I was supposed to go to Niseko this weekend for 5 days. The flight was from Fukushima Airport – about an hours drive north of here directly to Sapporo, maybe an hours flight. Of course this was the weekend that the second snowstorm hit Japan, so we had a fair bit of snow through Friday night. Anyway, I had got some sites from my colleagues to check the trains, highways,
Airport for closures and I had winter tires, so I figured Id work it out !
Plan B – catch the Shinkansen to Koriyama (it’s a 28 minute Shinkansen ride) and then catch the Airport Limo bus to Fukushima (24km).
On Saturday I woke up at 5 am and checked outside (much snow); went online and checked the highway (closed in places) Fukushima Airport (open); Shinkansen (working).
So I decided to go to Nasu station, catch the Shinkansen to Koriyama and the Airport Limo bus to Fukushima.
Got to Nasu station, still open, bought my ticket, waited, waited, waited, many differing Japanese announcements, finally I understood the trains are stopped. Got a refund, drove home in MUCH heavier snow.
Re-booked my flight for the evening.
Saturday lunch time I checked outside (much more snow); went online and checked the highway closed) Fukushima Airport (open); Shinkansen (delays).
So I decided to go to Nasu station, try to catch the Shinkansen to Koriyama and the Airport Limo bus to Fukushima for the evening flight.
My car park was completely blocked with snow and ice (actually the ice being the bigger problem) – so I could not leave home, that ended my trip for Saturday. i re-booked my flight for Sunday evening, cancelled Saturday night Niseko Hotel. Then I dug my car out of the snow for the next day. Around lunchtime we also lost power, ultimately for about 8 hours but I was OK- I was warm from digging so much snow from around my car, I had candles, gas to cook and blankets.
On Sunday I checked outside (windy, but not snowing); went online and checked the highway (closed) Fukushima Airport (open); Shinkansen (delays).
So I decided to go to Nasu station, catch the Shinkansen to Koriyama and Limo bus to Fukushima
Got to Nasu station, caught the train, very late, delayed, but still OK for Limo bus timetable
Got to Koriyama, very heavy snowfall, found the Airport Bus place – CLOSED! Taxi line was more than 60-80 people and only one Taxi every few minutes… So after waiting for a little time, I just gave up and decided to cancel and come home as there was no way I could get to Fukushima in time and there was so much snow, I really thought that it was unlikely I would make it anyway.
Bought a ticket home to Nasu, the train was waiting, got myself settled and waited and waited and waited (every announcement in Japanese) finally we moved, then as we were just about to pull into Shirakawa and we stopped dead – again all Japanese announcements, but I understood wind and then I felt it. As we sat there the train was really rocked by the wind… My 28 minute journey took more than two and a half hours! Because of the delays.
Finally, I came home and cancelled my flights with ANA and cancelled my hotel with Hilton.
Both ANA and Hilton refunded me completely, or at least said they will. Which is truly terrific and I think very typical of Japanese customer service.
Despite all of the ups and downs, no skiing and a huge waste of time, I met some lovely people along the way, met my new neighbors and well, at the end of it all I was warm, dry and safe – unlike so many others that weekend. So I’m not complaining.
What I have learnt though is the English on the trains, etc is only available when all goes to according to plan.
Not one announcement or sign in English to support the system when it fails.. So I need to really have a big focus this year on my Japanese, to fix this… I really didn’t have a clue most of the time what was happening – just winged it the whole time !