Photo: Ben Howells blows up the spot. All photos by Sam McMahon
Much has been said about how social media affects our perception of the world, the way that people amplify their own experience to the point where for some, reality doesn’t compare. Because it can’t, social media isn’t reality – it’s framing.
Snowboard photographers have known and lived off the same trick for decades: even on the barest of mountains there’ll be a patch of snow somewhere for you to muster a cloudburst or nice looking turn.
“Social media isn’t reality – it’s framing”
Given this state of affairs, does #Japow have any chance of living up to the hype? It’s the question that’s weighing on my mind as I drift over Europe, on a flight that I’m all-too-aware I can’t really afford. I’ve seen this place in movies and magazines for years, and these days ‘Japanuary’ feels like it clogs up my feed from December to March. Endless pillows, waist deep powder… It’s the dream destination, but nothing could actually be as good as how people describe Hokkaido in wintertime, right?
It’s what I’ve set off to investigate. My target is Niseko, the apparent epicentre of the West’s slow encroachment onto Japan’s slopes. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be good, but does it have any hope of living up to its FOMO-inducing reputation?
The trip really couldn’t really have got off to a worse start. Before I’d even left, the car had died about an hour away from home and the cat – overfed and fattened by his Christmas caretakers – had spent the 48 hours before my departure on a drip in the local vets. Whilst the journey over had gone smoothly, the very first day of the trip saw my companion break her leg against a tree without a glimpse of this mystical powder anywhere. Hokkaido had been free of fresh snow for two weeks, and now we were in an ambulance anyway.