train so I go to the JR East site but there is one problem: Website is down for maintenance. If you guessed at this point that I was feeling eggy you'd be right.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    [EDIT] Added this table of contents to navigate the TR:

    • Japan Travel Tip: New Paperless Entry System
    • Japan Travel Tip: Luggage Courier Services
    • Japan Travel Tip: Ferry from Honshu to Hokkaido
    • Japan Travel Tip: Convenience Stores (Konbini)
    • Day 1: Japan (First full day in country)
    • Day 6: Kamikawa (Arrival at destination)
    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-08-2023 at 11:58 PM. Reason: Added Table of Contents

  2. #2
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    19 December, nine days before my outbound flight and that plane ticket is all I got. JAL shows no available flights on their website. After the surprise holiday inflation at The Royal Park and inability to book a train ride north it looked all FUBAR: I might be in Tokyo for a few days and had better start searching for a hotel.

    Not sure where the idea came from but upon opening the Booking site I did a search for the same JAL flight that was unavailable on their own website and discovered two remaining seats on an evening flight to Aomori City. Splendid. And done. Now I would be 360 miles closer to my truck, my gear, and my final destination. But, I still had to figure out what that be.

  3. #3
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    JAPAN: NEW PAPERLESS ENTRY SYSTEM

    FYI to anyone entering Japan by air this winter that there are new arrival procedures at HND, NRT and CTS.

    By using an app one can fill in customs, immigration and quarantine documents online before travelling to Japan. This article lays out the basics: Japan now has a paperless entry system for overseas arrivals

    There are three components included in the single app:
    1. Quarantine (fast track)
    2. Immigration examination (foreign immigration record)
    3. Customs declaration (personal effects/unaccompanied goods declaration)

    The new online immigration system is called Visit Japan Web. Scroll down the page for the QR code which will enable one to download the app to a smartphone/device. The QR code looks like, or is this:

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    PRO TIP: TAKE SCREENSHOTS OF ALL QR CODES (3) GENERATED BY THE VISIT JAPAN WEB SYSTEM

    If you are up for heavy reading a 99-page document to assist you is the Visit Japan Web Instruction Manual

    The latest notice (Updated November 14, 2022) to all passengers entering Japan issued by JAL is HERE

    Those of you who have entered before may have used the MySOS app. The quarantine fast track component of the Visit Japan Web system replaces MySOS for entering Japan. MySOS may still be useful for emergencies, for notifications if you have been exposed to COVID-19, and for tracking your whereabouts in Japan. The following is a guide to MySOS: How to complete Japan MySOS registration

    MySOS Downloads:
    MySOS in the Apple Store (iOS)
    MySOS on Google Play (Android)

    A visual step-by-step guide for international arrivals procedures (includes pathway for Quarantine, Immigration Control, Baggage Claim, Animal/Plant Quarantine, Customs Inspection, Arrival Lobby) for HND is HERE

    Lastly, here is a brief video describing how to enter Japan:

    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 12-30-2022 at 01:56 PM.

  4. #4
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    I finally got back into Japan/Tokyo in mid November for some work.

    Just sharing with the travelers that while it doesn’t hurt you to fill out and upload the docs referenced above, NRT was a shit show, no Immigration fast track, no quarantine fast track or expedited customs forms. I had the three magical QR codes, but the scans didn’t work.

    I was lucky with 45 minutes though some colleagues were 2+ hours. Just bring your patience and enjoy that the Japanese are letting us in again!

    —Jess

  5. #5
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    Getting on the plane in 8 hours if weather allows.
    First step in not f*cking up is making sure I have the proof that this cartridge is empty.

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    [EDIT] Grateful to ~mikey b for the Mammut discount code which was deployed for this cartridge and a RAS airbag saving me 40% on some spendy gear.
    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-08-2023 at 11:59 PM. Reason: Thanks to ~mikey b

  6. #6
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    Wow sounds hellish and stressful. Best of luck man. Hope you are able to settle into surfing pow on the daily.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by byates1 View Post
    Wow sounds hellish and stressful. Best of luck man. Hope you are able to settle into surfing pow on the daily.
    Thank you byates1

    Yes, despite setbacks before leaving everything now is going swimmingly.
    Day 1: It is snowing, got snow tires mounted (4400), truck is running great, and a customer leaving the hill dropped these free tickets on me. Sugoi!

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    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 12-31-2022 at 08:36 AM.

  8. #8
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    JAPAN: LUGGAGE COURIER SERVICES

    One of the most valuable advices for my first snowboard trip to Japan was to employ a luggage courier service. In this post I will hope to explain the how to's & where at's.

    Should you doubt wise counsel read this: A Case for Collection: Luggage Delivery Services

    There are several firms that provide door-to-door luggage courier service but I prefer Yamato Transport, so this post will focus exclusively on "Black Cat" as it is known colloquially. Additionally, only the Yamato Transport facilities at the three major airports of entry for skiers/snowboarders (listed below) are given. If you arrive by sea do your own research.

    Chitose (CTS)
    Haneda (HND)
    Narita (NRT)

    Space (apartments, parking, luggage racks) is an issue everywhere in Japan, which is why luggage couriers are ubiquitous and widely employed, even for short travels. The reason you want to do it is because there is no space for your shit on airport transfer buses, the monorail, the trains, etc. Furthermore, while international flight allow two free bags, domestic flights allow only one free bag. In addition, the cost charged by an airline for an extra bag will always exceed the cost of using a luggage courier. So do it, especially if your extra bag is oversized (like a ski/snowboard bag).

    Before you arrive at a luggage courier counter you will want to have written on a piece of paper the complete address and phone number of your luggage destination. It can be written in English. If you are feeling extry kind print the hiragana and kanji version of it also.

    Here is a handy "How-To" guide to the service provided by Yamato Transport: Same-Day Luggage Delivery

    Locations:
    Chitose Airport (International Terminal): Delivery Service Counter
    Chitose Airport (Domestic): Delivery Service Counter

    Haneda Airport Terminal 2 (International): Delivery Service Counter
    Haneda Airport Terminal 2 (Domestic): Delivery Service Counter

    Narita Airport Terminal 1: Delivery Service Counter
    Narita Airport Terminal 2: Delivery Service Counter

  9. #9
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    JAPAN: FERRY FROM HONSHU TO HOKKAIDO

    Day 2: Woke up at the Park Inn Elm (6300) in Goshogowara.

    As per plan all of my non-cash payments are going on a credit card to take full advantage of the weak yen, so that room only set me back $42.55. Got a haircut from my regular joe at the local branch of nationwide franchise Cut-A for 2000 ($15.28), which is about 1000 less than a typical barbershop.

    Feeling fresh I rolled over to where my gear has been stored since July, loaded up the truck and drove to Aomori City to catch a ferry to Hakodate, Hokkaido. Left that guy a 2012 Atomic Sir Floatalot snowboard as a gift for helping me out. He's gonna be stoked when he finds it in his garage. Not so stoked with the 8 tires I left there as well. His wife is already reaming him a new one for that and I'm for sure earning stink-eye from her from now on. Japanese never forget.

    Japan-Guide provides a list of all the domestic ferries operating in Japan: Domestic Ferries

    There are three main companies operating ferries between Tohoku and Hokkaido:
    Shin-Nihonkai
    Silver Ferry
    Tsugaru Kaikyo

    Silver runs between Hachinohe and Tomakomai. From the Indy Pass Japan resorts of Iwate (Geto Kogen, Okunakayama Kogen, Shimokura) one would want to go with Silver from Hachinohe. From Tazawako a better choice would be Shin-Nihonkai at the port in Akita. From Aomori Spring the Tsugaru Kaikyo from Aomori City is most sensible.

    Some of this depends upon your destination in Hokkaido. Landing at Tomakomai puts you much closer to Central Hokkaido, but the voyage is longer and costlier. Also that city is unremarkable whereas Hakodate is fantastic and unique. So, despite the long drive from Hakodate to Kamikawa that is what I opted to do. Plus this gives me the option to dip into Iwanai or Kokusai on the way.

    Bring your vehicle registration to the ticket counter so it's class/price can be determined. In addition, you must provide the plate number. Take a photo of the vehicle and plate to show the ticket agent, it will speed up the process.

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    The Blue Luminous:

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    Total length: 472'
    Gross tonnage: 8800t
    Passenger capacity: 583
    Vehicle capacity: 71 trucks or 230 vehicles
    Speed: 20 knot

    [EDIT] I forgot to mention that the passage from Aomori City to Hakodate was 18000 for my vehicle (Kei truck [smallest vehicle type, least expensive fare]), one passenger (the driver [me]), going one-way, and this was converted to USD$143.39 on the credit card.
    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-08-2023 at 11:59 PM. Reason: Added ferry costs

  10. #10
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    Cool thread man, following. So did you lose you job too? Or just decided to say fuck it for the winter

  11. #11
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    Grateful for the information, keep up the deets.
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
    >>>200 cm Black Bamboo Sidewalled DPS Lotus 120 : Best Skis Ever <<<

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diamond Joe View Post
    Cool thread man, following. So did you lose you job too? Or just decided to say fuck it for the winter
    Left that position February 2022 so that I could explore Hokkaido.

    [EDIT] Also i say fuck it almost every winter
    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-09-2023 at 12:00 AM. Reason: Fuck it

  13. #13
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    JAPAN: DRIVE FROM HAKODATE TO CHITOSE

    Day 3: Woke up in the Hotel All In Stay (3407) at Hakodate.

    Drove 275 kilometers through a few squalls and one blizzard over the course of 4 hours. Paid 5200 in tolls for an average of 19 per kilometer.

    Stopped by Tomakomai to check out the surf spots but a ragged swell was blown out by prevailing west winds. Not much to look at today but have heard that coast holds nuggets.

    Full tank at Shell rang up 4400 but the truck is getting roughly 45 MPG, so the tolls are more of a bite than the fuel.

    Listened to GarciaLive V.03 Legion of Mary today, courtesy of a TGR maggot. Thanks for that, TR!
    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-02-2023 at 03:47 PM.

  14. #14
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    Great TR!. Best of luck to you for the rest of the winter, and beyond.
    what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creeker View Post
    I finally got back into Japan/Tokyo in mid November for some work.

    Just sharing with the travelers that while it doesn’t hurt you to fill out and upload the docs referenced above, NRT was a shit show, no Immigration fast track, no quarantine fast track or expedited customs forms. I had the three magical QR codes, but the scans didn’t work.

    I was lucky with 45 minutes though some colleagues were 2+ hours. Just bring your patience and enjoy that the Japanese are letting us in again! —Jess
    You must be stoked to return to Tokyo; what a great city! Where do you get to for downhill therapy?

    Happily, my experience at HND was different. The amount of staff on hand (identified by pink signage) was impressive and helpful. The only thing hindering me were a couple of fatties struggling with the incline on the jetway. From disembarkation through immigration control, baggage claim, and customs declaration AND to the Yamato Transport counter was 45 minutes.

    The JAL domestic ticket counter is directly next to Yamato so free of baggage I strolled over to check-in for my next flight.

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    And although there was an hour to the boarding call for the domestic connection JAL staff comped me a ticket for the monorail between Terminal 3 and Terminal 1 so I did not have to suffer the indignity of waiting for the shuttle bus. Legendary Japanese customer service.


    Quote Originally Posted by Buster Highmen View Post
    Grateful for the information, keep up the deets.
    Will do. Hopefully I can soon start counting vertical footage instead of miles and transportation costs.


    Quote Originally Posted by up an down View Post
    Great TR!. Best of luck to you for the rest of the winter, and beyond.
    Arigato, UAD-san!

  16. #16
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    JAPAN: CONVENIENCE STORES (KONBINI)

    At first I was ashamed to be a denizen of the convenience store because my notion of it was formed in the USA where it is a low concept with awful products. Nothing could be further from the truth in Japan, and the competitive challenge of COVID-19 has actually raised the bar on quality and kept prices down. With over 50,000 convenience stores in Japan you inevitably will notice one on your first mission out.

    No doubt you will have heard tales about vending machines and convenience stores in Japan, so I will not try to rehash material that is easily found on the internet but what follows is a list of links to get you going. If you are working with a short time frame and chasing snow these stores are your best ally to keep you moving. Combined with the universally high bar in Japan for quality product and customer service you really can't go wrong patronizing the konbini. My only reservation is the amount of trash I generate compared to shopping solely at a market. And clerks will not allow me to use my own coffee mug (for health code reasons).

    Contrary to general perceptions Japan is not expensive. Especially regarding food costs. And, this was a surprise: prices for basic items (protein bar, beverage, bento box) are the same at the supermarket, the convenience store, and at the ski resort (Niseko and Rusutsu excepted). Unlike at a ski resort in the USA, where you get spit-roasted jailhouse style, you will pay the same price for a Snickers bar at the lodge or the megamarket.

    The three main convenince store chains and their service guides (ATM's, bathrooms, copiers, locations, products, etc.):

    7-11
    7-11: Service Guide

    Family Mart
    Family Mart: Service Guide

    Lawson
    Lawson: Service Guide

    In Hokkaido there is also the Seico Mart which cooks fresh, hot food on site.

    One of the better guides online: Ultimate Foodie Guide to Japanese Convenience Stores and Konbinis

    Phrases you will hear: Japanese for the convenience store

    An entertaining YT channel: Konbini Confessions

    And an example:

    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-01-2023 at 03:31 PM.

  17. #17
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    GROUND ROUTE

    After the international and domestic flights marathon (PBI>ATL>HND>AOJ) first leg on the ground was a simple one hour ride from the airport to the farm where my truck was parked (since July). Hosts treated me to a great meal and then I flopped on the couch:

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    Mission Day 1: Farm to the nearest hotel where I had a bag shipped and check out the snow conditions. Bag finally arrived at 15:00 and then to the hotel for first sleep in a bed since 48 hours:

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    Mission Day 2: Withdraw funds, get a haircut, pack my truck with left luggage (8 snowboards, a splitboard, 5 pairs of boots, 4 binding setups, 2 packs with BC gear, skins and Verts, all base layers, gloves, goggles, outerwear, etc.) and then to the ferry terminal at Aomori City for the 3h 40m ride to Hakodate and finally the hotel:

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    Mission Day 3: Pretty easy day considering the previous few. Hardest thing I had to do was get off my wallet and drop yens on toll and gas, and drive for four hours in a mixture of snowfalls in the hills and sunshine by the ocean. On arrival I took my first onsen bath - one of two things I missed most about Japan, the other being the heated toilet seats that hose out your poo hole.

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    Mission Day 4: After breakfast and another onsen I will hop in the truck and drive to Kamikawa, where I have rented a room for the next 2.5 months. Must stop by a bank in Sapporo to deal with a stubborn debit card and I cannot get into the house until 18:00 so it should be a leisurely day:

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    Two overviews of the groundwork for perspective:

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  18. #18
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    JAPAN: DRIVE FROM CHITOSE TO ASAHIKAWA

    Day 4: Woke up in the Chitose Airport Hotel (5120) at Chitose.

    Despite the name the hotel is 5 km from CTS. I was on ground so this mild deceit did not grind my beans. However I must give praise where it is due - someone in marketing sure was thinking about SEO. If you are traveling by train using the Hokkaido Railway Company the location is excellent, only two blocks from Chitose Station.

    Rocinante, safely nested at Chitose:

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    I expected a pretty relaxed day as I was only 185km from my final destination at Kamikawa. I should have looked at the forecast.

    You ain't goin':

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    Due to whiteout blizzard the national highway was shut down at Mikasa, so all traffic was diverted on to Route 12. Stop and go through towns followed by stretches of farmlands rendered featureless by milkshake conditions. What followed was a mildly terrifying, high-speed human centipede for the next four hours. You know the deal: that white-knuckle chase so you don't lose sight of the taillights ahead of you. Unfortunately for me in my kei truck I was behind an Audi Quattro. Good times. I only put 'er sideways once. The upside was that with the highway closed I saved 2200 in tolls, hahaha.

    I finally gave up at Asahikawa, only 35km short of Kamikawa but it was now dark and I had enough. The remaining distance might have taken two more hours.
    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-02-2023 at 05:33 PM. Reason: Atrocious spelling

  19. #19
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    anzen unten shi te kudasai
    what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

  20. #20
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    I will live vicariously through this running TR as long as you keep on posting it!

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by boltonoutlaw View Post
    You must be stoked to return to Tokyo; what a great city! Where do you get to for downhill therapy?

    Happily, my experience at HND was different. The amount of staff on hand (identified by pink signage) was impressive and helpful. The only thing hindering me were a couple of fatties struggling with the incline on the jetway. From disembarkation through immigration control, baggage claim, and customs declaration AND to the Yamato Transport counter was 45 minutes.

    The JAL domestic ticket counter is directly next to Yamato so free of baggage I strolled over to check-in for my next flight.

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    And although there was an hour to the boarding call for the domestic connection JAL staff comped me a ticket for the monorail between Terminal 3 and Terminal 1 so I did not have to suffer the indignity of waiting for the shuttle bus. Legendary Japanese customer service.




    Will do. Hopefully I can soon start counting vertical footage instead of miles and transportation costs.




    Arigato, UAD-san!

    Nice Bolton. I’ve yet to ski in Japan but it is on the list. My Japan experiences are limited to Tokyo, Kyoto and some random Port towns. Easily one of my favorite countries in the world!

  23. #23
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    Family Mart egg sandwiches FTMFW!

  24. #24
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    Day 5: Asahikawa > Kamikawa
    Woke up at the Tabist Hotel with a great location at the west end. Snowfall overnight

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    Last edited by boltonoutlaw; 01-03-2023 at 09:49 AM.

  25. #25
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    KAMIKAWA

    Arrived at near high noon to Yukiumi House and commenced to snow clearance for 2-3 hours running a thrower.

    Offloaded gear and got sorted.

    Located halfway between Kurodake and Pippu, east of Asahikawa. Plan to buy a season pass at the latter and session local hills. I'm saving Kurodake for Februray and March.

    This time tomorrow night will be in Furano.


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