By Nicole Bauer
It was already evening when we arrived at the Freedom Inn our first winter. It started getting dark and the snow walls we had been driving through just became higher and higher. We had not seen any house let alone village for quite a while, and we were thinking: “Where the hell are we going?”
When we got of the bus in front of the Freedom Inn we realised that the snow walls around us were almost 2 meters high—what an unbelievable sight! We went in and were greeted by a spacious, cosy and warm atmosphere. The manager of the Freedom Inn welcomed us, showed us around and made us feel comfortable from the very first moment.
Our room was perfect: spacious and very clean, with a large window—actually two windows, as we got one of the Deluxe Rooms at the end of the corridor. We should find out the next morning that we could see the surrounding mountains right from our bed! The room itself was very well equipped with everything we needed and the iPod docking station was just the icing of the cake.
So far, so good; however, we were still a little bit concerned about the location, as in the dark, there just didn’t seem to be anything else in the area. We carefully asked “Sorry, but where exactly are we? How far is it to the slopes”? The manager smiled and said: “Do you like to be the first ones on the slopes?” We nodded enthusiastically. “Well, then you are definitely in the right place. The Hanazono lifts are just a 5-minute walk down the road. However, we will give you a lift tomorrow morning whenever you are ready, and you will have the slopes to yourself for the first couple of hours.” That was all we needed to hear. Excited about an early start the next day, we went for a soak in the common hot bath and had a good night’s sleep.
The western style, hearty breakfast, served in the bright dining room, gave us all the power we needed to start our day. The lifts were indeed just around the corner and we were the first ones on the slopes. The first couple of hours were just unbelievable and made our day—it almost felt like a private mountain. Thinking about it now, the location of the Freedom Inn is just perfect.
In the evenings the Freedom Inn runs a free shuttle to Hirafu and Kutchan, both offering a great choice of fabulous restaurants. The staff of the Freedom Inn is always informed about the hippest places and new openings, and they are very happy to make reservations for you.
What else? Oh, yes, there is a wonderful common area with a fireplace, free Wi-Fi, books and games, where we could meet other guests and/or the staff to have a chat whenever we felt like it. They have also introduced Sapporo Classic on tap—one more reason to go there!
We have been to this place three years in a row now, and we already booked again for the coming season. We got kind of hooked on the Hanazono area and Kutchan in particular, and last but not least the Freedom Inn—the staff do their job extremely well, they just make you feel at home and you will most probably become friends.
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Travelling abroad to discover new places, getting to know different cultures and learning foreign languages has always been my passion. I was born and raised in Germany; however, for a few years now I've been very lucky to be able to spend my life abroad. I lived for some time in England and Italy before moving to Japan in October 2009. It took me a while to adapt to this very different world; however, travelling up and down the country has helped me to not only adapt, but to actually fall in love with this country Japan. It has also reawakened my interest in photography, so whenever I get a chance I pack my camera and discover something new. Japan is full of beautiful but less well-known places. To make these more discoverable for everybody, I'm very happy to be able to share my stories and photography on this site, and open a world of extraordinary experiences, which would be difficult to find in a guidebook. For any queries regarding Tokyo as a travel destination or any of my published articles, please feel free to contact me.