"Should have been John" was a bit of a joke. He was supposed to go first that run but was fiddling with his gear and I went in his place. At the end, when we were going through the raw footage of the vid someone said, "well you did everything right, there is nothing more you could have done" to which I replied, "well I could of sent John".
Free hands helped me fiddle with the avalung and the Float airbag ripcord. In a slide like that, everything gets pulled hard. Polestraps would have been pulling on my hands making it harder to fiddle with my gear while tumbling in the washing machine.
Japan has GREAT steeps, just not where most people go. The northern island and Niseko in particular, has a great PR machine but the Northern Alps on the Main island, such as Hakuba, have much better terrain.