Archive for March, 2007

Niseko Ski Weekend – Photos


Wow. What can be said about Niseko that isn’t all good?

- Some of the best powder snow in the world, and certainly
the best in Asia
- 3.6M snowbase with regular top-ups daily!
- Great quality & affordable Japanese food & beer
- Decent length & huge wide open runs
- Skiing between the trees
- Skiing view a view of an active volcano (Mt Yotei-san)
- Making first tracks


The snow absolutely dumps on Niseko, really DUMPS. This is due to super chilled air that blows off the Siberian plateau, picks up moisture over the Sea of Japan and then falls in buckets as fluffy white powder, all over the mountains of Niseko.

On a Friday afternoon we headed out to Tokyo’s Haneda airport for the flight up to Japan’s largest northern island of Hokkaido.

Two silly gaijin (foreigners) and 300 or so Japanese packed into a Boeing 747 like sardines for the 60 minute flight north.
After landing at Sapporo Chitose airport, we had 2 hrs to kill before our bus departed for Niseko. Dinner at a noodle bar, before jumping on the bus for the 2.5 hr ride up to Niseko.

The entire 2.5 hour trip we were driving through snow. Deep enough snow to require the roads to be cleared, we passed through intersections where we could’t see around the corner for the height of the snow, and were weren’t even on the mountain yet!
We arrived in Niseko at around 11:30pm, and straight to bed. We woke on Saturday morning to a light dusting of snow, and reports that the previous 2 days skiing had been knee-to-waist deep powder.

We skied hard all day Saturday, apart from a short break for lunch, skiing opposite an active volcano was a real sight to see.
At the end of the day we headed to an Izakaya for beers and

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a feed that could not be beaten.
Hokkaido is known for it’s love of good food and commonly referred to as the food bowl of Japan. In particular the humble potato takes pride of place in Hokkaido, even the logo of Niseko is a potato on skis!
After dinner, we visited an Ice Bar.  Yes, it was cold. The vodka came served in a ‘glass’ made of ice.  The walls, table, chairs, made of ice illuminated by lights internally.  It was quite an experience. (at a price to match)

Day 2 and we were up early and first 2 skiers on the lift, which meant first tracks through fresh powder down the mountain. Skiing that morning was unlike anything I have ever skied before. So deep, snow so dry & light, making wide fast turns down the mountain devoid of any other skiers.
Of course there were a few huge falls, goggles lost, skis all over the mountain. :-) but thats all part of the fun.

Sunday afternoon had us skiing the Hanazono ski area, on the Strawberry Fields run through the trees. Again, amazing deep snow and tight turns through the trees.
At the end of the day, as the snow continued to fall, we made a visit to the sento (public bath) to soothe those tired leg muscles before back on the bus, and sleep for 2 hours before boarding the flight back to Tokyo.

Photos from Niseko can be found here in the gallery and the moblog.


Did the earth move for you?

EarthquakeThis morning I climbed out of bed

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at 9:45am.

I walked into the dining room to investigate some creaking noises coming from the kitchen.  I felt strangely dizzy and had to stop taking forward steps. In my semi-awake state, I noticed that the lamps were swinging from the ceiling. 

Only then did it occur to me that we were having an earthquake in Tokyo, and the creaking and clicking I could hear was the building flexing and swaying with the seismic motion. (I’m on the 33rd floor of a highrise tower)

As it turns out, the quake was a magnitude 7.1, and centred a few hundred kilometres north-west of Tokyo.  This was the second quake this week, after the little shudder (4.2) we had in the office on Thursday morning.

Quite an experience and somewhat disconcerting to know its such a long way down to the ground.


The Great Leap Forward

According to the Sydney Morning Herald today, Sydney is to gain 55 kilometres of dedicated bike paths, as part of the City of Sydney cycling plan.

Bike-only lanes let cyclists shift into a new gear

It’s been a l-o-n-g time coming, but the plan is due for approval by council on Monday, with construction to commence in June 2007. Lets hope it goes through unopposed.

This plan

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could be a great leap forward for the city of Sydney, with cycle infrastructure in the CBD, we can hope this leads to outlying councils doing more to promote safe cycle transport within the greater Sydney area.

Along with all the benefits cycling brings, healthy community, clean efficent transport, safer streets, less traffic congestion.

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An apology from the blossom of the heart

This is a real big deal here in Japan.  Much to my amusement.

The Japanese equivalent buy cialis online of the Bureau of Meteorology has made a public apology for a slight mix-up in the forecasting of the date of the cherry blossom this year.

At least 2 separate TV channels are showing frequent analysis of the timing of the bloom, with experts & modelling showing the forecast date. (which by the way, is placed at 23rd March at the moment for Tokyo Prefecture) but that date could be altered slightly by a cold front coming through that may delay the blooming slightly.  This cold front is also causing some consternation, as the exact path of the cold front is not known, and also just how cold its intensity will be.

The result? 
A tremendous amount of public discussion and a little bit more debate than there already was. The street in front of my office has quite a few photographers each morning taking photos of the enlarging buds, with lenses that would cost more than a small car.

Next week we have an official cherry blossom office party planned where we all go outside and drink sake under the trees to celebrate.