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 higher.