Coldsmoke jackets safely stowed in our luggage, Chris and I boarded our flight to Tokyo with visions of bottomless powder, steaming ramen, and endless dry beers dancing in our heads as the California sun began to ooze over the Pacific. Who-knows-how-many-hours later, after lugging our ski bags through airports and on and off buses on the other side of the same ocean, we arrived in Rusutsu on the northern island of Hokkaido to see our friend Makenzie pull up in the van of our dreams, ready to whisk us to our waiting friends in the small cabin perched above Lake Tōya that would serve as our base camp for the next week.
Days blurred together as we settled into a routine. Wake up, make breakfast, scramble around the cabin as the six of us gathered our gear for the day ahead, ski down the pump track we built down to the van, head for the hills, stop at a Seico Mart to grab a days worth of rice balls, cans of hot coffee, weird pastries, and tallboys, pull off the road to hit the infamous avalanche barriers that stand guard above Japan’s mountain passes, cruise into the lot at Kiroro Resort, acquire backcountry passes, and lap what the resort aptly calls the “Powder Zone” before beating a hasty retreat to a steaming onsen.
Other days we elected to earn our turns, tumbling out of the van at a trailhead and skinning up through fairytale forests with the promise of deep stashes and powder slashes just around the corner. Before we knew it, a week had passed and we were trading the cabin in for a decidedly Japan-sized RV. Everything is smaller over there with the exception of the snowpack! The snow showed no signs of letting up at Kiroro, so we headed back, parked the RV in the base lot, and continued to pillage the Powder Zone.
All too soon, we were dropping the RV off, saying goodbyes to the rest of the group, and Chris and I were headed to bask in the neon glow of Tokyo before our flight back to the US of A. We spent a sleepless 36 hours soaking in the sensory smorgasbord of Tokyo – from the eerily still imperial palace gardens to the hustle and bustle of Shibuya Crossing, the coziness of micro-restaurants tucked away in gas-lit alleys to the trolley-dodging chaos of the Tsukiji fish market, we roamed far and wide before boarding our flight home from the land of the rising sun.