I feel super lucky because my awesome brother and his equally awesome girlfriend came out to Japan this past week.  It was fairly last-minute (read: only a few weeks of planning) but they had the best itinerary and it was so wonderful to see them.

I met them in Yokohama the night they arrived and drove them back to Muhari-cho.  We hung out for a bit and then everyone turned in for the night.  The next day, I went to work and came home for lunch, thinking they’d still be there since we got in late the night before.  They were gone!  Sagoy!  I was very impressed by their initiative.  They went to Kyoto, Nara and Osaka.  It sounds like a great trip and they went to a few places in Kyoto that are now on my list- the bamboo forest and the 10,000 torii gates.

1. Anime snow-animal in Yoyogi 2. Harajuku 3. View of Mt Fuji from the Shin

They were gone from Wednesday to Saturday and came home Saturday night in the worst snowstorm the Kanto plain has seen in 47 years.  They were super lucky in catching the train all the way home, even though the caveat to their luckiness was the train went about 2 mph from Yokohama to Horinouchi.  They got home at 0230…blech!  The next day, they slept in a bit then we all headed into Tokyo.  We went to Yoyogi Park and Harajuku before heading on the Shinkasen to Nagano to go skiing for two days!!!

We were heading to Nozawa-onsen and getting there was pretty easy.  We took the Shinkansen Asama from Tokyo to Nagano.  Then we took a local JR Iiyama line train for about an hour to TogariNozawaOnsen.  Apparently, there is a Nozawa station that is 4 hours away from the ski resort.  That would be a bad sagoy!  At the train station, the first two groups got cabs while the rest of us suckers were in the cold with no cabs.  We arrived after the Y300 bus, so we were stuck waiting for a cab (~Y3000).  We knew that we were arriving after the last bus, but we didn’t expect so few cabs!  The station attendant helpfully pointed out the cab numbers and I mustered up my best Japanese (terrible) and called them to ask for cabs.  I got the hang of it on the fourth call and two cabs showed up.  Yeah!  Now really, I have no idea if this was coincidence or not but I think my fourth phone call was pretty clear.  The first two were not as I wasn’t very clear which station I was at and the third was to a disconnected number.

We stayed at Petit Hotel Nozawa-onsen Inn and it was perfect!  It was inexpensive, the rooms were warm and they served a delicious breakfast for only Y500.  They also had ski rentals for Y1500.  Awesome!

The rooms were Japanese-style with futons and comforters.  It was decently comfortable although the walls were thin and we were near the sinks and bathrooms.  I learned that people in the onsen had excellent oral hygiene and definitely brushed their teeth for 2+ minutes.

1. Onsen room 2. View from my window 3. Me, happy to be skiing!
Nozawa-onsen ski resort was AWESOME!  The snow was incredible- all-natural, dry powder and just amazing to ski on.  I was a little rusty and only went on a black twice (once by accident…yeep!), but the intermediate slopes were so pleasant apart from moderate iciness on the Skyline run on the second day. The views were pretty spectacular though!
From left CW: 1. I am so happy to be out skiing 2. Japanese ski outfits 3. View 4. Ed and Meg 5. Day’s end

My favorite runs were at the top of the mountain to the left of the topmost quad lift.   The snow was consistently fantastic and there was some off-piste skiing that had great powder and not too many trees.

After the second day of skiing, we headed back home.  We stopped in Tokyo station and went to ramen alley.  Meg picked out the restaurant and it was delicious!  It’s called Tokyo Edoama and specializes in miso broth ramen.  I ordered the #1 Tokyo special and it was tasty.  Meg got a crazy-spicy soup.  Her spice tolerance impressed Ed and I.  I would definitely recommend the restaurant although I think I will try another one next time I go just to make the rounds.
Ed takes several pictures at a time.  I did not know that.  Let me caption them (L-R): 1. Yay, I love ramen! (cute) 2. Time to Eat 3. Are you still taking pictures? 4. Wait, seriously? 5. No more pictures! For real!
The next day, I had clinic, boo.  Ed and Meg went into Tokyo and we met up in Yokohama for dinner. We wanted to go to the sushi-go-round in World Porters but it was closed.  We headed back to Yokohama station and we went to the same izakaya I went to the weekend to the Thrash Zone.  It was still delicious and we had great yakitori in addition to a few other small dishes.  Ed and Meg really liked it.
From top CW: Izakaya, Ed and Meg, Panorama of Yokohama from vantage point I think SMS would like!

Then, whah!  Our fun visit was over.  They had a last half-day in Tokyo while I went back to work.  I had the best day yet in Yokosuka, professionally-speaking.  I did a left parotidectomy that went really well without any post-opertive facial nerve paresis.  It was a GREAT day and one that makes me really happy that I’m a surgeon.  So that partially healed my sads caused by Ed and Meg leaving.

Next visitors: Mom and Dad in April!  Leave is approved and I cannot wait to travel around with them!!!

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