Digital Style - Japan
Words: Mitchell Brower
Photos: Jacob Callaghan
Japan. Playful terrain and deep snow in abundance. This was our second trip to the country, and our expectations were exceeded once again.
Ever since our "We are the Coterie" trip in 2015, each of us had been itching to get back to the steamy onsens, delicious food, and frequent snowfall that the country has to offer. So when Atomic, Snocru, and Dragon offered to pitch in for the trip, Nicky Keefer, Jonah Williams, Jacob Callaghan, and I jumped at the chance to go again. We decided to explore the main island this time.
We landed in Tokyo, and found that the 'van' we had rented was much smaller than expected. The car rental employees laughed at us as we coaxed all of our ski bags, gear, and 4 humans into the vehicle.
The Employees didn't think we could do it.
The endless and mysterious city of Tokyo.
That first night driving to Myoko, a 5 hour drive, was quite an experience. Luckily our filmer Jacob Callaghan had exchanged money at the airport so we could pay the many unexpected tolls on the road to Myoko. I was hesitant to exit the freeway in fear of not being able to reprogram the GPS. Eventually we were too hungry to keep going and finally exited, and ate at a delicious noodle house somewhere in the vast urban landscape of Tokyo, one that I would have no idea how to find again. We managed to find our way to Myoko after hours of making songs and beats to stay awake. It was well after midnight when we got into our beds at the cozy Japow House, a hostel located within walking distance of Akakura Resort. I have never been so happy to lay down and sleep on a thin mattress on the floor.
Myoko. A cozy ski town.
Delicious Ramen Everywhere.
Our Hosts: Kimmy and Miyu.
The owner of Japow House, Kimmy, was a Canadian Rocky Mountain tour guide and knows the mountains, towns and onsens around the Myoko and Nagano area. He had breakfast out for us when we woke up, snow piling up outside as we ate. He helped us get our wimpy van out of the driveway to a parking lot, where it stayed and got buried in snow until we headed back to Tokyo. We learned that renting a car on the main island of Japan is more of a hassle than it is worth, just take a train. We met up with Itadaki Tours, a local guide service, who showed us the mountain, the easily accessible sidecountry, and gave us much needed info about the avalanche conditions. We fast became friends with Maru, a skier, and Kei, a snowboarder, who spent the week shredding with us and showing us the goods.
A traverse from the top of the lift takes you to untouched pillows and avalanche barriers, the tunnel at the bottom takes you back to the lift.
The Itadaki Tours crew and friends are the cool guys of Myoko.
The parking lot employees wouldn't let us leave until we paid the parking fee, afterwhich they dug out the van with heavy machinery. Photo: Mitchell Brower
The skiing there lived up to the reputation born from thousands of videos of skiing in Japan. Each morning we woke up to at least a foot of new snow, and it continued to snow all day as we skied. Filming in a snowstorm in humid japan is a difficult task, especially for the filmer. Jacob was constantly cleaning the lense and struggling to keep the camera dry as he trudged through the snow to set up at the right spot. Nonetheless, we ended our first day with numerous shots on the card, and smiles on our faces.
I dropped into this line from a blue square groomer. The access to awesome terrain is unbelievable.
Drying off in the lodge getting ready for more filming. Photo: Jonah Williams
Landing tricks in Japanese powder was quite foreign to everyone in the crew. Being accustomed to landing in shallower conditions, it took us a week to figure it out. Highlights from the week at myoko were Jonah's giant double backflip, Nicky's switch 5, myself landing a cork 7 after countless punch fronts, watching our local guides throw down, and putting the camera away and skiing next to Jacob on one of the deepest runs we have ever skied.
Utaka, one of the local shredders, went huge off a cliff with a very flat landing and knocked out his front teeth.
Budget Capsule Hotel in Asakusa. This one was smokey and gross, find a nicer one if you want to experience it.
Sightseeing and lifestyle shots in Asakusa. Photo: Jonah Williams
We headed back to Tokyo to be tourists, then it was a short flight to Hokkaido and a much less stressful drive to the luxurious Rusutsu Resort where multiple all-you-can-eat buffets and lavish onsens awaited. If Myoko was an adventure, Rusutsu was a ski vacation. We would ski powder all day, then ski to our cabin, change clothes, and stuff ourselves with sushi, crab, steak, and ramen, followed by an onsen session.
Lavish livin at Rusutsu.
The snow seemed dryer there, and pauses in snowfall continued to be brief. We found two jump spots and a road gap nearby, and each of us got a few tricks. Highlights from the jump session were Nicky's first try cork 7 uncrossed blunt in a way that only he can, Jonah's first try inverted switch 5 blunt, and myself landing a cork 9 blunt first try after tomahawking all day the previous day.
Nicky Keefer. Cork 7 Blunt
Jonah Williams. Switch 5 Blunt
With shots of powder skiing, cliffs, pillows, and jumps, we were satisfied with our trip and excited to put together a classic Japan edit. Hope you enjoy!
Stay tuned for 'DIGITAL STYLE - UTAH', coming in December.