Japan. A Winter Journey Part 1

Autor: Maloja | Fotos: Michael Müller | Datum: 10. 12. 2018

It’s a bit contrary to what one might think: If you travel to the land of the rising sun in winter, don’t expect to actually see the sun. On Hokkaido, the northernmost Japanese island you rarely get a glimpse of the sun, the same can be said about blue skies. White is the dominant colour of the landscape and snow is the reason people from all over the world visit there in winter.

It’s a bit contrary to what one might think: If you travel to the land of the rising sun in winter, don’t expect to actually see the sun. On Hokkaido, the northernmost Japanese island you rarely get a glimpse of the sun, the same can be said about blue skies. White is the dominant colour of the landscape and snow is the reason people from all over the world visit there in winter.

“Japow“ is the name of the epic Japanese powder, which can be considered a highly addictive substance to skiers. On Hokkaido it falls from the sky from the end of November through till April. In fact an impressive amount of snow falls there and it is truly impossible to comprehend until a person experiences it for themselves.

To be honest, we were sceptical for some time if our plans for our winter photo shoot in Japan would work out. The weather data from previous years forecasted a 50⁄50 chance that there would be enough snow for ski touring at the beginning of December when we planned to go. The search for trails that offered the best–case scenario quickly morphed into an intensive research project followed by, whether or when to book our flights. One could say it was a bit like rolling the dice at the casino: We were “all-in“ and uncertain of the outcome.

It was a big relief landing in Sapporo. The host city of the 1972 Olympics welcomed us with winter temperatures and most importantly, snow. Tomo, our guide and driver who was with us for the summer photo shoot was ready and waiting for us at the airport. We loaded up the car and set out on the quickest route to the mountains.

On the way to our first destination Otoineppu we learned our first lesson: Speed is relative. Travelling to the smallest village of Hokkaido on icy roads with a top speed of 60 km⁄h Tomo had time to provide us with a brief introduction to the culture and customs of the country. Four hours later we finally arrive and by this time we have a good understanding of the cultural differences between Japan and Europe. So, we are not surprised when we find only two kimonos in the six–square–metre double bedroom room instead of a shower. For personal hygiene one heads to the “Onsen“, a communal bath with shared showers, male and female baths are strictly separated. We also learned that taking a shower while sitting on a small plastic stool takes some time to get used to.

When it comes to food, we quickly realised how western we actually are. Although Tomo did everything to get us to try Japanese cuisine, we always politely declined. Whether it was raw prawns, clams or fish, we had to apologize, as half the group did not eat seafood. Miso soup, ramen or udon, the answer was always “yes please, but not for breakfast if at all possible.“

In the end, a Japanese self–service grill turned out to our favourite restaurant. Everyone was able to select what he or she wanted by touch screen. Beer was on the table in 30 seconds, meat and vegetables took a bit longer, but were always prepared to our liking.

Back to top