I have lived in Japan for some time now. Unlike countries where outdoors living is at your doorstep, Japan’s needs to be discovered or created. In the coming seasons I will share some of my adventures here and hopefully provide some inspiration to explore them for yourself.
I have travelled extensively, mostly in Africa. In Japan my outdoor activities are many – surfing, snowboarding, cycling, motorcycling, running, snorkeling, photography, cooking – a “Four Season Man” in Japan.
As an African, snow never formed a part of my vocabulary, so imagine when my friend Darrell invited me to go snowboarding the first time. It was Christmas 2006. I was dead set against it! All I knew of snowboarding and skiing was that they were a perfect way to break your bones. I had no intention of taking up another sport.
That was all about to change. Under much duress I decided to go. Did some research, got some “good” advice and… was blown away!! It would be very difficult to distinguish exactly what it was. The white light, crystal blue skies, laughing with friends, stunning mountains… and of course, the snowboarding itself! As a surfer of 14 years, I took to it… and was hooked – for good!!
This was not without my share of falls mind you, but some of the “good advice” I got was to get protection. I went to a motor-X shop, got knee guards and elbow guards. “Change what can be a painful experience into a pleasurable one.” (Joel) Pragmatic me, not knowing if I were going to enjoy it, skimped on the rest. Cotton jacket – which, once wet, turned to ice in the late afternoon cold; semi-waterproof pants – which filled my boots with water; and wet-suit shorts for some rear protection – my coccyx painful for two weeks thereafter.
But in truth, I would not have changed a thing. I was so taken after my first experience, hooked, that I bought my new snow-suit the same evening of my return. The board came later – this needed a little more research. What had changed? The experience brought the change, and the correct preparations facilitated it. One of our party who did not “get protection” took a heavy fall which shattered his confidence and ended his snowboarding there and then.
The mountains can be trying. Never underestimate them. Be prepared for extreme conditions. Bruised bones and bruised egos. The beauty of snowboarding is that it is like surfing a long frozen wave. To and fro, down the mountains and back again. It is truly liberating. The feeling sublime. Try it! When the slopes of Japan, exposed to icy Siberian winds, are powdered with snow why not jump on a Shinkansen with some friends and begin a winter adventure.
Packages are the cheapest – lift pass, Shinkansen ticket & discounted ski rental. Take a lesson – then enjoy your time in the mountains of Japan.