All posts by Snowriders Australia

10 things you can do to keep our winters cool

Our logo turned green this month as a sign of our commitment and absolute resolve to make a difference in the fight against global pollution and climate change. Here is the first of our articles aimed at raising awareness.

In late 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it’s latest findings. It was not good news. We have precisely 12 months to limit temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees C, or face damning consequences, including catastrophic sea level rise, extreme heatwaves, mass extinctions and the death of coral reefs.

“There’s one issue that will define the contours of the century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate”

Barack Obama

The authors of the IPCC report say it’s still possible to prevent the world from warming more than 1.5 degrees C, but to achieve that, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030 compared to what they were in 2010, then reduce gas emissions to zero by 2050. But to do this requires an immediate, massive, and coordinated transformation of the global economic system – especially the energy system, said the IPCC.

The future if we don’t limit temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees C

As skiers and boarders, we have a ‘vested’ interest to take action or face losing our sport and the environment which will be relegated to the history books of ‘something mum and dad used to do’ (yes, mum and dad, not grandma and granddad – its happening that fast).

“In a world of more than 7 billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”

Professor David Suzuki

Because we at SRA have given up on government to do anything about the climate change and its causes, we are calling on you as individuals to take up the slack. This is our call to action.

It ‘s no longer a government responsibility, but our individual responsibility to act – and not only act, but urge others to do the same.

This week we thought we’d start with an excellent piece written by Professor David Suzuki – scientist and passionate climate change mitigation advocate. In 2018, David’s team published an article ‘Top 10 things you can do about climate change‘.

With permission, we are excited to reproduce David’s key actions below – all of which are achievable by the average person.

1. Get charged up with renewables

The global push for cleaner, healthier energy is on. With costs dropping every day, renewable energy is the best choice for the environment and the economy. Start by sending a message to government leaders to get charged up with renewables now.

2. Green your commute

Transportation accounts for about 25% of climate-poluting emissions, a close second to the oil and gas industry. The many ways to reduce your transportation emissions will also make you healthier, happier and save you a few bucks. Whenever and wherever you can:

  • Take public transit.
  • Ride a bike.
  • Car-share.
  • Switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle.
  • Fly less (if you ski internationally, make sure you offset your emissions).

3. Use energy wisely

By getting more energy efficient, you’ll pollute less and save money. The small changes you make add up:

  • Change to energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water.
  • Dryers are energy hogs, so hang dry when you can and use dryer balls when you can’t.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Look for the Energy Star label when buying new appliances.
  • Winterize your home to prevent heat from escaping.
  • Get a home or workplace energy audit to identify where you can make the most energy-saving gains.

4. Eat for a climate-stable planet

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”~ Michael Pollan

Here are four simple changes you can make to your diet to reduce its climate impact.

  • Eat meat-free meals.
  • Buy organic and local whenever possible.
  • Don’t waste food.
  • Grow your own.

Get more info on how to eat for the climate and how eating less meat will reduce Earth’s heat. P.S. You can also help save the planet by eating insects!

5. Consume less, waste less, enjoy life

We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division.” ~ The Story of Stuff

Focusing on life’s simple pleasures — spending time in nature, being with loved ones and/or making a difference to others — provides more purpose, belonging and happiness than buying and consuming. Sharing, making, fixing, upcycling, repurposing and composting are all good places to start.

6. Divest from fossil fuels

Let industry know you care about climate change by making sure any investments you and your university, workplace or pension fund make do not include fossil fuels. Meet with your bank or investment adviser and/or join a divestment campaign at your university.

Fossil fuels are a sunset industry. They’re a risk for investors and the planet. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged.”

Learn more about why it’s important to divest from damage and invest in a healthier future.

7. Invest in renewables

Even if you can’t install solar panels or a wind turbine, you can still be a part of the clean-energy economy. Search online for local renewable energy co-ops to join. By becoming a co-op member you will own a slice of its renewable energy projects and can get a return on your investment. You can also speak to your financial adviser about clean energy/technology investments.

8. Help put a price on carbon

Putting a price on carbon is one of the most important pillars of any strong climate policy. Carbon pricing sounds boring, but it helps makes polluting activities more expensive and green solutions relatively more affordable, allowing your energy-efficient business and/or household to save money!

Most market economists agree that pricing carbon is an efficient and business-friendly way to reduce emissions. The federal government is working with the provinces and territories to put a national price on carbon, but they need your support.

9. Vote

All levels of government, from municipal to federal, can have a big effect on our ability to lower emissions, prepare and adapt to climate change and shift to a clean-energy economy.

Make sure you are registered to vote and then get informed for all elections — not just the federal ones that get most of the media attention. Research the party, ask questions about climate change at town halls or debates and let your candidates know you are voting for the climate. Candidates often hold a wide range of positions on climate change, so your vote really matters.

If you are too young to vote, encourage your class or school to join a Student Vote program, a parallel election for students under voting age that provides the opportunity to experience participation in the election process.

The first step is registering to vote. You can start with that now by following the links above.

10. Tell your story, listen to others

A healthy planet and stable climate aren’t political issues. It’s all about families, communities, energy systems and humanity’s future. It’s important to get everyone on board, working toward climate solutions.

People are more often influenced by friends than by experts, so make sure to talk about climate change with friends and family. Tell your stories — about changes you’ve seen where you live, how climate change has affected you, and the changes you’re making to lessen your impact. Encourage friends and family to explore the top 10 things they can do about climate change.

Join David and his team on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to share ideas and articles, write comments and help get the word out. Or, write your own letter to the editor about climate action in your local paper.

Aldi snow gear, 2019: what’s new, how much does it cost and does it stack up?

Aldi’s range of low-cost snow gear will again hit our Aussie stores on the 18 May. Yep, that’s the same day as our Federal election.  So time to grab bargain, possibly get in a fist-fight and celebrate our democracy with a sausage sizzle at you nearest election booth (what could be more Australian than that?). High fives all round.

With the anticipation and excitement building, I can hear you asking: What will it look like, how much will it cost and most importantly, will it do the job? All reasonable questions my friends…

Well….*drum roll*…..This year we are really excited because SRA has for the first time been granted unprecedented early access to the catalogue material.

Like previous years, Aldi will in 2019 offer a range of jackets, pants, mid and thermal layers, helmets, gloves, socks, boots, neck warmers and goggles. There will even be a range of toboggans. So let’s take a closer look at its value, quality, durability and style.

Aldi gear is so much fun….
Overwhelmingly, people feel that the Aldi range of children’s gear is good value for money

Value

Let us start with the price.  The good news is, the prices haven’t changed in three years.  Aldi will again offer jackets and pants starting at $AUD59.99 and $AUD49.99 respectively for the low-end garments, and $AUD119.99 and $AUD99.99 respectively, for the high-end garments.  So that’s a saving straightaway. How many retailers have been able to freeze their prices for 1 year, let alone 3.

So that’s a big tick for prices.  But what about quality?

Styling…!

Quality

First of all, how do you tell a quality garment from a cheap and nasty garment? Without getting too technical it just depends on what you want to do.  Quality garments prevent water from getting in, while allowing water vapor (i.e. sweat) to escape, with the quality garments doing it better than inferior garments.

If you ride a few hours a day and rarely break a sweat, then water proofing of 10,000 mm and breathability 10,000 g/m2/24hr is probably going to be fine.  If however, you ride irrespective of the weather, ride hard or like to earn your turns (i.e. hike), then garments of 20,000 mm and 15,000+ g/m2/24hr are more for you.

Adult range

Aldi offer two lines of product.  Aldi’s high-end Inoc range offers a surprisingly high level of water resistance and breathability at 20,000 mm and 20,000 g/m2/24hr respectively; numbers which are equivalent to the top brands.  And at less than $AUD120 they are a steal when you can easily pay between $AUD400 to $AUD1,000 for the same level of water resistance and breathability in name brands. 

This year the outer wear is insulated with Dopont ‘Sarona’ wadding, a 100% renewable and sustainably sourced fiber with very good breathability and insulative qualities.  They come with fully taped seams and a 3-layer laminate construction. Sounds fancy! Another nice new feature this year is the addition of a ski pass pocket on the bottom left hand sleeve. 

Their low-end Crane range has stepped down a notch this year, offering water resistance to 8,000 mm and breathability to 8,000 g/m2/24hr. Last years range was higher at 12,000 mm and 10,000 g/m2/24hr respectively. The low-end range also features built-in Dopont ‘Saraona’ thermal wadding.   In terms of warmth, water resistance and breathability, the low-end range is probably OK in average Australian conditions (to minus 5 degrees C) but not in persistent rain, or for folks who like to hike the back country.

So if you can afford the high-end range, it represents great value and with the specs on offer, it will probably get you through the worst winter can throw at you.

In terms of gloves, Aldi are again offering a good quality glove suitable for skiing, snowboarding or snow play, for just $34.99. The range is breathable to 10,000 g/m2/24hr and comes with soft, durable goatskin leather on the palm, fingers and thumb. They are also keeping up with the times by offering touchscreen friendly finger tips. Nice!

Kids range

The Aldi kid’s range is attractive to the eye and super competitive at just $39.99 for jackets and $29.99 for pants. But what about quality? Kids love rolling around in the snow, and nothing spoils your day faster than a cold, wet and miserable littlin’. Aldi has stepped up again this year offering a high quality product with a 12,000 mm and a 10,000 g/m2/24hr water and breathability rating, respectively. Not bad when you consider that brand products in 2018 were 3 times the price while offering only small improvements in specs (15k/15k) or none at all (10k/10k).

For kids, nothing is more important than a good quality glove. Little fingers get cold quickly and can become painful. The Aldi range of children’s gloves also specs out at 12,000 mm and 10,000 g/m2/24hr, which is not too bad. They are actually more water resistant than the adult range, so it shows Aldi have done their homework. If in doubt, always buy a set of inners (not available at Aldi) so your kids fingers are double insulated. But at $11.99 a pair, the kids gloves are also a steal.

Durability

Anecdotally the gear stacks up. Plenty of trusted folk close to us have purchased and used Aldi’s gear in Australia, Japan and other overseas destinations, without complaints – in fact, some even rave about its quality.  Nonetheless, the Aldi range of snow gear very much polarises the skiing and snowboarding community; you either love it or hate, with little room in between.

As any of us – and particularly those of us with kids – know, it’s the qualities of the zips and seams, quality of the stitching, the insulation and the amount of stretch in the fabric that ultimately determine how durable your jacket is and how long it will last (and just as importantly, how cold and wet you and your kids will be at the end of the day!). There’s also the attention to detail, like the quality of the pocket zips and the zip toggles (quality toggles make it easy to zip and unzip your jacket while wearing gloves).

Personally, we haven’t used the Aldi range, but 2 years ago took the time to interview people at the Mirrabooka store in Perth, Western Australia (yes, Mirrabooka is a place!).  We asked why the chose to purchase the range and what they thought.  The responses were overwhelming. Most people were shopping for their children.  Most felt that Aldi offered fantastic value for children and refused to pay high prices for ‘brand’ gear, when their children would likely grow out of it in one to two seasons.  David of Joondalup stated:

“we are here shopping for our kids who are really tough on their gear, which makes resale a bit of an issue. Happy to buy the Aldi range which has worked really well for our friends on previous trips”

Others were shopping for themselves in preparation for their upcoming trip to the Aussie or the New Zealand ski fields. As entry level skiers and snowboarders, they lamented the cost of snow sports generally, and added that the Aldi range offered an effective means for saving just a little bit of cash – cash which could be used to either fund the rest of the trip, or be spent on other items (i.e. resort food – which as we know is not the cheapest grub going around).  Peter of Duncraig adds:

“we’ve never been snowboarding before and don’t have any gear at all. We are heading to Perisher this year so my wife sent me down to pick up some jackets, gloves and pants”

Style

As for style, we at SRA are not qualified to comment on what’s hot or not on the slopes this year – but one thing we have noticed is the general improvement in aesthetics over the years. What once screamed “I’m wearing Aldi”, is now more subtle, even slightly stylish.  How does it stack up against well known fashionista brands, Mocler, Lacroix and Spyder? Well, we’ll leave that up to you.

Would you be caught dead in the Aldi range? If it was us, the answer is probably yes.  Leave us a comment if you agree.

Aldi’s snow gear sale starts on the 18 May 2019, and will continue until sold out

Nozawa Onsen: from the inside looking out

Every year hordes of people write to us asking for insights or an ‘insiders’ guide to the Japanese resorts of Hokkaido and Honshu. While we’ve visited our fair share of the Japanese resorts, our time in these beautiful places is often too short. So although we’ve had a taste of what these resorts have to offer, nothing makes up for the experience of ‘living’ in the resort. ‘Seasonaires’, or those lucky enough to have lived in a resort know the lay of the land better than anyone; and are thus far more qualified than we are to write about them.

This year we were fortunate to meet Alex Parsons, professional snowboard instructor and blogger at “Big World, Little Cat“, who has spent several seasons living and working in Japan. Alex agreed to write this sweet little review of one of Japan’s most popular resorts: the quaint but awesome Nozawa Onsen.

We’ll leave it to Alex to explain the rest. Thanks Alex!

Alex in her natural habitat

Review by Alex

As a snowboard instructor who has explored over a dozen ski resorts, I’m frequently asked, “What’s your favourite resort?” And every time my answer is the same: “Nozawa Onsen”.

Nozawa Onsen has the perfect mix of Japan’s famous powder snow, tree riding, a big enough village that has a traditional Japanese feel, and of course those free onsen. I love Nozawa so much that I once lived there for 9 months and was lucky to see it in autumn, winter and spring. This helped me to see how Nozawa is a living, breathing village that is run by Japanese farmers and local business people, instead of feeling like another slice of bogan pie in Japan.

With all that said, here’s a review of all things Nozawa Onsen:

The culture on offer at Nozawa is second-to-none
Its called Nozawa ‘Onsen’ for a reason!

The mountain

Nozawa has a family-friendly mix of terrain with about 40% beginner, 30% intermediate and 30% advanced runs. Nozawa is well known for tree skiing at the top of the mountain in the Yamabiko area, which is surprisingly allowed by ski patrol. It receives plenty of dry powder at a height of 1,650m and has natural half pipes, jumps and tree jibs.

Nozawa is lesser known for its excellent sidecountry and backcountry, which is plentiful and best explored with a guide. Unlike a lot of Japanese resorts, Nozawa also has a decent park with boxes, the occasional rail, beginner and intermediate jumps and a small pipe. There are some nice long runs like Skyline, and awesome vertical of 1,085m but riding from top to bottom will always mean running into a cat track or flat green run somewhere.

For a more detailed article on Nozawa’s terrain for families, intermediates, advanced riders, powder hounds and park rats, check out this article on my blog.

Snow

Nozawa frequently gets over 10 metres of snow a season. The mountain gets storms full of precipitation from the Sea of Japan and you can sometimes wake up to the village covered in a metre of snow overnight. Being on the mainland of Japan, Honshu, means that the powder isn’t quite as dry as the Hokkaido resorts but on the plus side, you don’t need to endure the bitter cold to get into the white room.

Note that like many Japanese resorts, there are no snow making facilities at Nozawa. The snow at the bottom of the resort can be patchy in early and late season so January and February are your best bets for reliable snowfall. The top Yamabiko area is the best place for fresh tracks between the trees, while the lower slopes can get slushy at the end of the day. There is also night skiing on the lower slopes.

Food and drink

Nozawa has a fantastic mix of Japanese restaurants owned by long-time locals and varied western food run by Australians and international couples that have taken up residence in the town. My favourite Japanese spots are Wakagiri for unfaltering good food, Wanryu for classic ramen, and Biliken for their great range and the fact that you get to hang out with the owner’s cats.

When it comes to western food Genki Burger is an absolute must for burgers after riding, Junto’s Mexican is for delicious burritos and margaritas, and Gochisou is best for your pizza fix. When you need a good espresso coffee, you’ll need to head to Tanuki, Craft Room, Winterland or Mt Dock. If you’re after a comprehensive list of Nozawa’s breakfast options, check out this article I did for Nozawa Holidays.

Apres

Nozawa has plenty of good bars, both Japanese and western, and it’s often fun to wander around the town and see what you can find. Beer lovers will appreciate the craft beer at Winterland and Craft Room. Stay bar is an absolute classic and where all the seasonal staff hang out. Neo Bar is a super cool place to chill out with old school snowboarding paraphernalia, and Heaven is a solid choice run by a long-time local. If you’re looking for something very Japanese and off the beaten track (that may or may not involve karaoke) see if you can find my old workplace Minato bar.

Accommodation

Nozawa is blessed with no high rise buildings or chain hotels. It’s all family-owned ryokans, Japanese hotels and the odd self-contained apartment. Nozawa Holidays owns a number of properties and is one of the easiest choices because of the English-speaking staff and wide range of options, especially if you’re after self-contained rooms. If you’d like the traditional Japanese experience then Matsuya Lodge is well priced, while Kawaichiya is mid-range and Sakaya is luxury.

Highlights

Traditional village: A large part of the reason that Nozawa is so popular is because it maintains a traditional Japanese village feel. There are still plenty of local-run businesses, traditional architecture and hidden temples and shrines dotted around the village. Going for a stroll through the winding, ramshackle streets of Nozawa is a true joy.

Free onsen: Nothing beats a hot spring bath (onsen) after a big day of riding. Most accommodations have their own onsens but it’s well worth having a go at one of the 13 free onsens around town to really immerse yourself in Japanese culture. Yes, you need to be naked and bring your own towel and soap, but it is an experience you’ll never forget.

Fire festival: The Dosojin Matsuri, Nozawa’s fire festival, has been drawing massive crowds for years. It’s held on January 15 annually and is an important festival for the villagers as the 42 and 25 year old men battle it out to help ensure health and good fortune. It also happens to involve a lot of sake, people getting hit by burning torches, and a massive wooden tower that is set on fire and burned to the ground. It simply must be seen to be believed.

Japanese onsens are a pure delight and a cultural must do

Lift ticket prices

For such a popular resort, Nozawa’s lift tickets have remained reasonable.You can get an adult day pass for 4,800 yen, while kids under 15 are just 2,200 yen and seniors over 60 are 3,700 yen. You can see more options for lift tickets here.

Getting there

Thanks to the beloved Shinkansen (bullet train), getting to Nozawa is relatively easy. From the airport, take a bus or train to Tokyo, then the Shinkansen to Iiyama and the Nozawa Onsen Liner bus up to Nozawa. The whole process should take less than 4 hours.

If you’re not a fan of dragging your luggage around public transport then opt for one of the shuttle bus services. Chuo Taxi and Nozawa Holidays both offer good shuttle services that you can read about here.

I am actually in Nozawa Onsen now, as I finish up writing this article. I’m sitting on my futon in my tatami mat room and it’s snowing outside. I’ve only got a few days left in this beautiful town but I know I will be back. No matter where I go in the world, I think Nozawa Onsen will always be my favourite resort.

The famous Shinkansen

Fancy a trip to Japan?

Snowriders Australia is this year (January 2019) running a group trip to the Island of Honshu, taking in resorts of Madarao, Nozawa and others in the Nagano Prefecture. Special discounts, free lessons and a free inter-resort shuttle bus are just some of the inclusions in our great package deal. Send us a message if interested. You will not be disappointed in Japan, it really is next level for snow, culture and value for money.

Buller: counting down to snow season 2019

There is a whole lot happening around Mt Buller this autumn and all eyes are on the new 6-seater chairlift which is steadily taking shape on Bourke Street.  The new lift is a Doppelmayr  6-seater detachable, which will move guests quickly out of the village to Baldy in just over 2 minutes.

In early April, the all-important bull wheel arrived in segments fresh from Europe and staff have been busy since then piecing it all together.  The team from Doppelmayr Australia have been working non-stop and the load and top stations are steadily taking shape.

This Sunday started early at Mt Buller with the first tower going up on Bourke Street before 8.30am!  The team are working full steam to get all the towers in position and you can watch it all taking shape LIVE on the webcam.

And take a look at the bottom loadstation for the new Bourke Street Express – the bull wheel is in and the structure is starting to take its final shape.  Next will be the works on the top station and Buller will share photos as that bullwheel is installed in the coming weeks.

Mt Buller joins Mountain Collective

Mt Buller and The Mountain Collective are delighted to announce Australia’s most accessible alpine resort as the newest member of the Mountain Collective in 2019/20. The Mountain Collective is an alliance of some of the best skiing and riding destinations on the planet.

Boasting Victoria’s largest lifting network and just 3 hours from Melbourne, Mt Buller joins the popular Mountain Collective pass which includes NSW neighbours Thredbo, Coronet Peak – The Remarkables and Mt Hutt across the Tasman in New Zealand, Niseko United in Japan, Chamonix in France (Global Affiliate) and top shelf resorts across North America including Alta, Aspen Snowmass, Banff Sunshine, Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Lake Louise, Mammoth, Revelstoke, Snowbird, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Sugarbush, and Taos.

To celebrate the Mt Buller announcement Mountain Collective has issued a limited number of Mountain Collective passes priced at A$449 (Australian dollars) matching the US dollar sticker price, giving a discount of around $200 for Australians and New Zealanders who snap up the introductory offer.

Mountain Collective passholders enjoy two days riding – with no blackout dates – at all Mountain Collective destinations totalling 37 days at the world’s best resorts on the 2019/20 Collective pass. In addition, Mountain Collective passholders can top up with additional days at 50% off single day pass prices in each destination. Early purchasers also receive one bonus day at the destination of their choice for a limited time, with two additional days at Chamonix Mont Blanc, France.

“Joining the Mountain Collective is exciting for Mt Buller” explains Laurie Blampied, General Manager, Buller Ski Lifts. “It puts us in excellent company alongside some of the best ski destinations on the planet, including our friends at Thredbo.”

“The Mountain Collective offers great value for Australian skiers and boarders seeking diverse snow experiences in bucket-list destinations. We extend a warm welcome to all Mountain Collective passholders, and particularly northern hemisphere folk seeking an endless winter and a unique Australian alpine adventure” he added.

“We are excited to bring Mt Buller into the Mountain Collective family effective this 2019 southern snow season,” says Christian Knapp, Chief Marketing Officer, Aspen Skiing Company. “With this addition, along with Thredbo and our partners in New Zealand, Australian skiers have an opportunity to experience the best resorts in the Southern Hemisphere at a tremendous value. Throw in a trip to Japan or North America and the possibilities are endless.”

Mt Buller’s 2019 season pass holders will also benefit from the new Mountain Collective membership with 50% discounts on single day passes at all Mountain Collective resorts in 2019/20.

The Mountain Collective Pass gives skiers and boarders access to 17 destinations, more than 52,858 acres of terrain, 2,459 trails and 383 lifts at some of the most acclaimed mountains in the world.

The exclusive passes for Australian and New Zealanders are only available online at https://tmcaustralia.ltibooking.com/ This special offer is available for a limited time until sold out.

The 2019/20 Mountain Collective Pass benefits:

• 34 days at 17 iconic snow destinations. Plus an additional day at a resort of your choice for a limited time only.

• 2 days at Alta, Aspen Snowmass, Banff Sunshine, Big Sky, Coronet Peak/The Remarkables/Mt Hutt (New Zealand), Jackson Hole, Lake Louise, Mammoth Mountain, Niseko United (Japan), Revelstoke, Snowbird, Sugarbush, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Taos, and Thredbo and Mt Buller (Australia)

• Access to 50% off any additional day passes at full member resorts. Unlimited with no blackout periods.

• 2 days at each Global Affiliate resort including Chamonix (France)

• Access to Mountain Collective Kids Pass for $99USD ($142 AUD). Kids must be 12 and under at the time the pass is purchased.

Visit www.MountainCollective.com or call 02 6459 4151 in Australia for more information. *Price and availability of bonus day subject to change while supplies last. Mountain Collective global affiliate benefits are valid only at then current Mountain Collective Global Affiliates. Global Affiliates are subject to change each ski season.

Climate change breakthrough: scientists predict global cooling, not global warming

In a dramatic rebuttal of the latest IPCC findings, a group of leading climate change scientist from Australia, Italy, Japan, Germany and the Netherlands, will today announce the earth is entering a significant period of cooling, and not warming as previously believed.  

The paper published in the prestigious journal, Royal Proceedings of Climatology, suggests the changes are being driven by a newly discovered reversal in the Planet’s oceanographic currents.

Major Australian currents, which may reverse if predictions hold true

“The findings change everything we previously believed”, said Dr Cowes Phartaloti, first author and Professor at the University of Cinciatti, Italy “at first we cannot believe the data and needa (sic) to check it several times; but mumma-mia, we found the currents were definitely reversing”, he added further.  

Professor Green-Housen of the Inter-planetary Panel of Climate Change, said both he and his colleagues were watching developments closely. “Obviously this is a right pain in our butts, and if true could represent a significant new paradigm in planetary climatology, and worryingly, even a new ice age! – not to mention what will happen to my funding”, he remarked.

Dr Green-Housen was reluctant to be photographed but supplied this life-like pottery caricature of himself on his favourite coffee mug

“The reversal of the Australia’s west coast current, also known as the Leeuwin Current, will result in stronger and more frequent cold fronts from the southwest, resulting in at least an 80% increase in snowfalls across Victoria, New South Wales and New Zealand’s southern Island, adding perhaps 2 to 3 metres to annual snow accumulations, which presently average just under 2 m”, said Dr Cory Olis, of the Ministry of Weathernstuff.

He added further, “the changes should also see a massive extension in the northerly penetration of snow falls, which in some instances may extend as far as the Gold Coast. Queenslanders wont know what hit ’em!”

Drivers on the Gold Coast were struck pink by the unexpected snow falls

When contacted for comment Ms Sally Tovail, of the Australian Snowsports Institute was exuberant stating “we are obviously very excited by these findings, and if Mr Olis’ predictions are correct, it could see a return to the bumper seasons of ’56, ’64 and ’81, which dumped over 3 m of snow on resorts like Hotham and Perisher.  “Based on these findings, Australia will become the next now skiing mecca, and possibly even a winter Olympic venue”, she added further.

Tokyo Disney: a must visit as part of your Japanese snow holiday

For avid skiers and snowboarders, a trip to Tokyo is often nothing more than a convenient, yet interesting stop-over point while en-route to the Japanese snow fields. 

But for the young at heart, a visit to Tokyo presents a great opportunity to visit many of its other attractions, including the most famous theme park of all, DISNEYLAND.  At just over 10 hours from Sydney and 15 hours from Perth, Tokyo Disneyland is a lot closer than its sister resort in Anaheim California (the birthplace of Disneyland). 

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The architecture and attention to detail was amazing

2018-03-06 12.19.12

At 51 hectares and with 43 attractions, Disneyland Tokyo is enormous. Don’t try and do it in anything less than a day, as you’ll just leave disappointed.  For me, the most striking feature (and therefore my strongest memory) was the attention to detail.  Everything is immaculate – from the gardens, to the paint on the walls, to the architecture (wow, the architecture just amazing).  On top of all that, the rides, parades, the attractions and the sheer fun of it all were just a bonus. 

In the centre of the park stands a statue of Disney’s creator, Walt Disney. In the words of Walt, Disneyland is a ‘happy place – a place where adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life, of adventure and feel better because of it’. While staring at his statue, I couldn’t help but think he’d be enormously proud of his creation, which is now lovingly maintained by his disciplined (and very well trained) staff. 

If you’re thinking of taking your family to Tokyo Disney this year, either prior to or on the back of your ski trip, do it – you won’t be disappointed.  Below is a review compiled by my better half, Rachael, who as a second time visitor (first time Anaheim) and mother, can offer a unique perspective.

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The kids looovved the spinning cups

When I was a child I was fortunate enough to visit the birthplace of Disneyland, in Anaheim California.  I’d always dreamt of taking my children, aged 6 and 8 to Disneyland, but at 20 hours from Perth a trip to California seemed…well, seemed a ‘long way’.  So, imagine my joy when I found out we were going to Tokyo and realised it presented an opportunity to visit  Disneyland. 

Before visiting Tokyo’s version, I was a little concerned it might be an inferior, or a ‘B’ grade cousin to its counterpart in California.  However, upon visiting I discovered that nothing could be further from the truth.  Tokyo Disneyland is a near duplicate of Anaheim: the rides are the same, the parades are the same, the buildings are the same, as is nearly everything else. It is, however, just that little bit ‘quirkier’ given it is staffed by Japanese, whom bring a friendly, colourful and excitable personality to the attractions (check out this video for instance!).

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Tokyo Disney consists of two resorts, Disneyland and DisneySea.  You really need two days to explore them both and because we only had a day before we flew out, we chose to visit Disneyland, the original of the franchise.   Tokyo Disneyland is just a short 25-30 minute train ride from Tokyo station to Maihama, an area just to the west of Tokyo on the shores of Tokyo bay.

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Tokyo Disneyland is just 25 min by train from the Tokyo station

We set out early in the morning from our hotel in Shinagawa and caught a connecting train to Tokyo central.  Tokyo station is enormous. We actually underestimated our total travel time because we didn’t take into account the 20 minute walk across Tokyo train station to the platform for the connecting train to Tokyo Disneyland. Otherwise the journey from Tokyo to Maihama is literally 25min from platform to platform.  Navigating the stations was straightforward as the signs have English translations (a big bonus).

Exiting the Maihama Station at Tokyo Disneyland there was a huge sign that showed us that DisneySea was to the left and Disneyland  to the right. Crossing the walk bridge we could see the official Disney themed hotels, the Disneyland Bus (with Mickey Mouse windows) and the Disneyland Monorail (which takes guests from the hotels to the parks).

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The Disney monorail
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The Disney bus

On entering Disneyland I was delighted to see all the familiar Disney icons – characters, architecture, rides, gift-shops and landscaping. A Disney theme park is really an enormous stage where a “show” is presented everyday in each of the themed lands. Because of this, the staff are called ‘cast members’ Cast members are incredibly well trained and disciplined, right down to the way they wave at guests (fingers apart, just like Mickey – only with five fingers per hand), the way they wear their hair, and even to the length of their finger nails.

I found myself marveling at the design of Cinderella’s castle with multiple turrets and the lopsided engineering of the buildings in ‘Toontown’. Disney has gone to a huge amount of trouble (and no doubt expense) to create a proper fantasy world.  The rail is also impressive, and the fact they have gone for real steam trains (when they could have used electric) is further proof of their commitment to the dream.

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Toontown

A visit to Disneyland of course is not complete without  visit to the iconic rides, from Space Mountain (of the 70’s), to the spinning cups, to the roller coasters.  The rides are very popular and even with the fast pass (see below), the queues are long and upon first glance can be daunting.  However, one thing Disney does really well is queue management.  The lines move fast…really fast.  From a shuffle to (I swear) a brisk walk.  Be warned, though, once you enter the queue there is also no easy way out, so if like us you’ve got kids in tow, and especially if they just finished a large lemonade, make sure you take them to the toilet before entering the queue. We found out the hard way what happens when you don’t 🙂

Some of the rides are more appropriate for kids than others. While both children loved Big Thunder Mountain, the Inspector Gadget Go-Coaster, the Spinning Cups and the Jungle Cruise, our 6 year old found Space Mountain a bit scary. We particularly loved Big Thunder Mountain and it was such a pleasure whooping and laughing with along with the kids as we bolted around the tracks, ducking and weaving as we entered caves and flew over bumps and rollers.

As a family we agreed that our favourite rides were the Western River Railway; Jungle Cruise; Big Thunder Mountain; Space Mountain (a high-speed rollercoaster in the dark); Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; Chip and Dales Treehouse; Inspector Gadgets Go Coaster; Alice’s Tea Party (Spinning Teacups) and Cinderella’s castle (the attention to detail in the castle is amazing).

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The Western River Railway with real steam trains
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The Jungle Cruise
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Big Thunder Mountain
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The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House
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The Go-Coaster

A great tip for avoiding the queues is to grab yourself a “Fast Pass”. The pass gets you access to the express line of the more popular rides.  But you can only access one quick pass at a time.  Printed on the quick pass is the time you are eligible to book the next quick pass.  This obviously helps with crowd flow, and in my experience is something Disney does very well.

We ate lunch and dinner at two of the large themed eateries, where the kids and dad indulged in the American hotdog plate and later than night, Space Port Pizza.  I found the food was quite processed at most of the eating places but of course the kids loved it. This was a bit of a theme across the resort actually: heavily processed American inspired foods, hotdogs, fries, pizzas, popcorn.  I understand its all part of the experience, but if you are not into that kind of stuff, then I suggest you take something relatively healthy along with you. Also take plenty of water as the size of the park means lots of walking and thirsty children.

One of the eating highlights was the popcorn.  Each of the different ‘lands’ across the Park had a different popcorn cart. Each cart had a different theme and the most unusual one (that was baffling for me to get my head around) was curry flavour. Hard to imagine it as enjoyable. My favourite was the caramel popcorn found in  “Toontown”

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Popcorn flavours

By the time we walked out of the Park at the end of the day we were all very tired and it was getting cold so we decided to catch a taxi back to hotel instead of the train. Considering our overtired kids, this was a great decision.  In all, we had a great time. And as a once in a lifetime experience, the entry price (Y7,400 per adult, Y6,400 for children 12-17 and Y4,800 for children 4-11) was truly worth it. I know the kids had a great time as did my husband, even when he had to carry the children the last kilometer to the taxi after they were too exhausted to walk. 

One other tip is take lots of warm clothing.  If like us you visited toward the end of winter, the weather during the day was nice (maybe +15 degrees), but when the sun went down it became very cold, very quickly. 

If you have any comments of questions please feel free to post below.

5 ways to keep your children warm and dry on the slopes this year

If taking your kids to the snow for the first time this year, memorise this simple formula: warm kids = happy kids = happy parents.

For Australians, a visit to the snow for the first time can be daunting at the best, terrifying on average. Throw in a rugrat or two, and the concept for some becomes overwhelming, almost untenable.  That’s where we come in – we’ve done it a few times now; we know what works, and what doesn’t.  We also know it’s totally worth it.

And….contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your kids warm and comfortable in the snow. Intrigued. We knew you would be.  Here’s a few simple tricks and tips.

Warm heads are happy heads

And that means beanies for snow play and helmets when skiing or snow boarding.  Beanies are easy. They’re readily available and inexpensive, and let’s face it, granny would probably jump at the chance to knit a few for you.  Children’s helmets are compulsory in most resorts these days (or should be at least), and luckily they’re readily available through most hire outlets. A good fit is more important that style.  Helmets are very warm, and as an added bonus the kids don’t mid wearing them – I think they actually like the idea (my 6 and 8 years think they look hardcore in helmets).

The only other consideration is to ensure your child’s helmet is compatible with their googles. Nothing like having a huge ‘gaper gap’ between the helmet and the googles to encourage a  frostbite or sunburnt fore-head.  Truth be told, my kids wear adult googles which seem to fit perfectly with many hire helmets (no gap).  Nothing wrong with oversized lenses, as long as you can adjust the strap to fit. They wear their goggles big these days anyway.

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Layering is king

Kids get hot and sweaty before you’ve even left the drying room! (as do parents). Having layers so that they can unzip a jacket without the risk of hypothermia is kinda important, because they will unzip – even in a blizzard (trust me). My kids typically wear a thermal base layer under an insulated, highly water resistant jacket. When we’ve skied in Japan they wear an additional microfiber mid layer over the base layer. Mid-layers need not be expensive either; mid layers can pretty much consist of anything; old skivvies, jumpers, cheap fleece material (available from Target or K Mart).

Having said that we swear by high quality merino fibre base layers; they’re warm even when wet, and they breath like you not even wearing anything.  They are also super comfortable. Our kids tend to wear their merino thermals morning, noon (while on the snow) and night (around the lodge and even to restaurants). As an added bonus, they tend not to smell even after days and days of skiing.  So one garment per child is typically enough. So, if you are going to spend money, invest in good thermals.

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Sock, socks and more socks

Appropriate ski socks will be essential to ensure a comfortable day in ski boots. Make sure you don’t just use thick winter socks. They bunch up and may cause boot pain, despite the illusion of cushioning. Thermal socks with appropriate length will keep your mini me’s toes snugly warm and ensure there’s no nasty digging in. Just ensure the top of the sock extends well past the top of the boot for maximum comfort.

Don’t skimp on outer wear

Outer wear is always a controversial subject when buying for kids. Kids a closer to the ground and consequently spend a lot of time on or in the snow.  So some level of water resistance is important.  Here it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as water proof, unless your talking about plastic raincoats.  The downside of plastic is that it doesn’t breath, so after sweating for an hours you end up wet on the inside anyway.

Water resistance is measured in units of 1,000’s as is breathability.  For Australian and New Zealand conditions (i.e. slightly warmer in average than some northern hemisphere destinations), we recommend you dress your kids in outer wear with water resistance and breathability ratings of a least 10,000-15,000 (for both).  In dryer, colder climates like Japan, you could even get away with less.  In really cold climate (with little change of ran or thaw) its probably more important that you focus on warmth, and that means lots of layering (see above).  No need to spend a fortune on the latest European brands.  Shop around and if you can, try and support local brands, like XTM Performance, Rojo and Rip Curl.

High quality gloves – the piece de resistance

Age will be a big factor in the gloves vs mittens debate in your house. Little snow grommets just can’t manage the finger thingies and your sanity will be saved by mittens. Older kids generally like the flexibility and freedom gloves offer. In my opinion gloves are something you shouldn’t scrimp on. Shop around, but ensure they are appropriately lined and have a waterproof outer. Gloves with wrist straps are great as when the gloves are taken off (always when it’s a blizzard and your about to kick off – guaranteed) they won’t fall into the snow. If no wrist straps, do what Nanna did and sew a piece of elastic to each glove and thread it through the jacket sleeve – those gloves are never far from those frozen pinkies and you wont have to go rummaging around in the lost property bin at ski school! Cold fingers means guaranteed whingeing so it’s worth splashing out on gloves to ensure they are really toasty.

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Other cheats

If it’s raining – then all bets are off. Even the most expensive outerwear with the highest  water proofing ratings will leak EVENTUALLY, especially if your kids are rolling around the wet snow.  If you have to ride in those conditions, proper rain coats over the ski jacket will do the trick as will plastic garbage bags with holes cut out sleeves and the heads may not win any fashion contests, but it will keep the kids 100% dry, guaranteed.

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First time JaPOW: the only question is Hakuba or Madarao? Why not both?

Our legion of followers have been very busy recently, traveling the world, experiencing some of the best snow on offer.   Here, guest reporter, Hamish Macphee, gives us the low down on his first trip to Japan, taking in the popular resort of Hakuba and up-and-coming ski area, Madarao (or MadaPOW as it’s known affectionately).

Madarao has been hitting the media a lot in 2018, with articles from Powderhounds, Miss Snow it All and the Snow Gauge, to name a few.  As a matter of interest, we too visited Madarao in late February 2018 with the kids in tow.  Find our review of this fantastic family destination here.

So you’ve been hearing a lot about skiing in Japan? There’s good reason for that. You’ve heard about the powder, so light, so dry. You’ve heard about forbidden tree skiing. And yes…..you’ve heard about the snow monkeys. Perhaps you have already done the Canada thing……bloody long flight! You’ve probably tried New Zealand when the Aussie snow is not at it’s peak. The next step has got to be the now famed Japow!

Let me give you a snapshot of what it means to have a snow holiday in Japan:

1. One to Two-hour time difference = no jetlag

2. Nine-to thirteen hour flight time versus 16-20 for Canada/US = fresh arrival

3. Easy public transport Bullet-trains = WOW!

4. Affordable accommodation walking distance from chairlifts, shops and restaurants.

5. Lift tickets for less than half what it cost back home

6. The BEST snow you will see in your entire life!, and

7. Accessible (and legal) tree-sking (yes, they’ve lightened up in many resorts)

Great food, great people, great ski-schools, beer from vending machines, noodles noodles noodles and a real taste of a very different culture. Oh yeah…and whisky!

Now that you’ve decided Japan is for you, the hard choices need to be made. Which resort(s) do you visit?

For us there are two great options for the first time trip to Japan’s snowfields: Hakuba or Madarao. If you have the time then, porque no los dos? Give both a try! Access is simple. From Tokyo get the Narita Express from the airport to Tokyo Station for about $50 return $25 for kids 6-11 years old. From Tokyo Station you get the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagano in approx. 1 hour, or to Iiyama, a short 10-20 mins further along.

Hakuba

If Hakuba is your chosen destination then a bus will take you the remaining hour in to the Hakuba Valley and the 9 resorts it has to offer. Goryu, 47, Happo-one (oohhh-ney), Iwatake, Tsugiake, Norikura, Cortina being the larger areas as well as Kashimayari and Jiigatake for the less adventurous. There is so much terrain that you need a month to see everything.

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Some of the accommodation options in Hakuba, Cortina

Families coming to Hakuba for the first time will love the Goryu/Hakuba47/Iimori area. With ski school at Iimori for the little ones, Hakuba’s best terrain park at 47 and some super groomers at Goryu, this little pocket of the valley represents exceptional value for both money (with the Hakuba Valley Pass) and time with everything so close.

For an introduction to tree skiing Hakuba 47 has done it right. Some resorts are known to outlaw tree skiing and take your pass if you are caught in the trees. At 47 they allow it, but safety comes first.

In order to access the “tree zones” skiers and boarders need to do a short induction, sign a waiver and collect a bib to be worn over the ski jacket. These bibs are then to be returned by 3pm to the office. Failure to do so will result in a search party being sent out to look for you. There are significant hazards like cliffs and tree-wells so this safety procedure puts the mind at ease somewhat. Just don’t forget to return the bib when you duck in for a quick beer at day’s end!

While the youngest is making new mates in ski school and the teenager is honing park skills and progressing to bigger jumps, mum and dad are cruising the groomers and enjoying the breathtaking views of Happo-one and the vast valley below. After lunch and lessons the more advanced in the family might check out some bibs are explore the trees.

After the days snow action and perhaps a relaxing onsen Hakuba has many dining options. Booking is highly recommended and waiting for a table is commonplace.

For those with the Epic Australia Pass (Perisher) the Hakuba Valley Pass is included. If not, a 7-day (out of 11) ticket will cost about $450 for Adults and $250 for 6 to 12 years old. This pass also includes shuttle bus to any of the 9 resorts.

Madarao

If Madarao is your choice you can get the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station all the way to Iiyama. From the Iiyama station the bus up to the resort (20mins) will cost you less than $10 per person.

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Beautiful Iiyama

Madarao is the sleepy cousin of Hakuba. There are many resorts within an hour including Myoko Kogen, Shiga Kogen, and Nozawa Onsen. If you are coming for your first Japanese snow holiday, Madarao and neighbour Tangram Ski Circus (yes, that’s really what they call it) is all you need. At $60 for a day lift ticket for both resorts…what more could you ask for?

To say that Madarao was untouched by Aussies would be a lie. The last 10 real-estate acquisitions on the mountain were purchased by Australians…but you wouldn’t know it. Unlike places like Niseko and Hakuba, the Australians have moved in quietly and respectfully. They are creating a family friendly resort that is easy for Australian guests to navigate.

We stayed at Aya Lodge. This well renovated guest house offers comfortable rooms and great amenities within few hundred metres of the slopes. The beds are comfy (not always a given in Japan) and the included breakfast goes well above the expected. There are also other great options in the Active Life choice of hotels, Active Life Madarao and Hakken by Active Life (both really kid friendly).

Once out on the slopes the resort and it’s network of 15 lifts opens up in front of you. Mt Madarao looms above and attracts great snowfall (Between 10m and 14m per season). On a good vis day views across to Mt Myoko set a magical backdrop…but the foreground is what you come for.

Madarao is building a reputation as THE resort for tree skiing. On a day when MadaPOW delivers the goods, there is nowhere else you want to be. The trees at the top of the resort are perfectly spaced and the pitch is perfectly steep to satisfy the cautious thrill seeker.

For the daredevils the trees between Madarao and Tangram Ski Circus (known by the seasoners as Tangram Trees) offer untracked lines through steep terrain after the bowls like Powderwave I and II have been skied out. There are gates to enter the tree area between the two resorts and ski patrol are around. Having said that there are many opportunities for those who dare…enough said.

If you are very lucky you may come across a Kamoshika or Japanese Serow while skiing the trees. The most accurate description I have heard is that Kamoshika looks like a snow bear goat dog…having seen one myself……I totally agree. But, please keep your distance as they are wild animals.

If you need a a few lessons, or are seeking adventure beyond the resort boundary, try Action Snow Sports, run by Aussie Peter  Hillman, or Nagano Outdoor Sports run by local legend Aki (who also has a great pizza joint on the slopes).  Otherwise, the Active Life Group of Hotels offer complimentary lessons for guests.  All offer English speaking instructors.  For a short hike the back of Mt Madarao offers endless lines of superb skiing days after the in-bounds pow has been smashed.

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The pizza at Aki’s

We recommend the Hotel Tangram for lunch with a great view of just about all the smaller resort has to offer. Plan your next laps while chowing down your ramen or katsu-don. For dinner this small town is bustling with options: burgers at Unjaune, or try the devine Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) at Sakura. The top of the must-do list for food and drinks in Madarao is the Lazy Yak. This oversized tent (Yurt actually) plays host to a restaurant and bar that also sells and hires snowboards and backcountry equipment. The fried  chicken (Karage) is amazing and the tofu is like no tofu you have ever had before. They have a great selection of whisky and some cool gin cocktails, as well as a fine collection of hand-made jewellery…of course.

On the way home it is well worth spending few nights exploring the amazing metropolis that is Tokyo. There are endless options for shopping and dining limited only by your budget. For electronics head to Akihabara, Ueno Zoo, or for toys, you cant go past the Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Ginza, a 5 story specialist toy store (the kids will love it). Shibuya Crossing is a right of passage, especially at night. You can give the statue of Hachi the most loyal dog a pat. The Government Building’s South Tower offers amazing views of the city all the way to Mt Fuji on a clear day. The North Tower is not a good.

If you want to get a bit closer to Mt Fuji there are tours available with Tokyo Hotel pickup or you can just get the Shinkansen and local train independently. We opted for the guided option and included a tour and tasting at the Hakushu Whisky Distillery. Any whisky drinker will have heard of Suntory’s Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskys. A trip to the serine mountain environment of the Hakushu distillery means the opportunity to sample many different blends like Hibiki up to 30 years old ($30 per 15ml for a $5000 bottle). As well as recognisable labels the tasting room offers samples of the component barrel whiskys that become Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Hibiki.

Before leaving home make sure to get your International Driving Permit. Not for a car silly…for a go-cart! Maricar offer tours of Tokyo driving on the roads in go-carts, dressed up in costumes -like Ninja Turtles and Mario characters. This is an experience not for the feint-hearted, but not to be missed.

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Mario Carting in Tokyo

Now is the perfect time to start planning your first trip to Japan. Make 2019 your year of JaPOW. With a little research and some handy Japanese phrases your holiday can be stress-free.

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