(Japantasy 2013)
By Peter-Paul de Meijer

Although we already got acquainted with sushi and the headaches that will typically come with the consumption of fermented Japanese rice brew a few days earlier, our journey begins in Amsterdam. It is early March and the three of us feel privileged, yet at the same time we cope with feelings the early explorers must have had travelling to distant places not knowing who and what to expect along their ways.

Our destination is the Hakuba Valley in the Northern Alps of the Nagano Prefecture on Japan’s main island Honshu. Backpack manufacturer f-stop is hosting a photo competition and we have been selected as their European representatives.
Japan is well-known for its unique snowfall. Prevailing winds from the originating from Siberia generate consistent mid-winter snowfall along the entire west coast of Hokkaido and most of Japan’s main island Honshu.
The Hakuba Valley is the westernmost part of the Nagano Prefecture on Honshu, and the small Hakuba Cortina area closest to the west coast has the snowiest reputation in the valley.
From Amsterdam it is a three hour flight to Moscow and another ten hours to the economic heart of the land of the rising sun, Tokyo.

The combined travelling time was about 16 hours, and we had been up for the most of it. With some jet lag, but sheer excitement over the fact that we are currently living nine hours in the future we head out for a night in the city that, in daytime, resides over 20 million people.
While searching for the Narita Express train that will bring us to Tokyo Station, we are immediately confronted with the wild and crazy world of Japanese vending machines. Offering a unique variety of products, ranging from warm beverages to worn lingerie, these machines seem to be surrounding us everywhere, lighting up like casino slots when we are passing by.

We decide to play it safe, only try out a variety of deliciously looking, but not so deliciously tasting candy, and decide to head into Tokyo before our bowels loosen up.

At the very latest in the Tokyo Subway you are stuck if you do not read Japanese. Expecting things to be written in proper English or even trying to apply any common western logic does not get you anywhere.