So what is the hygge experience? Well, some commentators have described it as “cosiness of the soul”. It is the comfort of a flickering candle, a cup of cocoa, or a family snuggled under a cashmere blanket. But it’s also more than any of those things, as Signe Johansen, author of How to Hygge explains. “In my book, I made the culture of hygge my focus and discussed wider themes of the Nordic love of nature, our outdoorsiness, and how we’ve developed a spirit of self-reliance and how our food and design cultures evolved. All these things matter; they shape our identity and tell us something about who we are.
“Our love of nature and the outdoors is a key reason why obesity levels are so low across the Nordic region. We feel our most alive when active and spending time outside. That means we can fully savor and appreciate our food in a sensible way. It’s this balanced approach to living that we Nordics believe is so important to get right.”
Aside from being a vigorous workout (the average person can burn up to 450 calories during an hour of recreational skating), the combination of being outdoors, socializing in a novel environment and the level of concentration required makes it a uniquely beneficial experience. Of course, a post-skate hot chocolate at the hotel’s ATRIO restaurant is a must.
Tokyo is the hub of the country’s railways, and given the speed of the Shinkansen (bullet trains), it is relatively easy for day-trippers to hit the slopes. As the only ski resort in Japan with its own dedicated Shinkansen station, Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort is as convenient as they come. Boasting some of the best snow in the region, Gala Yuzawa is an 80-minute journey from Tokyo Station on the
Jetsu Shinkansen line. From skis to snowboards and sleds, you will find everything you need available to hire at the resort, which makes it perfect for a spontaneous trip.
In short, wherever you choose to visit this winter, take a leaf out of the Scandi’s book and get outside. This isn’t about punishing your body with a fitness regime or denying yourself the pleasures of comfort food—it is about delight. Hike a mountain and drink in the view. Skate until you’re red in the face and you fall over laughing. Hygge is mittens and bobble hats, yes, but it’s not fluff. After all, as Johansen tells her readers: “Remember, we are descendants of the Vikings, so there’s a toughness to the Nordic people. You have to earn your hygge.”