A French ski trip to Japan…

Some time ago French free skier Sarah Martinias contacted me to ask a few questions about skiing in Japan. I have been on 4 ski trips to the land of the rising sun and every time I go back I swear its not my last. Even though we hadn’t met, Sarah and I cooked up a plan to go shoot a story for French media in the Nagano region, as this is my favourite place to ski in Japan. With any trip comes months of planning, organising, emails going back and forth. I was to meet Sarah along with free skiers Fabrice Dompnier, Frank Bigourdan and snowboarder Marion Gouwy at Tokyo Airport, all ready to start a two week ski adventure deep in the Japanese Alps. I arrived in Tokyo the night before my new French friends so took it upon myself to visit Tsukiji Fish market. This is the worlds biggest fish market and it happens in Tokyo every morning, you have to get there early and I was there to watch the organised chaos unfold from 5am. Unfortunately the tuna auction was closed the morning I went but there was still plenty to look at. I find it pretty sad that that many fish are pulled daily from the sea, I do understand that its ancient culture for the Japanese, but I’m afraid that our seas are so fragile and won’t be able to recover if we carry on fishing at this rate.

Tsukiji tuna fish auction
Tuna the size of a man…
Big industry at Tsukiji Fish Market
Big industry at Tsukiji Fish Market

 

Tsukiji fish Market toyko
Along with the fish market comes the worlds freshest  sashimi. People line up for hours to get a table at one of the small sushi restaurants. Raw fish at 5am wasn’t high on my list!

 

ginsu knife
I got myself a ginsu Japanese steel kitchen knife, best purchase ever!! This was the kind man that sold it to me
Im also a sucker for Japanese crockery.. I wanted to buy the entire shop of this man, but a couple of mugs had to suffice.
Tokyu Station madness
Tokyu Station madness

After a hectic less than 12 hrs in Tokyo I headed back to the airport to welcome my new French friends to the land of Japan. None of them had been to Japan before so I was excited to show them around my favourite places.

Arriving into Myoko Akakura we were pleased to see it was snowing, heavily.
Akakura Kanko
Akakura Kanko is always deep… Fabrice getting some serious face shot action!
Night skiing Myoko
I was super keen to shoot some night skiing, so we headed out one evening while it was dumping and I got some shots I’m super pleased with
Night skiing Akakura Onsen - Myoko
Night skiing Akakura Onsen – Myoko
We skied back to our hotel down the streets of Myoko, there is just so much snow in this place!!
Skiing down the street in Myoko
The locals of Myoko are so used to the 18m of snow that falls in this town annually. They just get on with life!

Next we headed to another favourite resort of mine, Nozawa Onsen. Again its snowed, we skied powder, again… Sarah gets some
Incase any of you are interested this is what I carry with me when I go shooting skiing, all packed safe inside my F-Stop Loka. Ive been playing with using small flashes in the trees in Japan, but don’t always carry these. Always carry avalanche gear and wear a helmet.
Sarah took this shot of me while shooting in a blizzard. Conditions are challenging shooting in dumping snow but I love it! Always come prepared… I had an incident on this trip where I very nearly got crashed into by a skier after doing his huge back flip so always wear a helmet while shooting.
Nozawa Onsen
Nozawa Onsen is charming, such a quaint little town, stuffed with culture. Here is the hottest onsen (natural hot spring) where the locals cook their food.
Cultural Day in Nagano City, and a mandatory visit to Zenkoji Temple
Another mandatory: go visit the snow monkey onsen at Jigokudani Monkey Park, you won’t be disappointed in seeing these faces!
Happo One back country
Last stop was the amazing resort of Hakuba and the back country of Happo One. These truly are the Japanese alps and the ski touring options endless! We were lucky enough to go back country with Evergreen Outdoor and we scored it!
Just like that it was time to go home. One crazy night in Shibuya later and I was on a plane back to NZ and summer time.

Huge thanks to my friends at Classic Resorts Japan for having us. Thanks to Amy and Shiro Shimizu in Myoko, and to Akakura Central Hotel for having us to stay. Thanks to Akira Mori for his kind hospitality and karaoke singing and for having us to stay at Ryokan Jonnobi . Huge thanks to Yojiro Fukushima for hosting us in Hakuba, snowboadring with us, letting me cuddle his children and having us to stay at Hakuba Tokyu Hotel. Im happy to call all these people my friends after so many wonderful visits to their resorts in Japan.

 

Winter