With little snow in the Alps, the DIY Team – consisting of Xavier De Le Rue and myself, his wife, Beanie De Le Rue – did what every snow lover does at this time of year: travel to Japan. We found everything from deep powder and natural hot springs to fire festivals and some excellent – if at times slightly strange – food in the village of Nozawa Onsen.
Nozawa Onsen is thought to have been founded by a Buddhist monk in the year 724, during the period of the Japanese Emperor Shomu. It’s known as a Yuyama village, or hot spring mountain town. More importantly, it’s also known for having one of the heaviest snowfalls in the Nagano region – and it certainly lived up to its reputation.
Arriving to tales of the worst snowfall in 20 years, dry roads and a very brown landscape, it appeared that the DIY team were out of luck. But it’s amazing how one night of heavy dumping is all you need in Japan. More than three metres of light, fluffy powder fell in Nozawa while we were there, with shrubby bush runs turning into neck deep powder straight lines.
Long days ended in the village’s onsens, bath houses fed by natural hot spring water at a scorching 65ºC, followed by dinner that consisted of squid in squid gut sauce and crickets for dessert (well, we only had that kind of cuisine once). We were also lucky enough to see the infamous Fire Festival, which involves the burning of a three-storey shrine, battles with flaming sticks, a whole lot of sake and what felt like a complete disregard for safety.
This trip was a step away from Xavier’s normal DIY adventures that usually involve steep and icy couloirs. But this time around we got deep powder tree runs!