I jumped on the plane with no idea what to expect from the snow condition in Japan this year, where exactly I was going and whom with. All I knew was that it was dumping more then ever and that I was truly looking forward to eating veggie tempura!!
The Japanese confusion began as soon as I put my foot on the ground, I found my friend Matthieu Georges and as advised by the informations counter, we got on the bus to the other terminal as soon as we found the right bus stop (that would be after running 5 times back and forth through the whole bus terminal). Arriving at the other terminal the information counter sent us back to the first terminal. There the very shy, very cute, very kind, very quiet, very Japanese hostess told us that snowboard bags are forbidden on the plane, and that we had to go to the other airport on the other side of Tokyo about an hour away, and catch a bigger plane to Sapporo. once in Sapporo's airport I met my British riding mates for this trip, Scott Mc Morris, Colum Mytton, Josh Wolf and Whiteline's Editor Ed Blomfield.
We arrived in Grand Heraffu at night, there wasn't much snow but we were staying in a really cool place with an amazing view on a beautiful vulcano Niseko. During the day it is open until 4pm and by night from 5pm to 8.30pm. most of the slopes are very well lit and it's really cool to go night shredding there! The lifts don't go all the way up to the top as they do in Europe and you hear all kinds of noises when you sit in a chairlift. Of course the chair lift person cleans the chair with a brush, even when it's already dry and clean. At the gondola they put a condom on the nose of your board and they carry it for you! After a day foolling around and searching for shootable spots it started snowing, I mean it started DUMPING and we would never see the the sky again as it kept dumping snow flakes of the size of 2euros coins through the whole trip.
We had an amazing time shredding the lightest pow in the world through majestic trees.
We also had an incredible deep pow night shred! It felt like being part of a video game! It was well lit even on most off slopes runs, but my brain could analyse only one image at a time, it really felt surreal!
We found some sick mushrooms to hit on an other waist deep pow day... They all had sweet flat landings... I remember riding one where I made a hole just as tall as me and got almost covered by my own sluff! This is how deep the snow was!
I didn't get a chance to taste any veggie tempura in Niseko when we packed our board bags and went on a 8 hour train ride through the country to the south island. As a girl I had of course packed too much stuff, which did not make any of the 6 train changes easier for me. We arrived in the Nagano area at night and we would not see the sunshine there either, unfortunately the rain had replaced the snow.
Once there we met Andy and Sarah from Snow Season Japan who made it so sweet and easy for us, driving us everywhere and showing us some cool spots to shoot! Off piste is pretty much illegal in Japan and they have a good way to catch rebells to this rule. We hear that they chase any beacon signal on the mountain, even if you are on slopes, they assume you were about to break the rule.
After a a good shredding day I got to experience the Japanese naked bath called Onsen. I was on a trip only with guys and the baths are seperated for men and women. So I went there alone, not really knowing what to expect or how it worked. I must have looked quite confused because two older ladies came to me as I was holding on to my towel and ripped it off of me. So there I was in a steamed room full of tiny Japanese girls, all naked of course. It was funny to be in the middle there, so much taller. Kids would stare at me and older ones would show me around. There were about 5 or 6 different kinds of hot tubs, one was outside, overlooking the slopes on which everyone was skiing.
I still haden't found any veggie tempura when we took off for a night in Tokyo. And of course we spent it singing karaoke! We were staying in a capsule hotel and I was stoked to find my funky bunk bed at the end of that long night. The British guys left early in the morning and Matt and I spent the day shopping and walking around town. I had a lot of fun on that trip. That powder was so amayzing and the guys were really fun to hang out with.
Thanks to Matt and Ed who let me tag along..
Thanks to Ben Thorpe from japanskiexperience.com and Jessica Geldart from the local tourist board in Niseko. And thanks to Andy and Sarah from snowseasonjapan.com for all their help in Hakuba and Myoko. They can hook you up with a Japanese language course to get closer to the culture if you want to go there.