Laughing in the Face of Danger
If travel broadens the mind, some places like Niseko on Japan’s North island
Hokkaido, narrow the focus. It’s hard to actually be off the beaten track here given
the tendency for landscapes to be shaped by people, as much as nature. But the
landscape remains a genius, even if a bonsaied one compared to Australia.
So many people in such a small space. Right across Japan they recognize the art of
cooperation for the common good. If you want an example of this look no further than
how they lock up bicycles outside their houses and apartments. They don’t. Bicycle
locks are almost never needed in Tokyo or anywhere else. Shame and pride are big
deterrents, so row after row of bespoke bicycles sit temptingly in a way that would
occur hardly anywhere else on the planet.
Even their bullet trains glide through that orchestrated landscape. Life by a railway
line here isn’t all rattle and clatter. If there’s a sound it’s virtually gone before your
ear-drums have a chance to react. And they don’t yell, or honk horns, or give each
other the bird while driving. They simply bow courteously except for the accidental
elbow or shove while squeezing onto public transport.
Which brings me to our recent excellent adventure at Niseko on Japan’s North island
Hokkaido. Reputedly one of the world’s best ski resorts for powder hounds. I can
vouch for this as I regularly performed face plants instead of pole plants. Powder
skiing is a technique all of its own. One moment I felt like I was roller-blading and
suddenly my skis sank into fluffy quicksand. Losing sight of my skis robbed my
already bankrupt confidence and so I made another fresh impression on the slopes.
Fortunately our good friends from Velogear were on hand - ambassadors of goodwill
and merriment – to witness our blunders off-piste. Yes we were slightly piste-off.
It changed our impression of deep, un-groomed powder. It’s hard. And unforgiving.
Especially for skiiers who think anything after Australian conditions must be easy.
It isn’t. It’s like sinking in inexperience, or learning a foreign language – easier than
usual to appear the idiot. Something like trying to explain an elegant turn of phrase
like “the suppository of all wisdom” in Japanese. Especially when it doesn’t even
translate well back home. Unless you’re a Rhodes Scholar of course.
Fortunately our friends from Velogear fitted us out with some of their uber
comfortable SIX30 compression clothing. While it didn’t improve our skiing style we
can say without hesitation we remained warm and supremely comfortable.
I began to wonder if this might not be the secret to happiness - gliding down the
slopes secure in the knowledge that our muscle, bone and few extremities of flab were
flexibly contained in garments of near-miraculous support.
Only once did I come close to losing my legendary cool when hanging out in in the
lunchtime café crowd. An American dude confusing which line I was in directed:
“Hey Buddy, get to the back of the queue.” I almost lost it then and there but I can
safely say my SIX30 compression clothing helped me to hold it together and behave
honorably in the best Japanese traditions. Praise for any product doesn’t come much