Monday, February 9, 2009

Nippon de Daisuki!

Japan is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on this planet, it's kind of mesmerizing, whenever i'm there I feel Lovage for the place, just like Nathaniel Merriwether did for his Old Lady! The aesthetic juxtaposition in (mans & natures) landscape between different regions is astounding. I'm talking about booming skyscrapers & city of industry as far as the eye can see to rolling hills of temples,shrines & buddhas cascading off into coastline. With waves bashing up against the cliffs & the odd A-frame just off shore a desolate, black sand beach (one, i'm sure Charlie hasn't surfed).

Northern Japan was an area I was unfimilar of up until this recent visit. Me and the rest of my team were gearing ourselves for what we'd heard was going to be some of the deepest powder snow we'd ever ridden. Arriving in Niseko though we were greeted with the obligatory (Aussie) "How's it going mate?" a parlance that defenitely seemed way to close to home in this weird winter wonderland. I shunned it off knowing very well (after reading the odd snow rag & listening into the grapevine ) that the place had been swamped with Bronzed Aussies over the last 5 years all chasing that deep white stuff that we don't get down under. Luckily our team leader was Richy Langslow, snowboard guide extrordinaire & all round good guy who set us up in a lodge which was just off the beaten path (Moiwa). Unfortunately though it seemed as though we were sharing it with twenty or so young board rats who'd been sent over by mum & dad for the Australian summer so they could enjoy some "quality" time at the holiday house in Portsea. Huff!
Anywho, the old bones soon warmed up (with the help of the odd onsen) & the snow hit hard with 80 cm falling on a 2 metre base within the first 2 days of our arrival (the biggest single fall in 5 years), we were told by Par Dahlin, our other guide. Par is your quintessential Snow Man, he's Swedish & told us that he'd stopped in Japan on his way to Australia when he was 20 and never left! I think his veins pumped snow because the night we had that monstrous fall he was out the front of the lodge blowing snow for close to 4 hours!! Crazy Swede!! He was an absolute onsen connosieur aswell, he took us to some cool mixed sex onsens, where everyone has their pieces hanging out & told us stories of the place ten, fifteen years ago before it was inundated with "Gaijin" Powderhounds.
He lamented about these international aristocrats that had moved in,built monster lodges & capitalised on the place by bringing more & more of their friends. "This place used to be gold, I was one of the first ones here & now look at it, it's another Whistler" he said with a jaded tone on him.
Well I suppose it was treated as what it was....a goldmine & we all know what happens to them.
I fought with my mixed feelings on the Aussie asault on the place plus my own deep seeded adoration for the place & how I wasn't prepared for anyone including my team to effect my Japan & I just got out there & ripped into some big powder turns. Well, I tell you, I struck gold & almost died, got bogged & had to walk out of a remote spot with every footstep grinding my efforts down....pretty intense...but I soldiered through it & lived to write this article....phew!!
On that note, there were no serious catastrophies, there was one bung knee, a strained calf muscle, some imported bangkok flu (non- contagious), verbal assault & near fists of fury (avoided), late night love affairs, lost team members (on afew occasions). One night we decided to go into Hirafu which was about 30 kms from Moiwa, no one informed us that cabs don't run between the hours of 2 & 6 am (convenient), we exited the last bar around 2.30, the team made an attempt to stick together which was futile in our inebriated state....we were as the Japanese would put it "Honto ni yopparai"....translation...."Very Drunk".....the team members that managed to stick together were lucky enough to score a ride back to Moiwa Lodge with some nice Nihonjin, but Richy Langslow, our guide & all round good guy was left to fend for himself & ended up having to sleep outside a hotel after making every effort to pry the doors open with his bare hands just to warm his bones. Another lost team member ended up walking the 30 kms back to Moiwa, which we estimated would have taken around 3 hrs & when I asked Par whether he'd ever heard of anyone achieving this feat he replied with wide eyes " You must be out of your f#$&en mind!".
Everyone went ballystic in Nippon & i'm catching up with the team this Thursday to share photos & stories over some Vietnamese food! Should be a laugh!
Well to conclude, i'd say to any of you keen skiers or boarders out there, get your gear out & get to Hokkaido before the place becomes way too over populated with those Bronzed Aussies I was talking about earlier. Go Snow!

Oh yeah I heard "New Yorks for Surfers" these days, well "Melbourne is for Lovers" so get on down here for some Lovage you smooth smoothies!


1 comment:

Toddy said...

Sounds and looks absolutely epic. I want to hear more about you back country near death trek.