On the afternoon of the 12 January 2020, we, along with 50 of our classmates and five teachers, arrived at school, wide-eyed and excited for the trip ahead. With names ticked off and new hoodies handed out, we waved goodbye to our parents and boarded a bus to the airport. Here, we flew to Jakarta for a stop-over and then on to Tokyo. As we walked out of the airport to get to our next bus, we all braced for the cold and rugged up with beanies and an extra jacket but the temperature was comparable to that of a winter day back home. After loading our luggage in a truck, we boarded a monorail to Tokyo Central, followed by a bullet train to Nagano AND finally a bus to Tsugaike resort Hakuba, where we would be staying and skiing for the next five days. This trip was not without its complications when Ethan discovered he’d left his bumbag on the bullet train. Luckily, Japanese culture is one of courtesy, and the bag was found and handed in… Although Mr Traynor and Ethan did need to travel a further 3 hours return to retrieve it.
On the bus on our way to Hakuba, we were all shocked to see snow and mountains in the distance, as it was the first time seeing snow for many of us. We arrived at our hotel and the moment we stepped off the bus, it was freezing. After 24 hours of travelling, the falling of snow was welcomed by all of us. It seemed surreal and felt like it was straight out of a movie as we ‘danced’ in the snow and let it fall on our faces with bliss. Upon entering our rooms, most of us were faced with ‘traditional bedding,’ which meant no actual beds, instead a floor-like situation with blankets and a thin mattress on the floor, which actually turned out to be some of the best sleep we ever had (the Japanese know what they’re doing). We fell asleep early on the first night of our trip, completely exhausted from the travel and excitement for what was to come.
On the second day, we woke up early to have a buffet breakfast in the dining hall and then we were off to our ski and snowboard lessons. Although some of us picked the skills up quicker than others, it was certainly a challenge worthwhile persevering with. That night, most of us tried out our very first onsen experience, which although uncomfortable at first, proved very worthwhile in terms of memories made and muscles recovered.
Five days of skiing and snowboarding flew past us and before we knew it, we felt we were on our way to the Winter Olympics. Everyone complained of tired muscles and bruised bums and received noticeable eyebrow raises as an ‘I told you so,’ from Mr Dudley, having told us to get in shape and get fit in preparation for this week of exercise. Noticeable injuries included some sprained wrists, a snapped wrist by the ‘Iceman’ Kyle who didn’t even flinch in pain (we thought skateboarders could snowboard?) and multiple stacks from Miss Geldenhuys, who somehow left Hakuba injury-free. However, she did find an excuse to get carried off the slopes one day (and may I repeat, injury free). Keon spent half a day walking like an old man hunched over holding his back, only to carve it up at night skiing the following day.
Stand outs from these five days in Hakuba, other than the insanely new experiences on the slopes, included games nights with classical game ‘spoons’ and other hilarious card games. Lifelong memories were made at that table. Mr Russell even agreed to participate in some relaxation therapy by way of a face mask given out by the girls. Although unrecognisable at first, he did not appear 20 years younger the following day. During spoons, Mr Traynor, supposedly ‘champion,’ of the game (his words, not ours), faced an ultimate loss against Amy and Liv and this was a moment he did not live down for the rest of the trip.
Every night, when we sat down for dinner, Mrs Dicoski took great pleasure in reading out ‘fines’ of the day, which became a popular topic of conversation where we would dob others in for embarrassing things that happened that day, so they could be read out at the dinner table (Jack, again, was a hot topic and managed to pop up every night). Zac also featured in these fines after being caught taking a photo of someone staying at the ski lodge but didn’t realise his flash was on, resulting in major embarrassment on his behalf, both then and at the table in front of the 50 of us when the story was repeated… and I guess now in this article.
Other events that happened in Hakuba included the drumming show and night skiing. At the drumming show we were exposed to a Japanese cuisine of food we’d never eaten before (including crickets) and an exhilarating show of musical talent and culture. Night skiing featured a beautiful view and an even colder temperature, but again, definitely a night to remember.
Bleary-eyed and tired, on the seventh day, we left Hakuba for Tokyo via a long bus ride (lots of sleeping) and arrived at the Hilton Tokyo Bay Hotel. Upon arrival, it was almost bedtime, but we still managed to squeeze in a little shopping at the Disney souvenir shop and food store on the ground level of our hotel. We were lucky enough to stay on a family friendly Disney themed level, which played Disney music and had walls painted in familiar cartoons. Zoe managed to drop her phone in a decorative tree hollow which required maintenance to retrieve it for her. Our rooms were even decorated in a way that inspired child-like happiness but this quickly dissipated when hearing the boys wrestle every night in their room (clearly not sore enough from snowboarding), providing us all with serene sounds to fall asleep.
Our first day in Tokyo was a tour of many different places including temples situated in beautiful forest greenery and scenery at Meiji Shine, followed by shopping and the excitement of Harajuku and some markets in Asakusa. This is where most of us bought little knick knacks for family members back at home. After this, our bus took us to Akihabara, Japan’s famous electric city. Finally, this was followed by a buffet barbecue dinner where we could cook our own meat. This made a lot of us feel like chefs (and the rest, failures, with the smell of burnt meat steaming from their tables).
After our long day touring the city it was time for our last full day in Japan: DisneySea! Up early for our final day, we made it to Disney by 8.00am in order to get the best chance at tickets and fast passes to maximise our Disney experience. This, however, was short-lived as we quickly realised how busy it was and were lucky to get more than four good quality rides in the entire day. The extra time was made up by strolling around and looking at all the different areas, exhibits and stores. We made the decision to come home earlier and not stay as late as planned as everyone was tired and wanted a good night sleep before the flight home on the day following, luckily we still managed to watch some fireworks and an animated light performance that lasted half an hour and entertained us as we stood still in awe. We’d never seen anything like it. As we returned to our rooms that night it was bitter-sweet. It was the last night to conclude the best trip of our lives.
Returning home, although tired and sleep-deprived, we all now shared unforgettable memories and inseparable bonds forged during our Japan Ski Trip. As we said our goodbyes and see you soon’s in preparation for the new school year, we were well aware this opportunity wouldn’t come again, and we were grateful for the experience.
Also to be noted is a big thank you to Mr Traynor for organising this trip and keeping us all in check. We thank JSRACS for this trip of a lifetime.
Aviane Antunovich and Amy Kubach
Year 12 Students