We made it to Ichinose

I was surprised, and thrilled, this morning to find that I felt pretty darn good. Probably the best I've ever felt after a marathon, which was fortunate since I needed to be able to get myself and my suitcase from Tokyo to the tiny village of Ichinose, in Shigakogen, near Nagano. This involved a walk to Shinjuku station where we got on the metro. We made the mistake of going during morning rush hour and it was absolutely insane. There were people moving in every direction all over the station. There was a metro employee standing by the doors and helping to shove people into the already packed train. I can't believe we both got on with our giant bags! Thank heavens for Japanese courtesy and manners.

We took the metro to Tokyo station where we had to find the shinkansen, or bullet trains. The shinkansen was amazing. It travels at 200 miles per hour, so we made the 300 mile trip to Nagano in 90 minutes! We got to see the country fly by.
It even looks fast!

riding in comfort
 In Nagano we had a 2 hour wait for the bus. Since the lockers were all full, we dragged our bags all over the place trying to find a good spot for lunch.

We then boarded a bus for the trip up into mountains. We had no idea we were headed to such a remote and beautiful place. The bus just kept climbing up and up, stopping at one point to put chains on the tires. We were soon towering far above Nagano. After stopping in several other little ski villages we reached Ichinose. We found our hotel easily (although pulling our suitcases in the snow up a hill definitely reminded my legs that they'd run a marathon the day before).



The hotel is adorable and looks out over the slopes. We are at about 2,000 meters of elevation and have a stunning view of the mountains all around us. They warned us when we checked in not to leave the windows open or the monkeys might get in. That's not a warning I've ever gotten before and I really hope to see a snow monkey! I tried putting a banana in the window to lure them, but Rory made me take it out. I suppose a midnight monkey attack wouldn't be that fun.



Since it was too late in the day to ski today, we decided to just take it easy and head to the hotel onsen, or hot baths. This was quite a cultural experience. We started by putting on the robes they provided for us.



We learned quickly that men and women have separate facilities, as I opened the curtains to the men's bath to see a bunch of naked male butts! Once I was in the correct onsen, I tried to follow the lead of the other women. I took off my robe and then squatted on little stool in front of little sitting showers. In order to not pollute the public water, everyone washes and scrubs themselves at the little showers first. Then I got to enjoy the hot pools. Ahhhh. Bliss on post marathon aches and pains. But I was a little paranoid that I would make some terrible breach of onsen etiquette.



Dinner is served right in the hotel, which is awesome because we can go right in our slippers! We had piled our plates high with all kinds of sashimi, noodles, rice, tempura, and salads and had already started to eat when the hostess came over to tell us they had prepared a special hot pot for us. Oops! We didn't want to be rude, so of course we ate that too! It was fun- they had little sterno heated pots of boiling water and we dropped vegetables and beef into the water to cook and then fished it out with our chopsticks.

I look about as good as I felt in this picture- which was exhausted and sick. 
Tomorrow skiing! There is so much snow here- the snow banks tower over me- so I think it is going to be amazing!

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