a blog about seeing the world

Powder and Pocky

If we had to describe Rusutsu in one word it would most definitely be “snowy.” It seemed to fall almost constantly here—big fat flakes, tiny wind-driven needles, fluffy swirling snow. In fact, there were probably only a few hours in each day when it didn’t snow.

It all piled up to about a foot of fresh snow every 24 hours, filling in all the tracks from the day before and creating yet another morning of snow removal for the residents of Rusutsu. Needless to say, the skiing was phenomenal. The snow and varied terrain more than made up for a lack of sustained vertical, and perfect birch glades, steep ridges and gullies, and countless pillow lines definitely kept us entertained. To top it off, lift lines were nonexistent, and there was no need for the usual frenzy for first tracks, since you could find them all day. If you’re not jealous yet, here are some framegrabs from video we’ve shot:

The town of Rusutsu itself is a bit odd, just a scattered collection of ski lifts, hotels, convenience stores, and a buried amusement park. All of this is strewn alongside a busy road frequented by buses and trucks that speed along the slick snow-coated roads as if they are perfectly dry.

The two large resort hotels suffer from a case of schizophrenia. We would walk though a classy lobby and dining room, only to pass through a hallway and be confronted by an inexplicable mechanical dog band, carnival ride, and a fountain/lightshow timed to gratuitous music. One night we went to the pool, which seemed suspiciously shallow until, minutes later, artificial waves began crashing from one end to the other, battering small children on their way. The water slide, which we were told swings outside the hotel into the cold winter air, was, sadly, closed for repair.

Daniel and the Dixie Diggers

We stayed at Pension Yamada, a simple but lovely pension (like a hostel and bed and breakfast rolled into one) right near the bottom of the gondola. The rooms are all Japanese-style, meaning there is no bed or furniture, just mats on the floor. The owners, who spoke just a bit of English, seem to have perfected the art of hosting skiers from all over the world. Over the course of our five-day stay, people from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Canada and Japan all passed through the doors of the bright yellow house.

After the extremely sweet older lady at Pension Yamada made a killer breakfast every morning, her husband would shuttle visitors to the ski lifts— quite quickly— in his van. Then, everyone would return in the evening for a home cooked meal. For a grand finale on our last night, we were treated to a Japanese hot pot for dinner: a platter of raw vegetables, noodles, tofu, thin strips of beef, and eggs, which we proceeded to dump into a boiling pot of some sort of delicious sauce. So good! Although there has been a distinct lack of sushi intake, our other meals have been satisfied by the healthful delights we discovered at the two convenience stores—Asahi beer, dinner rolls with butter filling, many boxes of Pocky, and 7-11 meat pies.

Hot Pot yum!

This morning we woke up to yet another fresh coating of snow and packed up our bags. Although we are sad to leave the pension, we are ready to ski some new terrain and see more of Hokkaido. Our memories of Rusutsu will be a blur of powder, steaming ramen bowls, early bedtimes, and sore legs. Today a bus takes us to Furano, a larger town in the center of the island, known for less snow but more sunshine. Our mission: ski, eat sushi.


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18 responses

  1. Kaitlyn

    Love this! Sitting now at Starbucks (lame!) watching the snow fall and sipping a coffee (Steph, have you had any coffee yet?)…this was the perfect pick-me up for this rather dull day in Vermont. Balancing the fact that I miss you guys like crazy with the pure admiration and excitement I have for you both! Journey on, friends!

    January 18, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    • yay! last night at a sushi restaurant (yum) we were thinking how great it would be if we could fly each of our friends out for a night of fun in japan.

      and, so far, only one very small cup of coffee that we shared.

      ps. yahoo sucks gmail rocks

      January 19, 2011 at 5:45 am

  2. Nate from Maine

    Guys this looks so sick. The first time I was turned on to Japan was watching a TGR film with Maurizio I purchased for his birthday.

    Japan is going to be my first trip post-dental school

    January 20, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    • thanks nate! stay tuned for video in a few weeks. japan is amazing you will love it.

      January 21, 2011 at 2:38 am

  3. Lauren LaDuke

    Hey Steph and Nate –
    You guys look like you are having a blast and are eating/drinking well also!!! Hope the sushi was up to your standards! Love and miss you!

    January 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    • thanks Lauren! The sushi most certainly has been up to our standards so far! Love and miss you too.

      January 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

  4. Jesse

    Steph, love the pouty face – cracked me up! That hot pot looks so yummy! I love your powder pics too – Dad and I were saying we’re glad you have the electric blue backpack so we can tell you and Nate apart in all that snow.

    January 24, 2011 at 2:24 am

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