Japanuary 2012

After the grand success of Japan 2011, Grant Gunderson, K.C. Deane, and I decided there was no way we could not return this year.  We brought Carston Oliver and the Seven Summitteer Johnny Collinson and spent nearly three weeks checking out some unknown little areas instead of the usual “Hakuba and Niseko” Gaijin haunts.  We were not disappointed. 

 

Flying in we were treated to a beautiful sunset over Mt. Fuji.

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We’ve arrived!  Time to hop on the train to Myoko.

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Bill Ross of Dancing Snow picked us up in Myoko and drove us to our hotel.  It was “Myokoing” heavily!

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Carston and I were pretty excited to be right where we were.  The snow was stupid deep, just like last year.

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K.C. goes big. 

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Repeatedly.

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When the snow is this deep even I get in on the flippy spinny action off of cliffs.  Thanks to BravoSki editor Tatsuya Tayagaki for the photo.

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After my near-miss in the super deep snow of last year we adopted a new strategy this year, with one extra person standing by below in case landings were more augered than stomped.  It paid off for Johnny Snacks, who slightly over-rotated a corked 3 and ended up face down about four feet under the snow.

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We also played with smaller, lower consequence features. 

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Carston plays in pillowland while Gunder gets the shot.

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And then it went blue!  K.C. skins above the ski area and looks at terrain that is far from mini-golf.

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Carston nears the top.

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Almost there…

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Mt. Myoko looms high above us.  We’re not going to summit today.

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Carston doesn’t mind dropping in to Trenchtown.  He goes left.

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K.C. goes right.

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A beautiful day merits an apres-ski snack of candied crabs, noodle bowls, and beer. 

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The sun didn’t last long.  The next day it was Myokoing again so we stayed in the trees and gullies down low. 

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Carston didn’t mind.  Here he is spinning into oblivion.

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Johnny Snacks drops in to waist deep tree skiing perfection. 

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Carston follows suit. 

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Gunder had to clean off his ice beard after every run.

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K.C. couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

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Johnny Snacks gets upside-down.

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Snacks can also do a mean switch zero spin double pole grab.

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After a few more days of snow it went blue again.  K.C. can finally see where he’s going. 

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Carston slays a spine.

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Johnny Snacks makes it look easy.

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A rare second-angle of yours truly plundering the depths, courtesy of K.C. Deane’s Instagram magic.  

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Carston wonders “why ski down pillows when you could air over all of them?”

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We took a day trip to Charmont Hiuchi.  They have high-speed lifts there but some of us were too excited to wait to the top before starting to shred.

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It was Myokoing pretty hard on the way home but we had K.C.’s birthday party to attend. 

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Bill and Carston fire up the pony keg at Dancing Snow world headquarters.

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Sushi bonanza!

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More sushi bonanza!

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Ultra sushi bonanza!!!

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K.C. was pretty bummed about turning one year older.

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Growing up is hard to do.  

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We had to leave Myoko but first the streets had to get cleared of the meter of snow that fell between midnight and 0530.

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Myoko takes snow removal seriously. 

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Carston and K.C. navigate the train schedule.  Next stop = ???

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The convenience stores in the train station sell four liter bottles of whisky.  Apparently it’s Suntory time all the time. 

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Our next stop was Minakami in Gunma Prefecture.  There are quite a few ski areas in the region, including one near the deadliest mountain on the planet.  The ski area itself was pretty small and didn’t have much to offer aside from one large cliff in the middle of the bowl.  Of course that was the first thing we hit.  K.C. gets inverted.

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Carston spins to win.

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K.C. flat-spin 3

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The real gem of this area is the easy-access backcountry.  Johnny Snacks blazes a trail towards the deadliest mountain.

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Carston milks a turn on the way while K.C. watches.

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Hello, are we in AK now? 

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That is most definitely NOT mini-golf.  Japan terrain stereotypes = shattered. 

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We dropped in to one of the countless gullies with perfect trees and waist-deep pow.  Johnny Snacks, descending. 

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Carston is in there somewhere.

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Johnny finds the light.

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K.C. milks a turn.

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Then he found a lane of perfection

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Our 2nd lap and the mountain was more visible.  WANT!

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But first, more perfect trees and pow and bliss.

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There was nobody around to heckle us so we heckled ourselves.  Carston and the paparazzi.

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K.C. leaves his mark everywhere.

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Kensuke Nomano was our guide for the first couple of days.  He definitely knew the area and we were happy to have him around. 

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Johnny finds a pocket of awesome.

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BravoSki editor Tatsuya Tayagaki joined us. His 4wd camper bus was the envy of all. 

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Carston errs towards air.

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Carston tried to teach me these corked somethingorothers.  He stomped.  I did not. 

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K.C. turning Japanese.

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“And then it went blue!”  Time to climb the summit on our last day.

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Magical light in the foothills.

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The fact that this mountain has killed between 700 and 900 (depending on your source) people since 1930 was not lost on us. 

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A better view of the gnar that was just around the corner.

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Johnny Snacks climbed the Seven Summits when he was 17 and he’s only 19 now, so we let him break trail. 

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Of course he got smoked by the local grandparent-mountaineers. 

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Tatsuya nears the summit

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Carston and I pose for the obligatory cheesy photo with another summitteer.

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Looking down a potential line.  Maybe next time…

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The descent towards town.  Not necessarily OUR town, but surely there’s a town down there somewhere.

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Can you find Carston? 

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Success!  We made it down the world’s most deadly mountain intact!  This calls for a celebration.

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Unsurprisingly, Grant passed out immediately which left the photo processing to the rest of us.

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Dinnertime.  All-you-can-eat buffet of this?  Danger danger!  By the time we were done, our plates of sushi and sashimi were nearly as tall as the actual mountains.

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We had to cut loose so Johnny Snacks, Carston and I went to the local Karaoke bar with pro snowboarder Mari Mizukami.  Lil Wayne, Nate Dogg and Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Bon Jovi, Kiss, Billy Joel, and other Japanese song favorites were all attempted with great gusto.

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The next morning was harder for some than others.  Our little Johnny Snacks was all tuckered out after the big day of climbing and skiing and singing so he took a nap on the train.

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Luckily, the Ocean on a Stick street food is perfect for recharging. 

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We arrived in Miukamachi, where our hotel had a serious collection of comics ranging from PG to NC-17. 

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The town had a local snow museum where they had documented a tiny fraction of the snowflake potential. 

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The treeskiing here was second to none.

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“And then it went blue!!”  Unfortunately the lower elevation of this area didn’t handle sun well, but we gave it our best. 

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Johnny likes alternative views. 

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Carston chasing his tails

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After a few more days it was time to head back to Tokyo.  We found a magazine rack in the train station and checked out evidence of our previous trip.  Who’s that on the cover of BravoSki? 

 

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Our arrival in Tokyo coincided with their first big snow of the season.  Shibuya Square, with flashing lights and people and snow and noises and cars and distractions!!!!!  It was just like you’d imagine. 

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Carston found a hot pepper shop and had to check it out.

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We went back to the Tsujiki fish market.  Yep, there are still (or there were) a few tuna left.

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There’s also a bit of whale available if you’re interested.

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I’m not sure what this restaurant specialized in but the pictures might be a hint.  Can anyone translate?

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I found guitar shop heaven in Tokyo.  This place was seven stories, each almost as big as a Guitar Center back home.  The 3rd floor of this place was where all the Gibson Custom Shop and Paul Reed Smith custom guitars were housed.  I played the one hanging up on the left… $5,500.00. 

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Before we flew home we spent two days walking all over Tokyo.  We could have spent a week or a lifetime but we made the best of it.  Here’s the Imperial Palace.

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After last year’s trip we never thought we’d score Japan nearly as well, but this trip exceeded all of our expectations.  Japanuary 2013 is already being planned.  Who’s in?

 

This trip would not have been possible without supermega help from JNTO, Dancing Snow, and K2 Japan.  We get by with a little help from our friends. 

 

 

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