Following the success of our Postcards from Niseko series we will be posting Postcards from… articles whenever we receive rad digital postcards from Japanese powder zones. The first one from the main island is a backcountry trip from Toyama. Enjoy.
My brother Mineto and I, and fellow Toyama riders, Hikaru Kitajima and Rei Igarashi were joined by Ryuji Takai from neighbouring Gifu for a shooting session in the Toyama backcountry. We went to a spot I like that I’ve been to 2 or 3 times before, where the terrain is steep and heavily featured so it’s perfect for jumping. However, I always have trouble finding the exit and end up traversing too far, and generally waste time and energy. We decided to take our time over two days, but on the first day we had some tough conditions to battle: high winds, falling snow and no visibility. We thought that if we went into the woods we’d be able to see and so headed to the zone. Even with snowshoes on, we were sinking in to our shins in the new snow but we made it to the zone in less than an hour.
We took a break upon reaching our destination: a natural halfpipe. Just as we figured, heading into the woods was a good idea: we could somewhat see through the falling snow and the wind wasn’t a factor anymore. Upon seeing the zone, everyone was eager to hit it, so we quickly changed over and and prepped for the drop in.
The snow was stable so we could ride hard and just focus on the turns and reading the terrain, jumping off features and pillows, going faster and faster. The snow was so good. Awesomeness. Everyone was stoked to start off like this.
After regrouping, we climbed over a small shoulder, walked across a flat section and found a new zone with loads of good lines. We shot each section taking turns to shoot. While checking the map we found the path out which led to the key bridge we had to cross. Everyone was happy we got out smoothly. After deciding to hit the same zone the next day with a unanimous vote, we called it a day.
The next morning, our spirits were still high. Hikaru showed up to the rendez-vous spot 30 mins early and Ryuji mixed up the meeting place, but we managed to start on time. Everyone was raring to go. Compared to the day before, the weather was perfect. The new snow and overnight wind had made a full reset of the snow so that meant we were post holing again. Today too, everybody was on snowshoes. We had jumps in mind so of course a solid board is best.
Before heading to the halfpipe, we came across a good spot that looked so good we did some shooting there first. Our youngest member, 15-year-old Rei Igarashi lead the way. Rei is a future star, having come in 5th and 6th the last two years at the Tenjin banked slalom. He’s a junior high schooler who rides like a seasoned pro.
Rei went for a front 3 over some branches but was too excited and it turned into a 5. He hit some branches and crashed. Us old guys could only cheer.
Yesterday’s lines were of course reset. This time we went a bit further down the shoulder before dropping. Just from changing the start point a bit we found completely new terrain!
Since it was our second day in the same zone, everyone knew where the exit was and was able to rip even harder. Visibility was clear and the snow was better than yesterday so everyone was super stoked. We found a cornice and Ryuji and Hikaru decided to hit it. Unfortunately, the landing was difficult as it was tight. Ryuji landed and was buried in the snow. Next came Hikaru. He threw a 3 over some branches but caught one in the head and crashed head first in the snow. When he got up he found he had lost the Gopro off his head but Rei eventually found it. Disaster averted.
We climbed over a small rise and went a bit deeper than yesterday. We pushed through and found a nice opening. The light was great and the snow looked alive. We decided the drop order with a quick game of rock, paper, scissors and I won! I was stoked to get first tracks.
I took a deep breath and dropped. The terrain held hidden features which made nice little surprises.
The chute got progressively tighter and tighter, meaning shorter and shorter turns. Precision turns are fun and I was having the best run. I was just weaving through the trees, following the fall line and where the terrain was taking me. I popped out of the trees above a cornice, and right in front of me was the bridge we were looking for. I was so stoked and thankful to the mountain for showing me the way. Everybody rode down and we safely made our way out. We all couldn’t stop smiling as we got to the parking lot.
Toyama’s mountains hold so many places that I don’t know about yet and the only way to find these sick zones is to go in and explore. After these epic two days, I’m looking forward to finding and riding more of this amazing terrain.
Hi, I'm Masato.
I was born and bred in Toyama prefecture. I love snowboarding and I film under the name Must Films. I'm supported by the following great companies: K2 Snowboarding, Holden Outerwear, Spy Optics and Morikawa Cleaning PCS. My next big project is opening a shred shop this summer. Come check me out in Toyama city!