Japow has been bigger than ever this year, and I’m here to give you a master class on coming to the Land of the Rising Sun and getting the most out of your time here. Are you writing a piece on your trip to Hokkaido? Read on–I’ve got the tips and tricks that will have the pageviews rolling in–and you rolling in the revenue!
First off, it’s good to keep in mind that Japan is a land of mystery and beauty. When someone mentions that sweet Japow to me, my mind immediately goes to the twangy strings of the koto, the warm steam coming off a huge bowl of ramen, and those monkeys that sit in the hot spri–I mean onsen. Of course I’ve only ever seen a koto played once, and all the oil in the ramen’ll give you the runs, and I think those monkeys are now behind fences at zoos. But that’s definitely what Japan is like, trust me.
Before you leave on your epic trip, you have a little prep to do. You’ll want to grow a little stubble–your mileage may vary, but somewhere between three and five days of stubble is best if you want to get your ski bum look on. Consider not washing your hair for a couple of days either–that messy, oily, always-have-my-toque-on look is real hip. Speaking of hats, do you have a toque with an outdoor brand plastered across the front? PATAGONIA? ARC’TERYX? How about THE NORTH FACE? If you don’t pick one up before you leave, don’t worry–the ski shops in Niseko are more than well-stocked.
Make sure to read up, as well–get up-to-date gear intel from Adventure Journal or Outside Online or Gear Patrol before you head out. Consider reading up on sporty Hokkaido brands like Yamatune socks or Gentemstick snowboards or Riot skis. You’ll be able to lord that knowledge over your fellow tourists while you’re waiting in the long line walking up to the summit of Annupuri. Not to mention drop those names for cred in any essays you write when you get back.
As soon as you land in Sapporo, you’ll know that you have to write about this. So pick up a notebook and pen at a convenience store (so convenient!) and start taking notes. You’ll have more than enough time to jot your notes down during the ride from the airport to your hotel–and the Toyota Hiace van that you’ll rent has more than enough space to sprawl out and take a nap when you’re done.
Now this is where you’re going to learn a bit of a hard truth. You will be hard-pressed to find Japan in Niseko. It’s a resort town built by Australian and Singaporean investment, and all that entails. There’s not that much mystic about it. You could skew your experience for a good ‘mystic Far East’-type blog post, but it won’t be authentic. In Niseko you will probably find expensive beer, expensive lift tickets, expensive rentals, expensive stores. You will find entitled dads with entitled children riding covered detachable quads. The powder’s real good–it’s true–but the gondola opens at 9 and by 9:30 it is tracked out, like, thoroughly.
Okay, so get out of Niseko. You’re looking for the real Japan experience. Because you, like me, are like a really authentic dude, living your best life or whatever you tell your followers on Instagram. And you’re on the hunt for real Instagram gold. Well, Hokkaido is the size of the island of Ireland and features more terrific powder stashes than any of us could possibly count.
You could go to Kiroro or Rusutsu, but between you and me these places are just Niseko Lite, and you’re looking for the real thing, the real Hokkaido Japow backcountry experience. So you’ll want to head to either a) Asahi-dake, or b) Furano, because both of those places are adjacent to big cities and lots of the locals can speak English, and there are even English-speaking Japanese guides who know the terrain well and will take a lot of the difficulty of Japan off your shoulders.
Before you take on the backcountry, though, here are a few names you’ll want to memorize: Sounkyo, Kuro-dake, Asahi-dake, Furano, Tokachi-dake, Sandan-yama, Fukiage. These are the places that foreigners ‘in the know’ go, and they’ll all think you’re really cool for knowing about them. Got it? Good, that’s basically all you’ll need to know. You’re now better versed in the real Japan experience than any of those silly Australians in Niseko. They don’t know what they’re missing.
So you ski, and ski, and you sit in the onsen, and you transcend yourself entirely and really discover this side of yourself that you didn’t know you had, and you come back to America or wherever a totally changed dude. And you sit down at your MacBook Pro with all your notebooks–well, the one notebook–well, the couple of pages of notes that you took over the course of a week–well, the page of words in Japanese that you tried to learn on Wednesday–and you’re ready to write.
First thing you must must must do: pull out a thesaurus. You’re gonna need to break out the full arsenal of adjectives on this one. You just had a great–no, I mean you just had a superlative experience, and you’re gonna need to really break out the purple prose this time. Take note of all the different religious-sounding words that you can. Bonus points if you talk about Zen. What’s Zen? Pshhh, I think it has to do with being calm or something.
Are you just writing about your experience? Here’s a couple of tips. Mis-name your rental van: ‘Toyota Hiace’ is too hard to remember, so call it a ‘Toyota HI.’ Also, remember to emphasize the age and remoteness of the place you’re staying at. Is it a modern hotel half an hour outside of town? Call it a ‘remote backcountry lodge’ or an ‘ancient bathhouse.. sit[ting] as a stronghold against the onslaught of snow’–your readers won’t know the difference. Make sure you take your camera into the baths with you–I’m sure the naked Japanese clientele of the baths won’t mind you snapping a few shots. Oh, shit–did you include an offhand reference to how gross Japanese food is? You did? Phew, disaster averted. Did you break out those religious words? You know, like, ‘cult of Japow’, ‘powder pilgrims’, that sort of thing. You got that too? What about that time you were chowing down on a Snickers and thought about global warming a little bit? You’re really globally conscious. Better include that too. That part about the impact of tourism is really brilliant:
the impact that we have on the natural world when we travel abroad to open and expand our knowledge and perspective of this amazing planet is a hard thing to swallow.
You’re totally right, it’s so hard to swallow how much damage young white dudes are doing to the world by flying around on adventure tourism. My advice: just don’t think about it too hard. As a young white dude, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Or maybe you’re writing an insider’s guide? You’re gonna want to drop a ton of names–especially places where you can ‘escape the crowds’, since you’re an insider and you’ve got the low-down on the most secluded little powder bowls. And here’s the real clincher: make sure you use the Japanese words for everything: it adds to that sense of authenticity. It’s not a ‘bar’, it’s an izakaya. Not a ‘rice ball’, it’s an onigiri. Not ‘pork and rice bowl’, it’s gyudon… wait, gyudon is a beef dish? A pork and rice bowl is butadon? Pff, your readers don’t speak Japanese, so don’t worry about that.
Or are you writing for a smaller, personal blog? You’re in luck! Since you’re not affiliated with a major publication, it doesn’t matter what you write, how many times you shill patent untruths, or how condescendingly you treat the locals. Have at it!
Now that you’ve got your article out, make sure to reference Hokkaido, Japow, shredding, or all three, why not, in the title, and you’re good to go! Watch that Google AdSense revenue roll in! You’re super popular and everyone likes you!