Not at all because I’ve been working too hard, we had a quick holiday to the ski resort of Tomamu last week. In fact, it was because Kazuko’s twin sister Masako’s husband Kii-chan (got all that?), who actually does work for a living, is on holiday so we decided to all head off together, along with Kii-chan’s parents and our niece little Sakurako. Although Tomamu is primarily a ski resort, it’s open all year round and features such delights as a golf course and a cafe right up the mountain that you have to catch a ski ropeway to get to.
Ironically, I couldn’t travel to Tomamu in the car with everyone else because I had a meeting to discuss the course at the university where I’ll be starting work in a week and a half. The prospect of work is finally looming over me. So while I was finding out about what I’m supposed to be doing next week, they were travelling with Kaz and my bikes to Tomamu Alpha Resort and worrying about whether I would have the necessary skills to be able to catch a train in Japan. Never fear, though. I handled the challenge with aplomb by pressing the button marked ‘English’ on the ticket machine. Neither did I have to cope with the difficulties of getting from Tomamu train station (I’m just including a link here to show how many pointless wikipedia entries there are) to the hotel, which would have involved simply getting in to a shuttle bus, because Kii-chan and Kazuko drove down to meet me. And because I was the only person to get off the train, left the shuttle bus driver to another lonely drive home. The map below catches my train journey quite superbly:
The Tomamu Alpha Resort is a collection of hotels with activities such as a golf course, swimming pool and of course several ski fields. It also had the charming feel of a resort whose salad days were clearly well behind it. Apparently 20-odd years ago, when the Japanese economy was hitting its straps, the resort was also booming but nowadays it seems only essential carpets are replaced and if a tile falls off a wall, I’m afraid there will be no replacement. I quite liked this. I have always enjoyed the aesthetic of decay and when my boat comes in, I shall dedicate a corner of my estate to a weed-ridden courtyard, crumbling statues and an empty fountain. At the Tomamu resort, I particularly liked the enclosed glass walkway from our hotel to the restaurant. It was maybe a kilometre long, the forest on either side was nicely lit and of course the carpet was threadbare and I hope they figure out how to get the heating working by winter. For all that, it was still pretty flash. The morning view from our room on the 25th floor of The Towers looked like this:
Most of the buildings are hotels. Perhaps in winter they take guests but they were all shut up now. As you can see, the weather is a bit iffy and the wind was also pretty cold. It turned out Japan’s first post-summer snowfall was happening not too far to the north of us at about this time. But Kaz and I got up early and headed off for a mildly chilly and slightly wet ride around the area. Unfortunately, we kept running out of road. We had looked at the map and chosen a nice loop to ride but after heading off in one direction and starting up a promising climb, the road turned into gravel, which a sign said would go for another nine kilometres.
So we turned around and headed back past the resort in the other direction. We went through Tomamu town, which had some cafes but none that were open, and carried on up the road until it started raining on us and getting cooler. We weren’t quite ready to turn back yet but saw a touristy-looking sign by the road for a farm a few kilometres away. It looked a nice climb so we went that way. When we got there, instead of having a nice cosy cafe with coffee served at the correct temperature, it was, in fact, a farm. And even though there was plenty of hill left, once again the road turned into gravel.
So we finally headed for home. On the way, I got a pic of the hotel where we were staying:
One relic from the resort’s glory days was a very large swimming pool with a wave machine and everything. It was all indoors under a high glass roof and although it may have been chilly outside, it’s always summer in the swimming pool area. I didn’t bring my togs but the pool had a spa section that Kazuko and I went to but first we went for a walk around the area. We wanted to walk up the hill to a cafe near the top but were told it was only open in the mornings and we couldn’t walk anyway, because of bears. So instead we had a look at the empty hotels.
And then we went for a bath. If I haven’t mentioned in an earlier post, Japanese spa baths (onsen) are segregated. You go in and have a shower first to make sure you don’t contaminate the spa water and then sit around naked in hot water for as long as you can bear it. I usually start in the hot water to get the heart rate up then move to the sauna until I start having hallucinations about the black hole of Calcutta and then I sit in the cold water bath until I think I’m ready for the hot water again. This onsen’s hot bath was outdoors so I enjoyed being stark naked in the great outdoors near a forest and was only mildly disappointed that no bear emerged from the trees.
We left the next day but we had enough time to do a few laps of the hotel’s driveway. It was about one-and-a-half kilometres long with a couple of nice climbs to give us a good appetite for breakfast. After leaving the hotel, we spent the day driving back to Sapporo, stopping to see the sights along the way which included the Anpanman shop and museum near Furano.
Anpanman is possibly the most popular children’s cartoon in Japan. His head is made of anpan, which is a bread roll packed with sweet red bean paste. In Japanese, this paste is called anko and because I have a habit of confusing similar-sounding words, I always have to strive not to say unko which is Japanese for poo. If you are hungry, Anpanman will let you eat part of his head. I think this is a bit weird. I also noticed at the shop that he’s not always so very friendly: