It was almost 9 months ago I wrote ‘Japow Wrapped’. Now that I am heading back for another season, here is a spot of reminiscence.
‘Japow Wrapped’ – March 2016
Spring was definitely round the corner. The driving condition was improving and temperature had increased by at least 6C. The mad rush of tourists had subsided and the slopes were sparsely dotted with people. It was less of a mission to get a table at the restaurants which were all tiny with only a few tables. The food was still great and everyone were chattier, probably because I’ve been here for 3 months and my Japanese had improved three folds (I come with one, but now I have three words).
I had a favourite place to eat, a favourite dish and even my top three sakes to drink. The supermarket trips were shorter these days, and I have learned to make out what wonderful goodies were inside the packaging. I don’t know whether I have tuned out of the incessant music at the vegetable and fish aisles or just that I was numb to the crazy sound. I have my ‘go-to’ brand of gyozas and have fallen in love with milk again (Hokkaido milk). I no longer buy small cartons of sake. I am a fan of umeshu, and I don’t make ice for the drink anymore, we pull them off the roof. I might have overdosed on onigiri, but then if they kept bringing out new flavours, I got to be in the game.
I loved 7-11 in Japan. ‘Study’ showed that the vitamin C drink kept me healthy throughout the season, and it did turn into a morning ritual to visit the store and the occasional heart shaped chocolate bun went well with the drink. My favourite snack has got to be chargrilled cuttlefish with a dash of soy sauce. The guys at the various 7-11 in Yamade, Biei and Furano were used to my ‘peace’ sign greeting in the morning, but they still always asked whether I was skiing that day.
The lamination of my topo maps have had a work out. My blue guide books were filled with a season’s stats and observations. My Dakine backpack stood up to its worth and my helmet had a note-worthy new sticker from my favourite place to ski. I absolutely loved my G3 ion tech bindings. It was the best upgrade of the season shedding 2kg of weight off each foot. The Nordica Patron were immense, camber-rocker combo with an early rise was spot on for Japow with the occasional hard packed windblown surface. The only gripe was the extra-long tail which made kick turns and scooting a little cumbersome.
A quick word about Oneskee – it was an eye catching, head turning conversation starter on the piste. They were very comfortable to ski in with a relaxed fit. The Mark II were suitable mainly for resort skiing and the Original Oneskee was extra warm, for larking around town. It would be high on the wish list if there were a waterproof breathable shell only version of the Oneskee. It had been fun producing some great short clips and images for Oneskee this season on the slopes and in London.
Alpine Backcountry Guides were awesome to work with. Definitely made some awesome friends on many powder days. Sad to say goodbye at the end of the season, but looking forward to skiing with Steve, Morvan, Andy, Todd, Taku, Hiro, Russell, Al, John, Lucy and Grace soon.
A gentle and conservative culture, with an attention to details was a real draw for me to Japan, although I could see a fine line between precision and pedantry. A house with no lockable front door was unimaginable until now; a high recovery rate at the lost and found department; and the distinct lack of concern for not locking the car; the relentless amount of packaging and the subsequent extravagant level of recycling were refreshing to experience. Seeing how visitors handle the home nation’s idiosyncrasies was indeed fascinating. It ranged from acceptance and conformation to resistance and ignorance. Of course littering, not queuing and not snowboarding on the street should be fairly simple to understand anywhere in the world.
Whilst Central Hokkaido will progress with time and exposure, it has maintained a lot of its unique charm. The ‘informed and open minded travellers’ is the key to the formula as Central Hokkaido becomes more popular with skiers abroad. In three words after a season like this would be ‘Defo coming back’!
Check out some of the short clips over the season here