Japan: Care for some sushi?

By Doug Conway

When in Japan, do as the Japanese do - ski. And when not skiing, learn how to make sushi.

Sashimi is a Japanese favourite. Photo / Thinkstock
Sashimi is a Japanese favourite. Photo / Thinkstock

Sushi classes provide a delicious and educational diversion when you're taking a break from the slopes.

Skiing shouldn't be the only memory you take home from a country with such a rich culture.

I took a three-hour sushi class at the Niseko Cultural School, in Japan's top ski resort in the northern island of Hokkaido.

I learned how to make seven types of sushi, without losing any finger parts, and the results were astonishingly good for someone challenged at home by making shepherd's pie.

You can also take classes in bamboo ink painting, calligraphy, tea ceremonies and kimono dressing, and there are tours to Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and historical sites.

Snowmobiling trips are another great way to explore the surrounding countryside.

They also give you a solid appreciation of how easy it is to stack these machines even in gently rolling farmlands piled with a metre of snow.

One absolute "must'' on any visit to Japan is an onsen, or hot mineral springs bath.

It works wonders for the spirit as well as bruised and weary skiers' bodies.

If someone suggests a "modesty towel'' please note that it's for your own modesty, not anyone else's.

But food is the greatest diversion of all.

Make sure you eat at a traditional family-run restaurant if you want the authentic experience.

Sushi and sashimi are great favourites, as is nabe, or hotpot.

Nabe Ishikari, a Hokkaido special, includes salmon, onion, cabbage, tofu and a root jelly.

Yakitori skewers and ramen noodles are tasty, and an Izakaya restaurant is Japan's answer to Spanish tapas, offering numerous small dishes such as octopus, squid, soya beans, prosciutto and lettuce, and crab and prawn claws.

But the sushi class is best of all, because you get to eat the lesson.

IF YOU GO:

Ski season: December-May

GETTING THERE:

Via Tokyo, Hong Kong or Seoul with Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Korean Airlines. SkiJapan.com provides a door to door transfer service from Chitose Airport.

STAYING THERE:

Niseko's Yuki Yama two bedroom apartments offer a seven night package from NZ$1414 per person (quad share) including return airport coach transfers and six-day all mountain pass, valid for stays from 1-31 March 2013.

PLAYING THERE:

There is plenty to do aside from ski during a trip to Japan. You can learn how to make sushi, wear a kimono or the art of calligraphy, or you can participate in a Japanese tea ceremony at Niseko Cultural School. To find out more go to nisekoculturalschool.com.

For further information on travel to Japan visit skijapan.com.

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