When your weekdays are filled with planning lessons and teaching English to class after enthusiastic class of students, time goes fast. This is good, because even though teaching English might be the greatest gig in the world, it still is …ahem… work. So when Friday rolls around, it is with a sigh of relief that you leave your school, anticipating a few well-deserved days off. However, you still have to decide how to spend your weekend, which, as we all know, is not as easy as it sounds.
I find that Friday evening sets the tone. Kick-start the weekend right and it’s something you won’t stop talking about all next week. Get it wrong and the weekend can feel cruelly short and eerily mundane.
What to do? Well, you could round up some mates and head to the pub. However, that’s where you were last night. You could stroll through the downtown district, checking out some cool shops, but, even though you can now afford much of what you see, the desire to spend money on stuff you don’t need is strangely absent since you moved overseas. You could always grab some snacks and stream a movie on Netflix…on second thought, that’s not why you came here whatsoever. You came for the culture, the landscape, the experience…am I right?
Plan A: Climb Mount Fuji
It’s time to do things differently and Friday night is where this begins. That’s why Plan A calls for you to climb Mt. Fuji. Yup, you heard me right. You and the friend you are going to recruit will climb a 12,389 foot semi-dormant volcano. And the best part – you are going to climb all night and arrive at the summit moments before the sun rises over the horizon and stuns you with an it’s-incredible-to-be-alive-feeling. Preparation required? Purchase a dollar store flashlight, extra batteries, and power snacks, and then stuff these items along with warm clothing, rain gear, and a large water bottle into your back pack. Grab a light dinner and a few hours sleep before catching a ride up to the 5th station on the Fujinomiya route up Fuji-san. Begin your uphill trek around 11 p.m., pausing briefly at each rest station. Aim to reach the top by 4-ish; the sun rises between 4:30 and 5 a.m. Soak in this magical moment, celebrate with some hugs or high-fives, take a look around, and then begin the descent down. The rest of the weekend awaits…
Plan B: Ski the best hills in Japan
Plan A sounds pretty awesome, huh? Wait to you hear Plan B. Instead of trekking all night, this time you’ll be sitting the night away, on an overnight bus heading to Nagano, where, by 7 am, the bus will deposit you, the friend you are going to convince to join you, and your ski gear at the base of Happo-One. What is Happo-One, you ask? Only the largest ski and snowboard resort in Hakuba, host to the 1998 Winter Olympics downhill and Super G events. The overnight bus is so you don’t waste money on accommodations (Who needs sleep?) and also to arrive in time for first tracks (a foot of fresh powder fell while you were napping on the bus…). The day pass price is rather steep but then, so are the slopes! One gondola and two lifts get you to the very top, where the world again looks pretty incredible. 20 minutes and several hundred turns later, you are back at the bottom, ready to do it all over again. Every few runs, you break at one of the many lodges for a snack or a beer. Ski and repeat until late afternoon finds you heading for your hostel, where the owner will give you a lift to an onsen (natural hot springs) for a mandatory après-ski soak. After, find some supper and listen to a little live music before turning in at a semi-reasonable hour. On Day Two, repeat Day One except, try out a different hill (there are 11 resorts in Hakuba after all) and in the afternoon, catch the bus home, reveling in post-ski trip bliss.
Plans C through G: Whatever you want them to be
Is there a Plan C? As a matter of fact, there is…it involves a beach and a terrific sunset. There is also a Plan D, E, F, & G. It doesn’t matter that you might not be headed to Japan. These sorts of experiences could be your reality anywhere you go, and if you play your cards right, pretty much every weekend can be a new adventure. Oceans and mountains, laid back villages and towering skyscrapers – they are all out there waiting for you. Time to get out and explore.
Written by Dana Clarke
Dana Clarke went to Japan for a year and ended up staying five, mainly due to epic weekends and lower taxes. He currently teaches in Ottawa.