Thursday, April 15, 2010


Back in February, the kids and I were off for Presidents' Day.  One of the nice things about living on a U.S. military base overseas is that on base we observe all U.S. holidays, meaning days off work and school, while off base, of course, they observe their own  national holidays, so whenever we want to travel on holidays, we don't have to battle the normal Japanese holiday madness with the crushing crowds and insane traffic jams.

Since we STILL don't know whether or not we'll be leaving Japan in August, I'm in full-on count-down-to-leave-Japan mode, trying to cram in all the things we want to see and do in what could possibly be our last 6 months here.  Meg and E still hadn't ridden on a shinkansen (bullet train).  I took a trip to Hiroshima via shink in June, and the BFF and I took one back from Osaka in September.  Gabi has taken 4 shinki trips so far with her cross country and track teams, so I wanted to be sure Meg and Ethan got to enjoy the experience too.

Shinkansen tickets can be really expensive, sometimes as much as a plane ticket, but the ticket price is partially based on how you're going to travel, so if you want to make a short/quick trip, it's not bad at all.  So I researched some of the closer desinations along the shinkansen route and settled on Karuizawa.  No particular reason other than it is just under an hour ride, which I figured was perfect for the kids, long enough to enjoy the ride, but not so long that they'd get bored.  And it was the closest place that I thought might have something they'd be semi-interested in seeing, an outlet mall.  Okay, so that probably sounds like something I'd be interested in, but Meg is a full-fledged teenaged girl who loves to shop, and this mall has a LEGO store, one of E's favorite places.

So, off we went.  The ticket was way cheaper than I had thought, especially since Meg's Youth fare was 1/2 the adult price, and Ethan was freeeeeee!  Score!  Seeing as I was spending so much less than I had budgeted, I decided to splurge on seats in the green car (first class).  Woo hoo!

We got to the station about an hour early, so we'd have plenty of time for train watching and picture taking.

The kids had a blast on the train, it was definitely worth the money.  Something I know they will both always remember.  But it didn't end there! 

The weather in Fussa was in the high 40's that day, and we had yet to see any snow this winter, so imagine our shock when we flew out of the last mountain tunnel into this:

Turns out Karuizawa is a ski resort too!  Soooooo awesome!  Meg and E were beside themselves with excitement!  The mall is literally at the base of the ski slopes, and the train station is directly across the street.  We could see people skiing and snowboarding down the mountain, it's the first time we had ever seen people skiing in real life!  (Remember, we're from FLORIDA, the "Sunshine, temp-never-drops-below-40-degrees state").

The mall was unbelieveable too!  Over 200 stores and restaurants!  It was like a real American outlet mall!  We found some pants and socks for both kids on a clearance rack, so I let them romp in the snow and get completely soaked, then they changed into the new, dry stuff and we caught the 4pm shinki back to Tokyo.  It was  a really great day and I'm so glad we decided to go.


Robin Vistnes said...

I loved that shink trip- That train with the pic with the two kiddos together is so futuristic! And unreal snow!!!! Great post!

tokyo5 said...

>it's the first time we had ever seen people skiing in real life! (Remember, we're from FLORIDA...)

I'm also from Florida...and my first time to see snow was also in Japan.
But after 20 years, I think I'm now more used to Tokyo's weather than Florida's.

But this year's winter is unusually long!