We poor Frenchies, however, had quite simply been stunned by the skiing spots and snow coverage – it “only” snowed 20 inches almost every day … So what’s a normal season in Japan? We wanted to find out, and decided to go back, two years later. But this particular winter was seriously strange, and Japan was paying the price too. We kept on monitoring the weather forecasts: snow was on the way, apparently. But it never really fell, or was instantly swept away by violent winds. So we resigned ourselves to the situation – after all, Japan is a beautiful country, the Japanese are as cool as ever, and being here’s a pleasure, even without any snow.
I fly into Haneda. Bertrand and Guillaume arrive at Narita airport, an hour from Tokyo, and hop on a bus to hook up with me. We collect our hire car and head for Hakuba. A word of warning: Japanese GPS units are in Japanese, and that’s about it. If you ask for a satnav in English, you’ll get voice prompts in English, but nothing else. So be sure you have a telephone number or a super-precise drawing of your arrival point so you can mark it on the GPS map. Otherwise, the best of luck!