Storm Searching in Northern Japan
Six friends and one too-small RV explore Hokkaido, skiing resorts and deserted city streets
Olympus MJU, Minolta X700, Fuji GW690II
Kodak Portra 400
The six of us split our time in Japan between a cozy mountain cabin and a very, very cozy RV. Tucked into a steep hillside overlooking Lake Tōya, the cabin lacked running water and necessitated a five-minute hike from the parking spot below. To get some early turns in on the way down to the van in the mornings, we built a pump track, which provided endless entertainment and cut some time off the morning commute to the deep stashes of Kiroro Resort.
Resort skiing in Japan is a slightly disconcerting experience – the skiing part is very familiar, making it easy to forget you are on the other side of the Pacific in a vastly different culture. That is, until you order food and beer from a beeping vending machine that you can’t read.
The snow didn’t let up, the good times were in abundance, and all too soon we were leaving the cabin and cramming six people’s worth of gear into a decidedly Japan-sized RV for a week of storm chasing. As it turned out though, Kiroro still had the best snow, so we hightailed it back, parked in the lot, and hunkered down for more storm skiing.
Six people was definitely max capacity for our rig, but it worked surprisingly well with the exception of all of us simultaneously getting ready for skiing in the mornings.
Again, the end came too quickly. As we headed back to drop the RV off, the concerned gestures of another motorist alerted us to the newly missing door of the storage compartment containing all of our boots, none of which had fallen out despite the rough road’s best efforts. Crisis averted.
After a night in the city of Otaru spent skiing its deserted streets, we built a makeshift kitchen on a parking lot snowbank the next morning, whipped up a scramble, then stocked up on canned coffee, grapefruit malt liquor (don’t knock it til you try it), rice balls, and other essentials at Seico Mart before hopping back on the road one last time.