Snowboarding in Japan’s best mountains

Story by: Grace Reveley     Date: 15 April 2022    Image by: Canva | haanism

5 minutes reading time Japan

I remember the day I booked a one-way flight to Tokyo, I had dreamed of Japan’s snow-capped mountains and sushi for too long, it was time to make a change. My snowboard bag was packed full of thermals, snowboards, and snacks. Going to Japan had been a dream of mine and it was all happening within a few weeks.

After two long flights, I arrived at Narita Airport, Tokyo. I stepped straight into the hustle and bustle of the city. Packed full of tourists like myself, all eager to explore the city’s bright lights and ramen, I felt the city’s electricity and excitement pulse through me. When I finally got to my first hotel, I sat on the bed with my notebook laying out in front of me, scribbles of my previous travels and plenty of space for new ones. Next to it were my train and bus tickets, readying myself for my trip to the mountains.

After a long overnight bus, two trains, and a lot of luggage, I arrived in Kutchan, a sleepy town engulfed by snow. This winter wonderland had a little karaoke bar where I waited for a taxi, pumping out ‘My heart will go on’ by Celine Dion. I smiled to myself and thought, I never want to leave.

Niseko, Japan

I saw the mountains peek into view as I took a taxi up the winding roads to the local village of Niseko, the town I would call home for 6 months.

Arigato gosmuas

I spoke with confidence thanking the lovely driver who dropped me off at my accommodation. Layers of snow weighed heavy upon the roof of our house, the cars were blocked in by the recent snowfall, this was home for the next 6 months. My feet fell deep into the snow as I waded my way through to the front door, I turned and looked behind me. There they were, some of Japan’s best mountains.

I woke the next morning, my thermals all laid out in front of me, my board freshly waxed, and my excitement off the scale. I caught the local bus that wound up the slim roads to the ski lifts, the sun was rising slowly beaming an orange glow on the crisp, white snow. It was the first day of the season, the snow had fallen thick and fast overnight, making it the perfect first day back on my snowboard.

With a crew of 12, we all piled out of the bus, heading up the gondola at great speed until we reached the top. I strapped into my snowboard, a little nervous I’ll admit, with anticipation of what was to come. That first run was incredible, the sun boar down on us lighting the way down the run, with a thick layer of fresh powder covering the mountain, I felt as though I was floating. I was alive. That day we snowboarded from the first chair to the last, stopping only for a beer and a good laugh with new friends. That was the start of an unforgettable 6 months.

I worked hard over the next 6 months and snowboarded even harder. Spending long hours servicing skis and boards in the workshop, chatting to wonderful people and practicing my Japanese was my everyday life, I was so lucky to call that my job. I spend my time off work exploring the 47km of ski runs of Niseko and ventured into the off-piste to sample the famous snow of Japan. Gliding through the snow and overlooking Mount Yotei, an inactive volcano, there was nowhere else I would have rather been.

Moiwa, Japan

Rusutsu and Moiwa

Rusutsu and Moiwa, two local ski resorts famous for their ridiculous amount of snow and were our neighbors. We ventured out of Niseko and explored the rest of the mountains like kids in a candy store, eager to find the best runs. Living and working in Niseko opened my eyes to a wonderful culture of snowboarding. Not only are there friends on powder days here, but I was also welcomed into a community of the best skiers and snowboarders.

Spending 6 months in Japan’s mountains was the best snowboarding of my life, I left Niseko with a heavy heart but with memories that would last a lifetime. My time in Japan had to come to the end as my visa was running out and a new adventure awaited. I found happiness, friendship, food, and the best snow in Japan, a truly magical country that has the best mountains. I left knowing that I would be back one day, because who doesn’t want ramen for dinner every day?

Snowboarding in Japan

Snowboarding in Japan’s best mountains

I moved to Japan for 8 months to work as a snowboard technician servicing skis and snowboards, not only did I find friends for life, I snowboarded in Japan’s best mountains.

Making the decision to move to Japan was an easy one, the thought of endless sushi and ramen, let’s just say I was easily persuaded. I got my visa from the embassy two days before my flight and before I knew it, I was stepping off the plane into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

After leaving Tokyo on a long bus to Saparro, we took a short train to Niseko, the town I would call home for the next 6 months. As the train slowly pulled into the station, walls of snow blocked any view of the roads. I was stunned, I have never seen snow like it before, it engulfed so much of the surroundings. As I hauled my snowboard bag off the train, I just took a second to breathe and realize that I was going to live in this magical country for the next 8 months.

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