Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue moon

My Internet friend Rocky posted this on his Liquid Astronaut blog. It's pretty funny and interesting. Being older than the average snowboarder...hell, I'm older than the average person...I have actually heard the expression "once upon a blue moon" to indicate something that rarely occurred. My parents used it a lot when I was growing up.  They would be 100 or so now if they were alive.

As a child, I checked pretty regularly for a moon with I never saw one so I dismissed my parent's saying as another sign of impending senility and assumed that anyone who used the expression was either senile or easily fooled.

Rocky reassured me that the expression hasn't died out completely and, since he's young, it's not a sign of senility. I've never tried to fool him so I can't address that earlier belief.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My country at it's most ridiculous

When I see things like this, I laugh and stay in Japan just a little longer.

Snowboarding in Japan and not sure which run to take?

This sign at Kagura should clear it up for you. No need to thank me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How bad was the visibility?

Kagura rocks but it, like lots of places, can leave something to be desired in terms of visibility with snowboarding. For the video, I used my new cam, holding it out in my left (front) arm and operating blind. It came out okay when you consider that's really what it looked like. Still, powder rocks...vis or no vis.

Product review - Injinji Ex-celerator Performance Toe Socks

I read about these in a ski magazine...maybe in Ski Magazine. My disclaimers - no one provided them for me to test - I bought them from If you want a discount from Backcountry, check out this. If anyone wants to provide me with gear to test, let me know. I live on a U.S. military base so shipping is easy. I will review your products honestly...and keep them or give them away. I'm standing by for offers...not everyone at once.

These are compression socks. The cover your legs past the calves. They were warm and, for a guy with chronic foot problems, extremely comfortable. I'm a fan of toe socks...they may look weird but they are comfortable. At the end of the day, my legs weren't as tired, my feet were dry, and I'm ordering more of them. To see them at, go here.

UPDATE: I wore these on a 3-day weekend in pretty cold conditions. They kept my feet very warm and kept me from getting as tired. Really great socks!

They cost $38 before your discount. Definitely worth it.

If you have questions, let me know.

Tree tripping

A month from now, this root will be dead and gone. Today, laying just under the surface, it caught my board and helped me into a slow-motion face plant. That's what I get for going places no one else has gone...of course, I'd do it again. Kagura always rocks.

Epic Kagura

Saying it was sweet is to understate it. Snow all day yesterday. Most of the crowds over the Japanese holiday went somewhere else. Visibility was poor - more on that later - but all else is sweet. Kagura has great off-piste runs. Normally, folks track them and the cold kills the saplings. It's too early for that this year - I was running through the jungle. Here's what was on the other side of the ridge...good thing I go slow when I don't know what's ahead. That's a creek bed...with water. First you get soaked, then you have to climb out. Sometimes being slow is cool.

Great start

Cold morning. Hot coffee. It's time.

Pics later...maybe a product review or two.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowboarding in Iran

Hey...I'm seeing your hits. Who are you? Where do you ride? I know Iran has some resorts. Tell us about them.

Kung Fu Bicycle

One bicycle = criminals thwarted.

Ullr says "Snow in Japan"

At least that's the weather projection for today, pretty much from Niigata to Niseko. If it holds, I'll have to verify conditions tomorrow on a quick trip. Fingers crossed and prayers to the Holy Snow God.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More coming

December didn't roar in with deep kind of sneaked in with powder here followed by sun there. January looks better and this week will have some dusting to keep things fresh. I want to point out to my friends who predicted a dismal year were wrong. Trust in Bubba, the happy gaijin - we will ride powder this year! I know it will be a good year because my knee's already aching.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Playing for change

What will we do this year?

Things to think about between snowboarding trips

Watch, cry, watch, resolve, repeat.

Outstanding food for apres-snowboarding in Japan

I know it's hard to believe, but people in Japan don't eat sushi and sashimi 3 meals a day, 24X7. Actually, Japanese food is quite varied and very, very tasty. Here's a link to an introduction to udon and soba noodles, including a miniature menu you can bring to soba/udon shops and order by pointing.

A few quick tips - udon and soba are not ramen. Ramen is also good (it has a pork broth) but I don't eat meat so I can't give detailed advice. I do eat no soba/udon noodle is safe around me. BTW, some soba and udon meals have meat in them also. Some restaurants have English menus - you can ask by saying "A go menu, koo de sai". The words are spelled phonetically with the first A being long. Finally, many restaurants have pictures of the food on the menu and plastic replicas of the food in the window outside the restaurant. It's okay to point at the plastic replicas to order.

Another story on food options is here and here's a bit more on adult beverages and a healthy snack.

Naeba (Japanese) toilets - take that Vail!

Ah, toilets. We all use them. Naeba's ski resort offers some options not available commonly at Vail...or even Beaver Creek. Check out the photo - just push the button and total cleanliness follows. Remember as often pointed out - do not stand up before the water stops running. The effects could be embarrassing.

A white Christmas snowboarding in Japan

Snowboarders and skiers are lucky - we can always have a white Christmas. My wife and I drove to Naeba Christmas morning to take advantage of their beginner slopes (she's learning to ski), a bluebird day, and fair snow. If you're learning and you go very early, Naeba does have some excellent green runs...very flat and short...for beginners. For me, a chance to spend mountain time with my wife is always a good thing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Japan

Merry Christmas! Had a nice day in and much more to come tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snowboarding Japan on Christmas Eve

The snow isn't great around Tokyo right now and I have to work anyway. So, I thought you needed a classic Christmas carol to get in the spirit...Ullr approved and BSNY recommended.

Hakkoda Japan snowboarding video

Found this on YouTube this morning. Very nice footage of Hakkoda. Check it out at the 2:45 mark. Japan's powder can be much deeper and sometimes the terrain has very little pitch. This is the result.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What size snowboard should I ride?

This is always an interesting question. Here's one guy's answer. I think he's pretty accurate. At the time of this writing, I'd say add about 2 cm to the length if you ride a lot of deep powder. Check it out and pass it on.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Old Hakkoda picture of a natural pipe

This is an old picture I found - I think of Hakkoda in spring. Note the poles - no, I don't ski and yes I've become addicted to having them when I get way off piste.

Snow falling constantly - I'm dreaming of a Japanese white Christmas

Snow continues to fall. Up north in Hakkoda, freaky amounts are coming down. Down south, the quantity is still there but manageable. Winds have come up but should subside today. Current plans - take my beloved on a Christmas Day adventure. So cool and her idea. I love it when a marriage comes together ;-)

More later as the weather predictions get more accurate. Shown is the family Christmas bush for 2009, set in our U.S. government-provided housing at Yokota AB. We went small bush this year because of a new addition to our pack - a Golden Retriever named Mikka. There are three four-legged members of our pack and two two-legged we're outvoted on everything.

Learning from the extremes

This blog is put up multiple times weekly by someone I admire. She's a bit more extreme than me but I have learned so much from reading her stuff. Today's blog is outstanding.

After posting this, someone pointed out that I don't live by Crow's standards. True enough, as evidenced here.  My point isn't that I'm 100% sold on becoming her clone but I am sold on learning from her...even if I don't agree 100%. I know that's not normal in this world, but I've never been considered normal.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Backcountry snowboarding & skiing - staying alive

Really outstanding advice from someone who's done this longer and more hardcore than I ever will can be found here. Follow some of his links...worth it!

Staying alive snowboarding

I read this about a week ago. I clicked through and read most of it, although I don't really worry about tree wells...maybe I should but I don't.

This Saturday visibility was awful and I caught an edge, doing what would normally be a faceplant. However, the snow was so soft, it was a face dive. Riding alone, with my head seriously buried in very wet, deep, fresh powder.

Advice from the story - clear space around your face before moving - made my escape successful...don't want to be overly dramatic...but it helped. Never hurts to read.

Guilty pleasures

It's fun to make fun of other people. It's not nice but sometimes, in a quiet place with no one else around, we giggle. Just a little. To ourselves. This site is mean...giggle.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Drinking in Japan

That subject isn't for a blog - it's encyclopedic. But I'll keep it rewarding and easy.
Try sake. BWT, it's pronounced sa kay.  Do not say sa kee....unless, of course you're from Tennessee and want everyone to know immediately.

Lots of books - even in English - have been written on the subject. For the benefit of empirical science, I've done field research. I can say the following conclusively:

Today this one is my favorite. By this one, I mean Hakkai-san. I've had the more expensive Hakkai-san and the cheaper...this is in the latter category...and it's always good. Pronounce it Ha kai san...or just print the picture. More on this subject later - I need another glass.

What's with the orange fruit and the 5-dollar bill?

The orange fruit is called a mikan. That's pronounced me con. In season, it's sooooooo sweet and sooooo easy to peal (barehanded while aquiring Cheeto fingers), that it becomes an addiction.

The bill is to give a sense of size perspective. I would have use a hundred, but they're at the er......cleaners.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Perfect after snowboarding Japanese food

Here is a blend of 2 cultures...American Starbucks and kabocha. Kabocha is Japanese squash and is outstanding in this pastry-esque manner. Eat hearty!

Kagura today

Serious powder. That's the good news. If you're in the Tokyo area, you need to go there Sunday or better Monday. It's well worth it. Visibility was very limited. It was so bad at the top that people were falling because they couldn't see...including the writer.  Sometimes, the vis was so poor, that up and down became difficult to determine. Nonetheless, powder...deep powder...always worth a trip.

Time to go snowboarding - last call for riders ;-)

It's about in the time lots of folks come home. I'm walking the dog, drinking coffee and getting ready to go snowboarding. All reports indicate freaky good conditions for this time of year. Cameras ready and serious rock riding board ready, it's nearly time. Ullr, be kind. More in 12 hours or so...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Discount from is a new advertiser on my real (as in profitable and owned by my company website). Take a look!

Notice the discount code on the ad. Copy it.

Now, when buying something from Backcountry, as you proceed to check out, you'll get to the page where you enter your credit card data. On that page is a field called "Redemption Code". Click it and enter the code from the ad.

When you get to the next page in the checkout, it will reveal the discount (if any) this gets you. It's saved me a lot but it's not perfect. Still, it's definitely worth trying.

Snow update

Check out Kagura now. It's snowing so hard that my earlier prediction of crowds cannot be verified. Of course, some may not have gone because the weather was bad.

Niseko has slowed a bit but most places south of there are going to get pounded. Sweet!

Snowing in Kagura

Here's a pic from 0900 today. Notice - it's snowing and it's not crowded. By 1100, it will probably be crowded. That's common in Japan for a million reasons but the moral of the story is go early. That's true everywhere but I think more here than anywhere I've ever been.

Splitboarding and the backcountry

I agree but notice no pics of anyone skinning up a long hill. Also, is the question "What started the avalanche?"

Still, everytime I snowboard in Japan or in Colorado, I'm amazed at how many great runs I drive past to get to the lifts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Waist deep turns at Niseko reports waist deep turns and super-deep powder for snowboarders/skiers at Niseko in Hokkaido.

Snow is coming to Japan...really

These clouds mean snow. Look at the first shot this morning and then this one. Am I excited?

Critical information on urinal and toilet behavior

While not pertaining directly to snowboarding (the way I do it, anyway), this site provides data every man needs and every woman wants to laugh at. Enlightenment was never this easy. There is Japanese info on the site...yes, you will find everything is a bit different here. Honestly, Japanese toilets are far superior to U.S. ones, although I'm not a big fan of the full crouch model.

Fresh snow in the morning

Snowboarding in Japan is about to get real. This link (may not be good for long) shows Kagura this morning. Kagura is on one side of a mountain and Naeba on the other.

If you have friends who wear lycra in neon colors, they probably love Naeba. If you have friends who worship corduroy, the probably love Naeba. If you have friends who believe McDonald's is the epitome of fine dining, they definitely prefer Naeba. The rest of us prefer the Kagura side. Fortunately, they are connected by the Dragondola - a gondola taking you from one side to the other. Naeba does have an excellent udon/soba restaurant and an onsen.

Kagura is a rare type of ski-jo (resort) in Japan. They let you go off piste. They may wag a finger at you, but that's about it. It has numerous runs that one ride can go deep into the trees and powder and the other rider stay on the groom, with both ending up in the same place. Not too bad. It's also close to Tokyo, so go on a weekday and/or go very early.

Snow is predicted for the next few days, so it should get better. I should be there Saturday shooting pics and slip-sliding away.

Wear a helmet when you snowboard

While they don't add a lot to your sartorial style, wearing a helmet when snowboarding or skiing can save your life. Whether you're serious about riding (trees, off piste, etc) or just seriously afraid of the morons who run into you, helmets make sense. They've saved me some serious pain. They saved this girl a bit more.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Niseko pounded

Early reports show that Niseko got about 18 inches of fresh powder. However, all isn't well everywhere. Check this out.

Japan needs a Bigfoot rumor

While we have our kappas, obake, and yurei of various stripes, we don't have a serious current Bigfoot critter (or do we and I don't know it?). I miss great stories like this. When you look at the photo, it has a purplish tint to the critter's fur. Is that just the lighting or is he (Bigfoot) on his way to a disco?

Once, Japan had the makings of a decent rumor but it seems to have gone away. Funny story at this site about a Hibagon, although I prefer the alliteration of a Hibagon from Lake Wobegone.

It's snowing, snowing, snowing, and snowing

Did I mention it's snowing? Saturday looks real possible now. Got the snow tires, wax, and serious want to go now blues! Snowboarding in Japan in December...only thing better would be November!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tree well danger

Those of us who live to ride off-piste should probably pay attention to this. Although a bit more conservative than I am, it's good advice. (Thanks

Snowboarding at Arai

This is a photo taken of a friend of mine at the now closed Arai Resort and Spa. It was a serious snowstorm and almost no one was on the mountain. Arai could be very good but often (as shown) had very little visability.

This has nothing to do with snowboarding in Japan

Still, if you love jazz or country music, it's a chance to see 2 American treasures together.

Snowboarding in Japan - a Hakkoda blast from the past

Hakkoda is the extreme backcountry site in Japan. This photo of the tree monsters illustrates the desolation and the beauty of one of my favorite places. Hope to get there this year!

Snowboarding might...might being the possible this week in Japan

Temperatures in Tokyo (my outskirts version) are in the mid to low 40s. A few resorts got snow yesterday and more is supposed to be coming. I'm more excited than a kid at Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snowboarding in Japan's Hokkaido powder

When you're waiting for the snow and it doesn't ever seem to be coming, you search around the web and look for film others have shot of...say...Hokkaido powder. Snowboarding in Japan's won't be long now...I still believe. Shown in this video are what I would describe as an average day. If you stay a week in Hokkaido in the prime time (January through March), you will usually get a couple of days this good...and maybe much better. Look for yourself!

Snow is coming to Japan...maybe

After a disheartening weekend, lots of resorts are predicting snow in Japan this week. Might cure what ails me. Until then, I amuse myself with things like this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

No serious change

At 2:30 a.m., I took my dogs for their walk. I was hoping for colder weather and the north wind made me thing it had happened. Then, I got home and looked at my outside thermometer - 52 degrees F. I've surfed in colder weather.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snowboarding in Japan? Maybe I should call this site raining in Japan?

Pretty much everywhere got rain last night. Back to the beginning in many places. Tokyo is almost warm enough for shorts. I'm thinking izakaya and sake's killing me. Ullr, why hast thou forsaken me?

Currently no snowboarding in Japan but somehow the world is safer

I'm stuck at home in Tokyo with no snow. I could just whine about the state of snowboarding in Japan or I could entertain myself by whining and laughing about other things. Here's something from the recent past! Sadly, I'm not sure if it's truth or satire. The Ghost of Ronald Reagan

Friday, December 11, 2009

When not snowboarding in Japan, what will you eat?

Hopefully, you like sushi and sashimi. They're kind of a litmus test for Americans coming over. Something to try in the sushi bars is Aburi Salmon. This is salmon on the top of rice. However, the salmon is cooked on one side and raw on the you the best of both worlds. Cooking causes the sugars to crystalize, making the salmon sweet. The raw side has the depth of taste and buttery-ness of great sashimi. Never had this offered to me in the states but it's common here.

Another great thing to eat is inarizushi. Normally, this has no meat or fish and is rice wrapped in a tofu-skin. It's sweet and popular with kids and Americans.

Noodles, particularly soba and udon, are essential and make the snowboarding experience so much better. We've got a nice story on this coming in a week or two - with a cutout menu you can use almost anywhere.

It's raining

Most of the resorts are reporting rain at lower and mid levels. Shiga, among a few others, has snow at higher altitudes. There is hope for tomorrow. Even Niseko may get some rain. I'd cry but that would just make what little snow is left melt.

Might be a night to listen to some old Louis Armstrong and drink sophisticated beverages.

Just need more Japan powder in Niseko?

Still no chance of me getting in the mountains this weekend. So, a few old photos from Transworld will start my hallucinations...

It's not snowboarding in Japan but it is snowboarding

Getting slightly off topic isn't anything new or unusual for me. I'm not even sure you call this snowboarding but it's pretty interesting. The dog is the better rider.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Still too soon for snowboarding in Japan

Don't wax the board yet - with every positive powder prayer, rain seems to follow. Only Hokkaido seems immune or less affected by Ullr's rage (global warming). Next week will tell - Nagano and Niigata have a shot at snow but they also have a shot at rain. Cover your bets - Colorado has powder.

Snowboarding in Japan by the sea?

Okay...that's not really the ocean. But it sure looks like it. Shiga Kogen is always pretty but sometimes it is simply stunning. This was one of those days.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's snowing in Japan in some places with snow coming for more

With many predicting a less-than-stellar year, it's good to hear that Hokkaido is getting snow and snow is predicted for Shiga Kogen and Kagura. Yesterday's Ullr Revival is beginning to pay off. Burn an old snowboard while drinking a PBR - can't hurt ;-)

Hakkoda Japan snowboarding - shelter from the storm

Just an old picture. You ride an old lift up. Then you get off and hike 2 hours. Then, you chill in a cabin that blocks the wind and is warmed by other bodies and an infrequent heater. The author on the left - a one-time riding buddy on the right.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Worshipping the snow - Ullr be praised

Those of us who are totally in awe of the snow are always seeking new ways to see and experience it. Treehugger published some interesting slides at:

How can I afford to snowboard or ski in Japan?

How can you possibly afford to get here, ride here, and stay here long enough to actually see Japan?

If your name is Biff or Buffy, you can ask grand-mama for the cash. For the rest of us, it's much harder.

My suggestion - join the military or work for the U.S. government in Japan. Younger folks should consider the Air Force or Navy. Why those two branches? They have more folks here.

Want to learn more about that life here? Check out:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Understanding Japanese customs

Japanese society has existed for thousands of years and is heavily influenced by the best thinkers of India, China, and Korea. Coming to Japan from the U.S., where culture is normally something taken in a labratory, can be challenging. Fortunately, the following video explains the current cultural situation in about 3 1/2 minutes.

Snowboarding tricks in Japan

I'm not real big on tricks...if I wanted to skate, I wouldn't drive for hours to get to snow. Still, this one should lock up the Olympics for the gaijin snowboarder shown here in Japan.

Shiga Kogen invaded by terrorists

The unsuspecting snowboarder in Japan may face peril even when resting. Click the photo to enlarge it and see the intensely "camo-ed" terrorist approaching.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What's my line? Marunuma (Japan) powder a few years ago

A few years ago, we caught Marunuma during the week. Fresh powder, small resort, and no one there all day. These are the moments we pray to Ullr to experience. This is the essence of the snowboarding (or skiing) Japan experience.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Raining in Hokkaido?

Rain is predicted for the weekend in Hokkaido. It won't take much to wash away the light snow. Hopefully the slow start isn't a forecast for another poor winter.

Hakkoda April 2007

The author surfing his way through a sweet drop.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are you ready for the snow in Japan?

Sorry, but it's really not here yet. I've heard Hokkaido is rideable but not worth it at this point.

Shiga Kogen, a great place to ride in a good year, is still without any significant snow. Check out the webcam at

Nozawa Onsen Feb 2006

This is an economy car. Start digging! All the snow in Japan isn't in Hokkaido!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is it expensive to snowboard in Japan?

Yes but not everything. Currently the yen is very strong against the U.S. dollar as well as other currencies. That means your dollar doesn't go as far. Lodging can also be expensive.

Lift tickets, on the other hand, are fairly cheap, running about $50 - $60 per day U.S. Food can be either expensive or cheap, depending upon what and where you eat. Food at resorts is, like everywhere else, a bit expensive.

Transportation costs can be checked online. They seem reasonable to me but definitely not cheap. For info on trains, check out

A good website to learn about resorts and hotel options is

This should get anyone started.


This is something I've threatened to do for a long time. I've been in Japan for 7 years and snowboarded for 5 of those 7 years. All in all, it's been a tremendous experience. However, when I see the movies and read the expectations of folks, I think I can shed a bit of light on the subject. So, I will be posting photos and observations over the next few months. Hopefully, some of them will be new. For the last 2 seasons (07-08 and 08-09), we've had some disappointing conditions. That doesn't mean there hasn't been powder but it's been far more scarce than it once was.