F IRE FESTIVAL. Put it in your calendar - January 15th every year is the famous Dosojin Matsuri or Fire Festival in Nozawa Onsen. One of the three biggest festivals in Japan and a must-see cultural event. G UIDES. Book them for the backcountry. They will show you the best untouched powder stashes and keep you safe. H EAVY LUGGAGE. Japan has a brilliant delivery service that is cheap and efficient. If you’re spending a few days in Tokyo or otherwise before your ski destination, find a Yamato counter (there’s always one at the airport) and send your ski bags ahead of you. I CE FESTIVAL. The Sapporo Ice Festival is held for a week in February and dazzles with ice sculptures up to 15 metres high. J APOW. Japan + powder snow = Japow. It’s light, it’s dry, it’s deep. It’s arguably the best snow in the world. Enough said.
K AMOSHIKA. If you’re lucky you’ll spot one of these native Japanese animals walking through deep snow. Half goat and half deer, the Kamoshika are said to be spirits of the forest and bring good luck to those who see them. L OCALS. The Japanese locals are really what make a ski town special. Be sure to take the time to say hello. M ONKEYS. The snow monkeys near Shiga Kogen are well worth the snowy trek through a forest - they sit in hot springs and provide perfect photo opportunities. N IGHTLIFE. Japanese nights just hit different. Think tiny, underground bars, late night karaoke and too much sake. O NSEN. The best way to recover after a big day on the hill. Japan has plenty of natural hot spring baths, or, onsen, and are well worth the initial awkwardness of getting completely naked with strangers.
P IZZA BOX CHAIRLIFTS. These tiny, single person chairlifts are about the size of a pizza box. Slightly scary but very memorable and oh so Japanese. Q UESTIONS. Head to the local information centre to ask all your questions. These are often located in a train station and usually have great English speaking staff and many useful maps. R AMEN. The quintessential winter meal made of noodles in broth and a heap of different toppings. S AKE. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do and try the local sake (fermented rice spirit). T ATAMI MATS. That beautiful rush grass flooring often found in traditional ryokans. If you get the chance, opt for a traditional style room with tatami mats and futon beds for the true Japan experience. U MAMI. The Japanese word equating to “pleasant savoury taste”. Often
found in Japanese cooking like meat broths, mushroom and fish. V ENDING MACHINES. Drinking beers and hot soup out of vending machines is a quintessentially Japanese experience. The novelty never wears off. W HISKEY. Try the local liquor as Japan makes some of the best whiskey in the world, drier and smokier than international whiskeys, with iconic brands include Suntory, Yamazaki and Nikka. X -RAYS. If you get hurt while skiing, rest assured that Japanese hospitals tend to be excellent, with food worthy of restaurant dining. Y OTEI. The mountain that dominates the skyline around Niseko. It’s an active volcano that you can actually ski into (see G for Guides). Z EN. How you’ll feel after your amazing Japan snow trip.
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