|The continental breakfast. What we thought was french toast was actually toast filled with custard!|
We packed slowly and then headed out to Takasago Sake Brewery. Malcolm wanted to rechallenge his non-sake loving palate. They had an interesting non-alcoholic sake which was essentially the mixture pre-fermentation. Malcolm had a taste of the brewery's premium sake but was sadly not converted. Can't say he didn't try! The brewery has a small display and was more of a tasting room and shop. The gentleman helping us was kind and explained how sake was made. However, unless you plan on tasting and buying sake, there wasn't really much else to see or do. The only advantage of this brewery compared to the other (Otokayama) was that it was much closer to JR Asahikawa station. This was important to us as we had to eat some Asahikawa ramen prior to our journey for Tomamu. A quick note here...There is a popular ramen village which has 8 of the most famous ramen stores all next to each other. However, unless you plan on eating more than one bowl...most have a store close to the train station so just pick a store and try the ramen! The ramen village is about 20 minutes away from town.
|Takasago Sake Brewery|
We had spoiled ourselves with our transfer today and got a private minibus. A far cry from our usual train adventures! Our driver came early and was waiting for us at our hotel with our name on a card. The minivan was clean and comfortable, and more importantly, was able to fit all our suitcases in the boot! Oma and Opa in particular was most pleased with not having to deal with trains. The drive was at times scary with the heavy snowfall. The 3 hour trip with loo stop included went by very quickly and we were soon at the Hoshino Resort Tomamu.
|Our own minivan!|
|All suitcases in!|
|All people in!|
|Er...where's the road?!?|
We booked three quad family rooms between the Kohs, my parents and ourselves. The room was very generous in space. As well as accommodating four beds, there was also a sitting area. Best of all, there were two bathrooms in each room! An absolute luxury!!!
The children went into excitement overdrive with the abundance of snow and we could not hold them back any longer. A 30 minute play in the snow took the edge off and excitement ran high again with the arrival of the Kohs. You would have thought that they had not seen in each other in years....
|They couldn't take it any longer. They had to be in the snow|
We were given a flyer with happy 5 o'clock deals and happy 8 o'clock deals. How could any good Asian resist a bargain? The first bargain offer was free gelato for the first seven people to present to the yakitori bar. Check. Seven gelatos later we looked for bargain number two. Dinner was at the Vegetable Bandit (misleading name as the restaurant wasn't all vegetarian food as I had incorrectly assumed) and if you dined before 6pm you received a 20% discount. Yes! That suited us just fine as we had to make it to Mina Mina Beach before 7pm.
Mina Mina Beach, a large indoor pool part of the Tomamu Hoshina Resort complex, was Japan's largest indoor wave pool. Entry was complimentary for hotel guests. The water though, was cooler than expected! After experiencing the waves, we gave the outdoor baths a try. There was so much steam as a result of the contract between the hot water and cold air that modesty between friends was not an issue! When there was a gentle breeze, one could appreciate the beautiful snowy outlook with the trees uplit. We discovered later that the men didn't end up going into the outdoor baths which was a shame.
|Mina Mina Beach|
The Ice village was a short walk from Ice Village shuttle bus stop. Entry into the village was either by walking down the slope or by the much more polular ice slide! It was faster than expected and there was no way of controlling your speed. The children went on multiple runs to their hearts content while the adults sipped on warm drinks. Malcolm bought himself a hot butter rum which apparently was a lot better than sake but was essentially a cup of rum with a knob of butter and a cinnamon stick. Other notables in the Ice Village include an ice bar, an ice restaurant, an ice school an even a ice chapel!
|Ice restaurant! Seats made of nice not particularly comfortable even with a furry thing on top of the seat|
|Let's go kids!|
|Lara's chin later got stuck on the snow...lol|
On the way back to our room, we stopped at the Chapel On the Water, an aesthetically amazing piece of architecture with a view of a giant cross in the snow. It was an unexpected detour that added a slice of serenity and beauty to the pretty surrounds.
Last but not least we finally ate the Le Tao cheesecake. Superb! Smooth, creamy and full of flavour. A great way to go to bed...
|Happy cheesecake dreams!|