The Fukui Fellowship: Snowboarding and Skiing with the Kids in Japan

Spining at Izumi ski area, Fukui

Where do you normally ride?

We’ve been to all the local resorts, but our favourite hangout is a small area called Fukui Izumi, because it’s close, cheap, quiet, and has plenty of jumps and rails. We’ve been further a field to Nagano too, but we love our local hills best and we have a lot of fun here, even though they are small.

Outside of Japan where have you been/want to go?

Adachi: I’d love to go to Whistler ; it’s really popular and I’ve heard so much about it on TV and in ski magazines – it sounds awesome. One day I’ll go...

Yomei: I’ve never been outside of Japan, but next season I’m going to Alaska with my girlfriend Rie. It’s somewhere we’ve always dreamt of going and in complete contrast to Whistler, Alaska has a very mysterious air surrounding it, as few people go there.

Global Warming is a hot topic right now with skiers and boarders, are you worried about the future of snow in Japan?

Yes. Even over the last 20 years, we’ve noticed a reduction in snowfall. When we we’re kids, it was common for snow to reach the second floor of our houses. We would have to enter and exit from our balconies, and we could dive from them into the snow in the road. If you did that these days, you’d probably die.

In terms of reducing energy consumption to ease global warming, I think Japan is trying. For example, our recycling policies are strict and recently new workplace dress codes have been brought in by the government to save energy on heating/cooling systems.

In summer we have “Cool Biz”, so rather than cranking up the air conditioning, employees are encouraged to remove ties and jackets. In winter we have “Warm Biz”, when we wear extra layers, rather than turning up the heating.

Crossing up: mixture go big

How popular is backcountry skiing/snowboarding amongst the Japanese?

There’s been a recent boom in backcountry exploration. 10 years ago the only people doing it were mountaineers first and foremost, and skiers/snowboarders second. But now a lot more skiers and snowboarders want powder and fresh tracks, so they’re venturing further afield. We normally hike in spring after all the ski areas have closed.

We’ve heard a rumour that Japanese people don’t tend to ski the trees because they don’t want to offend the “Tree Spirits”. Is there any truth in this?

The only trees that we believe have spirits are the ancient giant cedars and they are not found in ski areas, they are normally near temples and shrines. So no, there is no truth in that rumour.

We’ve noticed that a lot of resorts are a bit heavy handed with the ropes, and cordon off seemingly safe areas. Why?

It’s a legal issue. It all comes down to covering their backs, as they are responsible if somebody gets hurt on their grounds. Therefore, anything which is remotely dangerous tends to get roped off.

In Europe and North America, people tend to duck the ropes a lot if the terrain looks fun, but here in Japan, we’ve noticed that few people do this. What’s the story?

Most Japanese tend to obey rules, and if something’s roped off, they don’t even think about ducking under. They tend to think “it must be roped off for a reason” – e.g. a hidden stream, a dangerous drop.  Saying that – we’ve ducked plenty of ropes to reach the good stuff!

Wall riding at Ski Jam

Several small ski areas in Japan seem to be downsizing or closing all together. Why?

Well, the number of skiers and boarders in Japan is decreasing every year, for two reasons; firstly, our birth rate is declining, so there are less young people to take it up. Secondly, our economy is on the downturn, so people have less disposable income now a days.

Ten years ago, I remember having to wait in line for 30 minutes at my local hill to get onto the lift even though a run there took less than 2 minutes to do! Nowadays, there are almost never any queues, and sometimes the ski area employees outnumber the customers. Whilst this is great for us, it’s obviously bad for business and the small ski areas just can’t afford to stay open.

Unfortunately I think this trend will continue until only the bigger ski areas are left. I’ve heard rumours that our favourite ski area (Izumi) is in financial trouble.

Night Skiing is very popular in Japan, what do you think are the reasons for this?

People in Japan tend to work long hours, so the evening is often the only time they have to get to the slopes. It’s also a good money earner for the small ski areas, although now a lot of kids are just hiking the jumps and rails and not buying lift tickets!

At 55m long, Ski Jam's rail is thought to be the world's longest

Japan’s strong performance in the summer Olympics was not matched in the winter Olympics, why do you think this was?

We don’t know really. The percentage of people who practice snow sports in Japan is quite low, at least lower than for the summer disciplines, so perhaps that had something to do with it.

One of your local spots - Kastuyama Ski Jam (West Japan’s biggest resort) has a 55m rail, thought to be the world's longest! Have the Mixture crew attempted it?

Yes we have, and in fact Okabe-chan, a skiing member of Mixture, jibbed the entire length at a competition last month, winning the ¥55,000 prize money (¥1000 per meter)!

Can you tell us a little about Mixture Vol. 2, the latest DVD you’ve produced?

Well, we realised that the Mixture crew is comprised of some pretty good skiers and snowboarders, so we thought we’d shoot some footage of everybody having fun at our local hot spots and put together a short film. It’s mostly filmed at Fukui Izumi ski area, and it’s just everyone having fun on boxes and rails, and pulling some nice big spins and flips off the kickers.

We also got all the local ski and snowboard shops involved by giving them a little slot on the DVD. It’s a good souvenir for the crew and a nice way to show everybody what Mixture is all about and what Fukui has to offer.

Mixture going large, Izumi, Fukui

A big thanks to Mixture for taking the time to speak to us.

No problems, mata ne! See you on the slopes!

Sam Baldwin is the founder and editor of

For more information on the Mixture Crew check:


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Slovak Attack: Snowboarding Slovakia

Riding High? Skiing, Snowboarding and drugs

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