Posts Tagged ‘Japan

16
Jan
17

Snowboarding and Skiing In Japan – Jetstar Asia Magazine October 2016

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After my two trips to Japan in early 2016 I was briefed by Jetstar Asia Magazine to produce a travel article about  snowboarding and skiing in Japan. My words and photos ran as a four-page feature article in the October 2016 issue of the inflight magazine for the Singapore-based airline, which is seen by 350,000 passengers each month. As a bonus, I was pleased to be able to sneak in a photo of myself and Mary G, and also of my brother into print. Please take a read of the text from the article, and I hope it inspires you to travel to Japan too…

POWDER PERFECT

Whether you have just one day or more on your itinerary, hit up Japan’s ski fields to get your winter fix.

The Land of the Rising Sun is every snow-lover’s dream: think consistent dumps of light, dry powder, terrain that ranges from the easy to the epic, as well as world-class backcountry riding and ski runs through the trees. And with easy bullet-train access from Tokyo or Osaka to some of the best skiing on Japan’s main island of Honshu, the only decision you’ll make is: how long is your snow holiday going to be?

SUPER-EXPRESS DAY TRIP: GALA Yuzawa

El Rad enjoying the view.

El Rad enjoying the view.

If you’ve only got a weekend in Tokyo, you can still fit in a quick day trip. GALA Yuzawa is located roughly 200km north of Tokyo and is famous for having its own bullet train station at the base of the mountain. In fact, Japan Rail can transport you in high-speed style from Tokyo station to the resort in just 75 minutes. Step off the train to rent some gear next to the platform, collect your packagedeal lift pass and then walk straight onto the gondola without leaving the building. How’s that for instant gratification?

Once you’re set up, you’re sure to love what’s on offer: Yuzawa has beginner, intermediate and advanced ski runs across its 17 pistes that can all be accessed by 11 lifts. You can also buy a combined lift pass to access two connected resorts – Ishiuchi Maruyama and Yuzawa Kogen – for even more variety. The top of the resort is 823m higher than the base, giving you a plethora of vertical metres to ride. Plus, Yuzawa receives almost 12m of snow on average each winter.

So next time you’ve got a spare day in Tokyo, grab a bento box breakfast on the early shinkansen (bullet train), hit the slopes at GALA Yuzawa by 8am, then celebrate back in Tokyo with yakitori and Asahi beer in the alleys next to Shinjuku station (after changing trains at Tokyo station). And for ski novices, GALA Yuzawa has a snow sports school with English-speaking instructors.

Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan's most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.

Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan’s most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.

SHORT SNOW TRIP: Nozawa Onsen

If a day isn’t enough to satisfy your snow craving, Nozawa Onsen provides the ultimate Japanese snow experience over a few days. It’s about two hours from Tokyo by bullet train and bus and is the quintessential Japanese ski town. It is one of the largest ski resorts in the country – an all-in one resort where the runs funnel back to a quaint, historic village. A maze of laneways hides more than 100 traditional restaurants, as well as bars and Western eateries. It was the famed 13 historic soto-yu public hot-spring bathhouses that attracted visitors to Nozawa before Austrians introduced skiing to the locals in 1912. Now, it’s the snowboarding and skiing that keep the town buzzing in winter.

Beyond the historic temples and shrines, tucked among the towering cypress trees on the edge of town lie almost 300ha of skiable terrain and 50km of runs with a huge kilometre of vertical drop.

For authorised tree riding (skiing through wooded areas), head to the top of the resort where a large section of forest is accessed by two lifts. Being that high means the powder stays light and dry and the trees are powder-coated a shimmering white.

If fresh, groomed runs are more your thing, Nozawa has wide leg-burners, steeper high-speed runs and winding forest trails for all abilities. You’ll find one of the better terrain parks in Japan, with small to large jumps, rollers, some rails and a fun half pipe. If you don’t ski, explore the labyrinth of shops and eateries in town and the picturesque shrines and temples nestled in the forests nearby. Then, don a yukata (traditional dressing gown) and geta or zori (clogs or sandals) and stroll through town to take a steaming dip in one of the famous Nozawa onsen.

Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.

Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.

A WINTRY WEEK: Hakuba Valley

A world-class ski destination, the Hakuba Valley, three hours from Tokyo, has been attracting serious snow lovers from all over the globe for at least 70 years. With more than 200 runs, including some of Japan’s steepest, and 140km of pistes accessed by 135 lifts across 11 separate resorts, it’s easy to see why some consider it the jewel of the Japan Alps – and then there’s the huge 14m of annual snowfall.

Happo-One Ski Resort is the main resort in Hakuba, and it provides all levels of skiing and snowboarding, as well as abovethe- tree-line alpine terrain and The Happo Banks Snow Park. Head to the top of Happo: a 30-minute hike up the ridgeline gives you backcountry options for kilometres down to the valley.

The view atop the Alps is mesmerising, and the endless powder turns on offer are hypnotic. Book yourself a mountain guide with all the backcountry avalanche gear and you’ll be in for a day you will never forget. Afterwards you can kanpai those powder grins and goggle tans with an icy cold beer from one of the traditional pubs, or izakaya, in Happo Village.

For some of Japan’s best tree riding, trek to the Hakuba Valley’s northernmost resort, Cortina. It’s a bit more out of the way, but that generally means fewer crowds – except for when fresh flakes have fallen. Cortina has a full-access tree-riding policy.

If you’re not a skier, you can still imagine you’re Eddie ‘The Eagle’ by taking in the dizzying view from the top of the 90m and 120m ski jumps at the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. Take the easy option of a chairlift up to the museum at the giant structure that was built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Or, take the hundreds of stairs up and down, and afterwards a steaming bowl of ramen cooked in the natural hot spring water at Happo Bijin will taste even better.

CULTURAL EXCURSION: Matsumoto

If your legs need a break, take the local train from Hakuba station one hour south to the 16th-century castle town of Matsumoto.

From the station, cross the bridge to Nawate-dori, a picturesque laneway of traditional wooden stalls along the riverbank, and try some of the local delicacies and treats. Soon, you’ll spy the towering black-and-white wooden tiers of Matsumoto-jo in the distance.

A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.

A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.

Construction of the Matsumoto Castle began in 1592, and it was saved from destruction during the late-19th-century Meiji period when Japan went through modernisation. There are only 12 Japanese castles that survive today, and as well as being the oldest, Matsumoto is also one of only two with five visible floors from the outside with a secret sixth level hidden inside.

Look for colourful koi fish as you cross the shimmering defensive moat to enter through the wooden Black Gate and into the fortified bailey. Don’t be too startled if a costumed samurai greets you with a flick of his gunsen war fan and presentation of his jumonji yari spear. Even if you want to give your legs a rest, be prepared to scale the steep and narrow wooden stairways to climb through each lowceilinged floor inside the tower. You’ll glimpse the surrounding snow-capped mountains from one of the 115 archer’s and marksman’s slits – but to feel like a real lord, climb to the highest level and imagine life as a conquering clan. Reality will likely set in as you head back to ground level but by then you’ll be ready to conquer the pistes again.

El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.

El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.

GETTING THERE: Bullet trains (shinkansen) and express trains depart from Tokyo Station in the centre of the city, as well as the nearby Ueno Station, to all destinations in Honshu. Express trains run from Tokyo Narita Airport to both Tokyo and Ueno, and you can purchase all train tickets at the station counters as well as at the airport station counter.

To find train timetables and plan the quickest trip, visit hyperdia.com

The fastest way to get to the Hakuba Valley is a 90-minute bullet train to Nagano, then a one-hour bus to Happo Village. You can also take express and local trains to Hakuba train station.

Hot tip: Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass from japanrailpass.net to save money if you’re going to be catching lots of trains.

 

And below is how the printed article looked. Click on the images to see them larger…

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To see more of Japan, see my blog posts here.

06
Jan
17

Japan Backcountry with Olliepop Films – Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen

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OlliePop Films’ Jeremy Richardson capturing Mat Galina’s rooster tail in the high alpine above Happo-One.

An epic adventure with a great crew. To see the action photos click the link, and for some lifestyle photos, go here.

Take a look at the feature film below.

And to see some extras and behind-the-scenes check out Olliepop Films webpage.

With thanks to Liquid Snow Tours.

08
Mar
16

iPhoneography: A Traveller in Tokyo

I’ve said it a few times before that my iPhone has become my favourite camera, and that had become even more so when I upgraded to to 6S and started using an app called VSCO. Visual Supply Co.’s app aims to replicate the distinctive (and undeniably hipster) looks of old film. The app is free for a dozen or so filters, and had become my go-to photo editing app in the go.

I was fortunate to travel twice to Japan in the last couple of months … and so I put my iPhone 6S and VSCO to the test, and now I’ve posted this using the WordPress app.

If you like what you see, follow me on Instagram too: @sean_radich

Jet engine

Ready for takeoff!

 

Tokyo streetscape, Shin-okubo.

Tokyo streetscape, Shin-okubo.

Tokyo apartments

Typical Tokyo room with a view…

Tokyo apartment

Some unexpected colour in a city of muted tones.

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Shibuya sunset, Tokyu Plaza.

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Entrance hall of mirrors, Tokyu Plaza.

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Senso-ji, Asakusa.

Senso-ji, Asakusa.

Senso-ji, Asakusa.

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Golden Gai, Shinjuku.

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Yakitori alley, Shinjuku, A.K.A Piss Alley.

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Ueno Station.

Ueno Station.

19
Dec
13

Japan Journals: Shooting The Niseko Backcountry With The New Zealanders

New Zealand snowboard magazines

For 18 months I sat in the sunny Gold Coast office of the surf magazine, watching the palm trees out the window and looking for a change in wind direction that signalled “down tools” across the office and a race to the Burleigh Point, or mid-Gold Coast beachies. But the whole time I was sitting in board shorts and thongs and  enjoying the security (and paycheque) of full-time employment, I was more often than not dreaming of sub-zero temperatures, icy faceshots and the quiet solitude of hiking through the backcountry with a camera in hand. If there was one major gripe I had with what many would consider a dream job, it was that as the Online Editor for a major surf magazine, I just didn’t get enough time to follow my true love: snowboarding.

So when I left the magazine, the first thing I did was book a trip to Japan. I wanted back in the game … and with four weeks in peak pow season, the game was sure to be on.

Dane Tiene had teamed up in Niseko with the kiwi boys, filming their webisode project across the island of Hokkaido, Japan Journals. And although I wasn’t able to meet up with ol’ mate Dane before he flew out, Nick Hyne and Nick Brown were more than happy to have me tag along and shoot some snaps with Connor Harding and filmer Heath Patterson.

It’s always a pleasure to work with the kiwis, as every one of them is just so chilled, friendly … and willing to throw down at every opportunity. And with Japan Journals, these boys are onto a good wicket, producing some great snow-travel-themed web edits full of banging tricks with some great backing from their sponsors.

Veteran shredder Nick Hyne has been to Japan more than a dozen times after first visiting on a high school exchange program, and so I had no doubt that he would have the locations dialled. And so for two days in late February the boys picked me up in Niseko in their Rhythm Snowsports-supplied van to shoot a backcountry jump hidden not far up a valley in the mountains halfway back to Sapporo, and a pillow-line cliff band outside Niseko.

Check out the jump we shot at 3:15 in this Japan Journals episode.

While it might have been just another couple of days in front of the camera for the boys, for me it was quite a successful two day return to the snowboard photography game. The great li’l shred magazine from the other side of the Tasman, NZ Snowboarder, was looking for some shots of Hyner, Browner and Connor and I managed to have a couple of shots published full-page, as well as a double-page spread with one of my Shibuya Crossing 35mm film panoramas, and a couple more shots throughout the magazine’s two issues of the 2013 winter. And through Nick Hyne I was able to tee up one of my shots being used as a full page ad in the skate and snow mag, Manual Magazine.

Not a bad outcome for two day’s shooting, if I do say so myself!

And with another snow trip booked (back to my second home, Lake Tahoe) for this February, I can say: it’s good to be back!

Click on the photos below to open them up in a full size gallery, and take a look at the finished results…

Wanna see more from Japan? Take a look at my landscape and lifestyle photos from Japan here, and my iPhoneography from Tokyo here and Kyoto here.

Follow Japan Journals on Facebook here for all their latest wintry adventures.

22
Aug
13

Japan Travel Photos: Tokyo, Kyoto and Niseko

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Japan has got to be one of the best places to travel with a camera –  the hyper-industrialised cities, bright lights of the shopping districts, old temples and shrines, not to mention the epic snowscapes. Japan is full of epic visual scenes. And so it was a dream to finally be able to visit Japan this year … for snowboarding, and photography.

Along with what Apple likes to tell us is the “World’s most popular camera” in my pocket at all times, I travelled to Japan with my new Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, a pocket Canon Powershot AS3300 IS and a funny Russian panoramic 35mm film camera, a Horizon Perfekt. Have you had a look at the quick little blog posts of my iPhone photos from Tokyo and Kyoto? Well, here is a selection of my non-iPhone snaps.

I bought the old fashion, fully mechanical Horizon Perfekt from Lomography, and this trip in February was my first real chance to use it (besides one test role). The Perfekt uses a swing lens that moves left-to-right to project a 120-degree-wide image across almost two normal frames of 35mm film. As with any film, and particularly as I wanted to cross-process Fuji slide film, using the Perfekt was a little bit hit or miss – but that’s the fun of film! I took along a digital light meter to try and take some of the exposure setting guesswork out of it, and some of the results came out great.

As it’s taken me so long to post these extra non-iPhone photos, I think in future I’ll travel on non-photographic trips with just the little phone, and maybe a film camera for fun. I hope you enjoy these photos, as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Click on the photos to view them in a pop-up gallery…

To see more from Japan take a look at my iPhone shots from Kyoto and Tokyo.

20
Feb
13

An iPhone Tourist In Kyoto

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Ah, Kyoto. The former feudal capital of Japan and home to 2000 temples and shrines, 17 of them UNESCO World Heritage listed. Yep, it’s a “must see” city in Asia … so, we just had to err, see it.

After zipping through the heavily industrialised countryside of Japan and gazing through the surprisingly small shinkansen (bullet train) windows, first impressions of this city were not good. I wish I had read the Lonely Planet entry for Kyoto before I arrived, because I was expecting a beautiful old place. Instead you are affronted with the typical beige and grey concrete blocks and crowded streetscape. However, when you get out of the city, and find the pockets where the famous temples are, and head to the foothills on each side of the city, then the true magic and hidden beauty of Kyoto becomes apparent. And the traditional feel of the city speaks to you. We even caught a glimpse of a couple of geisha nipping into a restaurant before the start of their night’s entertainment. A rare sight indeed. But sorry, they were so quick in avoiding any cameras that no-one on the street got a photo.

Here’s just a few photos from my iPhone from two days in Kyoto. I took my new Canon 1D Mark IV around with me, but you know what, due to the ease of iPhone-ography, I haven’t even uploaded the shots onto my computer yet to look at them.

But sometime soon I will post some entries with my “proper” photos, and the slide film panoramas from my new Horizon Pefekt camera.

19
Feb
13

An iPhone Tourist In Tokyo

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As I said back in this post, iPhones make it easy nowadays. I downloaded the WordPress app, so we’ll see how this goes posting directly from my phone.

Here’s some iPhone-only photos for my three days in Tokyo. (Well, it looks like it’s a little hard to insert a gallery so this selection below will have to do.)

See more of my iPhone-ography by following me on Instagram @sean_radich.

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