Japan is everything you expect... Part 3.

Accommodation. There are many, many options here and to be honest, only you know what will suit you best for what you want/need/can afford.

You can choose from your standard 'Hotel' style of room (which isn't very 'Japanese' really), to a more authentic experience by staying in a 'Pension' with a local family. Air BnB are well established and offer some terrific properties.

There are self contained units and apartments which may suit bigger groups and families and then there are lodges.

I am biased here and have no shame in saying that I love ski lodges. The smell of wood smoke from the communal living / dining room. The practise of gathering at the end of the day with like minded people from all walks of life, discussing the antics on the hill, their wins, losses and close shaves. They never used to have TV's in them, which I thought was brilliant, as it inspires discussion, interaction and sometimes, a 'real life' tinder experience. With today's digital devices now (almost) integrated into our flesh (and the serious issue of FOMO syndrome), the TV has been replaced by the handled/tablet/laptop, but still, it is at least a choice. And if I choose NOT to know what went on in the world today, I won't check the news. I will isolate myself and bask in a deep pool of 'unknowing' for what seems like forever. Or at least a few days. Okay, a day. Whatever.

Lodges provide a terrific base to work from, as you can glean some local knowledge from the staff, often catch a ride to somewhere, socialise with, ski / board with them. You can learn so much more about a place (like the best places to eat, drink, onsen, shop, etc) and the terrain (powder stashes, tree runs, parks, jumps, hits, drops, gear shops, guides, etc). Even in today's digital currency, 'Content is the killer currency', which means that your local lodge peeps are the 'fort knox' of local content and you have a key. Don't waste it. Get in there and ask as much as you can. They will be happy to help (and if not, you are staying in the 'wrong lodge' and don't be afraid to let them know it).

On this trip, the Blackbird Bespoke Ski Team stayed with Justina and her crew at *Elk Lodge in Hakuba*. Positioned very conveniently in the 'Echoland' district in Hakuba, it is really close to restaurants and bars, shops, lifts, the works. We hired a car for the week which is a very good thing to do (very good rates, picked it up just 100m walk from the train station, AWD wagon that fit us all plus gear with ease. Never had to use the roof racks, but it was great to know they were there). The independence you have with the car is immeasurable. Being able to get to Cortina on a powder day before the busses get there is a real treat. Being able to bail when your legs have had enough is even better! Go straight to the best Onsen in town, recover, and head back to the lodge to get changed, shoot some Aprés with the other guests and the crew back in the living room over some Asahi or Chuhai and nibbles, then head out for dinner.
Elk At Hakuba Lodge - Blackbird Bespoke Ski Co

One thing to remember though is that you will need an International Drivers Permit to hire a car. In Japan, you cannot hire one without it, or drive a vehicle without it. They take it really seriously, so make sure you have one before you go. The other main rule here, and it is a biggie, is that there is a 'ZERO TOLERANCE' to alcohol and driving. They take is very seriously indeed. You cannot have even the slightest whiff of alcohol on your breath and drive. It means jail time and massive fines. It doesn't end there too - if you have passengers, they too will be fined for being irresponsible and letting your drive. Then the establishment who served you the drinks will get fined also. So as you can imagine, nobody drinks and drives in Japan.

So take some time and do you research for the best accommodation for your purposes on your trip to Japan. You will be nicely rewarded for looking outside the regular 'hotel' options, and you may just make some new friends along the way.

Cheers  - T

*Please note - Blackbird Bespoke Ski Co did not receive any form of payment or gifts 'in kind' for our mention of Elk Lodge in this blog post. We paid our way just like every other guest. It was purely due to the exceptional experience we had whilst in their care, that we felt it worthy of mention. Don't just take our work for it, check out their site and jump on their Facebook page and see who else has stayed and ask them how they found it. Real feedback from real guests just like you and me. That's what it is all about.