photos and words: Mike Yoshida
Japan is one of my favorite places to travel for snowboarding. Not only is there amazing powder and such a unique culture to dive into, but there is also a plethora of street spots, and incredible architecture that is almost built to snowboard on. With not much snow anticipated to hit the contiguous United States in the month of March, Harrison Gordon took it upon himself to act as our guide over to Asia. Harrison had invited Scott Blum, as they are both filming for The Snowboarder Movie this year. Lead cameraman and editor, Colton Morgan was our filmer, and we had plans to meet up with legend, Takaharu Nakai on the north island of Hokkaido for some epic powder adventures.
Tickets were bought, and accommodations were acquired, so we were all set to head to Japan. It was a couple days before we headed out, so I did one last weather check, and was caught off guard when I saw rain in the forecast. Just a few days prior the temps were to stay cold the entire time we were there. Right away I called our guide Harrison, and he too was surprised that the forecast had changed. I had all sorts of thought going through my head. Do we pull the plug? Do we fly over and just do street boarding? Would the forecast change again?
We decided to stick it out, and roll the dice, so we all headed to Niseko from our prospective homes, in hopes of cold temps and powdery days. The day we arrived, things looked positive. Blue skies adorned the backrop with a classic Mt. Yotei sighting in the foreground. We bought some lift tickets to scope the snow, and decided that we needed to get up a bit higher in elevation. After discovering a pretty insane side country zone, we had found what we thought was going to be an epic spot to film for the next day. Unfortunately, the following day, as we hiked up our intended location, we realized the powder was pretty poor, and with temps climbing throughout the day, the snow was only getting worse. We tried to film a couple things, and then decided to pull the plug and try to film in the streets of a nearby town.
The streets worked good for us, with Blum stacking a major ham on a sketchy rooftop that was a high bust zone. So we really lucked out on our first day! The trip was off to a good start, but unfortunately the next day we awoke to rain. The forecast was right, and we were stuck with a downpour and high temps for the entire time we were there. After consulting the king of Tokyo, Teddy Koo, he advised us to head to a nearby town to look for street spots. So we packed up our rental and headed for the city, in hopes of greener… er whiter pastures.
So it was decided, we were on a street boarding trip. I was excited to shoot some urban features as I had been in the backcountry the entire season, Blum was hyped too, but Harrison…. Harry was on suicide watch. Ironically he even started riding for a watch company called Sui Watch, check them out at www.suiwatch.com.
I have yet to shoot jibs on the north island, as typically I am there to capture powder boarding. There was a ton of spots out there, so we were all pretty excited, sans Harrison, and there was also a lot of snow to work with. Although we had a small crew, and tiny avalanche shovels, we managed to stack some pretty awesome clips. Occasionally we would take trips to the ocean to sight see, and we definitely took advantage of the ramen, curry soup, and sushi that Hokkaido is known for.
About half way through our trip we heard the adidas crew was coming over to film as well. Ironically they ended up in the same town, in the same hotel, and in the room across the hall. When we bumped into them, we were so stoked, and we joined forces for a couple days. The adidas boys consisted of: Alex “wizardlyfe” Sherman, Derrek Lever, Louif Paradis, and filmer/editor extraordinaire Jake Durham.
It was such a refreshing feeling to have a massive crew of homies unite together in Japan. We would all head to 7 Eleven or Lawson for breakfast items, and finish out the days going to massive group dinners. We even had a pretty glorious day of shredding a nearby resort Sapporo Kokusai together, and that turned out to be a dreamy event which was very memorable.
As the trip wound down, I think we were all psyched to get home and find some powder in the states. The travels over to Japan were a success, despite our initial intentions to stay in the backcountry, we adapted well, and made the best of what mother nature had given us. Look for the shots in the next volume of SNOWBOARDER Magazine, and our upcoming movie, Resolution.