Andrew, Author at The Whiteroom
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Not long to go now!

It is always an interesting and exciting time of the year. While some areas of Japan are in various stages of enjoying spectacular autumn foliage across the mountains, others are experiencing the first blizzard of the winter season. Over the last week or so many parts of the northern island of Hokkaido and some northern parts of the main island of Honshu have enjoyed the first snowfalls of the season down to base level. And as of today, Monday 18th November, there has been over 30cm of snow in Hirafu village recorded at the base of Niseko. Excellent! November 23rd November 23rd is Labour Thanksgiving Day in Japan and it is a national holiday (either on that day or the…

Spotlight on Japan

Spotlight on Japan The Rugby World Cup is the first of two major global sporting events that are being hosted by Japan over the next 12 months, the other one of course being the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The idea of holding the Olympics during the heat and humidity of late July and early August is certainly questionable but I have no doubt that, intense heat aside, the host country will put on a good show and visitors (and viewers) will get another positive impression of Japan. As a Japan long-timer I may well be somewhat biased, but it’s hard to imagine that people could visit Japan and not be charmed by the country in various ways. Current coverage of the…

Increasing signs of investment

Increasing signs of development… During the previously discussed ‘ski boom’ in the late 80s Japan there were some mind-bogglingly ambitious ski resort developments happening in the country, though some of the wilder ones were put to a halt by the economy slowing down in the early 1990’s. While snowboarding came to the rescue and kept numbers somewhat steady, generally the next decade or so saw an increasing amount of ski hill and ski lift closures around the country and news of the total numbers of people enjoying winter sports continuing to decline. Incredibly, at the peak of the boom there were over 700 individual ski hills throughout Japan. In 2019 that number now stands at around 500. So after a…

Changing Eras

2019: Changing Eras In my previous article I mentioned the changing of ‘era’ here in Japan as well as snowfall being in rather short supply from the middle of February and wondering just how long the ski season would last. Now that the season has pretty much ended in all but a few ski hills in Japan, it’s interesting to look back and see how the last part of the season panned out. And it was kind of odd in some places… but in a good way. The last part of March and into early April ended up giving us a run of unseasonably cold conditions and there was even some unexpected decent snowfall in early April. It always feels…

Who turned the tap off?

This is how I ended my last piece as we were approaching the middle of February: “Once we get towards the end of February various signs of early spring start to appear, even in the mountainous regions. I always try to ignore them at first but come March it gets more difficult to, and people start talking about spring skiing. More on that next time. Here’s to the second part of the Japan winter season!” Soon after that was written, the fresh snow supply to Japan dried up. At first, we all believed that it was going to be a short-term blip - just some of those early signs of spring that I mentioned last time. Surely, we’d be getting…

A very snowy January

A very snowy January January is, of course, peak season and it turned out to really deliver in many regions of Japan. How does almost 6.5 metres of recorded snowfall at the base of ski resorts in Myoko (Niigata Prefecture) sound – in just one month - with over 11m in total for the season so far by the end of January? Proper full-on snowfall, with close to a metre of snow falling on some days and imposing three metre plus snow walls building up on the roadsides. Certain mountains on the main island of Honshu are really good at the crazy snowfall thing. Photo: Myoko snow wall Hokkaido often provides excellent quality and consistency rather than the huge numbers.…

December finally delivers

Last month I ended by saying that by the time I was posting my next article we would hopefully be playing in some seriously deep snow here in Japan. As I write this on 28th December, I am happy to report that many of the mountains throughout Japan are getting dumped on with some serious snow being reported. For example, since yesterday, an impressive 80cm of snow has been reported at the base of the ski resorts in Myoko (Niigata), with around 50cm in other areas of Niigata and part of northern Japan. This is easily the strongest cold front of the season and it looks set to last at least a few days. Nice. Until now though, for most…

Preparations

23rd November is ‘Labour Thanksgiving Day’ in Japan, or kinro-kansha-no-hi in Japanese. Various events are often held on this national holiday. Importantly for us snow lovers, it is the date when some of the major ski resorts in Japan hope to be able to open from - whatever day of the week it falls on. This year, the 23rd was a Friday, and at the time of writing that was one week ago. Famous ski resorts in Niseko, Hakuba, Nozawa and Yuzawa (amongst others) always have the 23rd November as their planned opening date of the ski season, though in reality it is always a rather optimistic target. It is perhaps more of a marker, with that date being the…

Autumn is here

At last! Autumn is here, and temperatures have dropped. We can now even say that a handful of ski resorts will be opening ‘next month’. There might even be a bit of snowfall on the mountains in Hokkaido tonight. Look towards the end of the month for some big names to open. As the ski resorts around Japan busily prepare for the 2018-2019 season, I have two main things to introduce to you this time round. Brand new hybrid lift at Ishiuchi There are some very interesting new developments happening at the Ishiuchi Maruyama ski resort Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture. Ishiuchi Maruyama is about 10 minutes from the main station of the perhaps more well-known Yuzawa town, which is less than…

Japan Update & Focus on Nozawa, Shiga Kogen and Madarao

At the time of writing, it is early April and it is once again feeling colder and there is actually some fresh snow falling on some higher Japanese mountains. This return-to-winter spell is probably going to end up as no more than a quick ‘last blast’ and just a dusting of snow – or perhaps a little more in places if we are lucky… Even so, any fresh snow is very welcome after the somewhat dry March that we just experienced. After a decent-to-great season in terms of snowfall in many of the mountain regions of Japan, March arrived, and it was almost as if a big switch had been turned to the ‘OFF’ setting all of a sudden. Fresh…

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