1. Skiing is an adventure more than a holiday!
A skiing holiday, wherever you chose to go, is more like a family adventure. There’s no shuttle bus waiting to whisk you away to a luxury villa, and you can’t just pack a pair of shorts, thongs and a Bintang singlet and be happy you have everything you need.
Our play-sheet looked more like this: pack most of the contents of the wardrobe (and the house) into 4 small suit cases, drag the kids to the airport, catch a plane to Singapore, catch a connecting flight to Tokyo, land, get through customs, catch the Narita Express to Tokyo Station; find the Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket office, book our seats, catch the Shinkansen, travel to Iiyama Station (100 mins from Tokyo), find the local bus, jump on and travel the remaining 30 mins to Madarao Resort.
Sounds daunting, but it wasn’t. We broke our travel itinerary into two days, choosing to stay overnight in Tokyo. The Japanese airports, rail stations and bus-stops are easy to navigate and the Japanese people so helpful. All the signs have English translations and provided you do just a little bit of research before you go, the whole experience is pretty seamless.
We had just a bit of gear to pack Success, and we were easily underweight
2. Japan is close, there’s no jetlag and travel is easy
We travelled with Singapore Airlines from Perth to Changi to Tokyo, the whole trip taking about 13 and a half hours (including stop over) – about 7 hrs shorter than a Perth to Vancouver flight. The kids had never done an overnight flight before and we were a bit nervous. After a terrible experience flying Jetstar a few months earlier, we packed lots of food and entertainment (tablets), even though Singapore Airlines is a full-service carrier. Sure, they were excited and stayed up late, but fell asleep soon after we left Changi about 11 pm. The overnight flight was uneventful and the kids slept through until the morning (which was a huge bonus).
The overnight flight was pretty uneventful
We arrived in Tokyo about 6:30 am, where we quickly passed through customs. We then regrouped, put warm clothes on, grabbed a coffee and walked to the lower floor to pick up our pre-ordered JR-east rail passes. Rail passes offer fantastic value for money: kids under 12 travel half price and kids under 6 travel free. Be aware however only paying passengers are guaranteed a seat. Children under six sit on your lap.
Rail Passes are available on line up to a week before you fly out. You can also buy them at the station when you arrive, but purchasing online is cheaper (maybe 10%). We caught the Narita Express (N’Ex) to Tokyo before catching a connecting train to Shinagawa, about 10 mins up the line from Tokyo where we’d booked our overnight accommodation.
The JR pass provides five days of unlimited access to several different trains; the N’Ex, the metro and the Shinkansen (Japan’s famous bullet train). The passes come in a clear sleeve with a lanyard, perfect for carrying the passes around your neck (nothing screams ‘tourist’ more). They are also really easy to use. Just be sure to pass through the ‘manned’ gates, not the automatic ticketed gates, and you’ll have no problems.