Niseko (Pt.1) – Christmas In A Japanese Ski Resort

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Shunsuke and Dave skiing Japow through the trees! Photo credit: David Hearn

On every Ski Instructors Christmas list is heaps of perfect powder, and enough downtime to go and ride it.

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One day of snowfall

This season the Snow Gods of Niseko granted our wishes early and delivered 5 metres of the white stuff over 27/30 days since the Niseko United Resort opened. That’s already over half the snow we received from the sky last year!

And it hasn’t stopped.

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And we are super stoked about it.

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The NISS team! Photo credit: Andrew Peppard

Dressed in red like an army of Santas, our 100-strong NISS family were ready for the already busy Christmas period.

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The Hanazono Bells stand at 308m high up the 1308m Mt. Annupuri.
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NISS adventure tours desk elves working hard 🙂 Photo credit: Andrew Peppard
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Steph, Amelia, Maddy and Freja looking sparkly! Photo credit: Andrew Peppard

Hanazono Resort dressed up for the occasion, the 308 bells dusted with snow and embellished with wreaths, the Hanazono girls dressed in tinsel, and Santa shredding on a snowboard, gave this part of Mt. Annupuri a festive feel.

 

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Rad snowboarding Santa comes to visit. Photo credit: Andrew Peppard

The kids in the Tic Tac (3-6 year old) Program loved the special visit too!

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Niseko’s new powder legends 😀

Despite being in a place where Christmas is less extensively celebrated, I feel that we tried hard to make the week as christmassy as we could. Some families come from countries where snow is non-existent, so it’s really rewarding to see the kids get super ecstatic about metres of fluffy frozen water 🙂

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Christmas Day however, the endless snowfall turns to rain as the temperature increases. The slopes at 8:30am are silent as I wait for my guest.

The wind picks up to 60mph, temperature drops, lifts close and my guest and I are now exposed to being battered in the face with hard pellets of ice. Beginner skiers are blown from one side of the training area to the other, uphill on the other side of the bowl.

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Despite this, I can see other instructors around me working hard to teach their guests who are keen to ski on Christmas Day. I commend these guests for being so brave on a pretty sketchy weather day.

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Neil embracing the snow-swept look B-)

The weather finally turns to a full blown snowstorm and most guests now are hiding inside. We’re still managing to look good though!

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Neil catching up on sleep. Photo credit: Sanja Domazet

…Probably due to the amount of lunchtime beauty sleep we get in our 35*C sauna/drying room 😀 Ski instructors need our rest too!

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Christmas in Japan

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Anpanman Christmas Lights, Kanda Ski and Sports Shopping District

Christmas is still celebrated in Japan, only it has less religious ties than in Christian countries like in Europe. Its known more as a time to spread happiness between loved ones. Christmas Eve is more of a romantic celebration like Valentines Day in the UK or USA. Couples exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, and usually restaurants are fully booked.

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Christmas lights display, Shinjuku

What may come as a surprise is what the Japanese choose to eat as their Christmas meal. Turkey is almost impossible to source in Japan so they had to find an alternative. After KFC’s 1974 advertising campaign called Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii! (Kentucky for Christmas), KFC became a very popular family meal. Reservations can be made in advance and queues can be as long as 6 hours to eat at the local establishment.

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What’s more, traditional Christmas cake here is strawberry and cream sponge cake, rather than the heavy boozy fruitcake we have in the UK. Some can be decorated with trees, flowers and a figure of Santa Claus.

And this is how we say Merry Christmas in Japan:

メリークリスマス!

Meri- Kurisumasu!

 

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