I have always dreamed of going to Japan, and this year the dream finally came true.
In the snowboarding world, Japan is synonymous with powder heaven, and I was lucky enough to ride insane amounts of Japow during my trip this season. However, even as an avid snowboarder, what stands out most when I reminisce about Japan is not the snow — it’s the cities, parks, temples, and other cultural aspects that shape it.
For the first week in Japan, three friends and I stayed in Hakuba, just four hours from Tokyo. Hakuba is in the Nagano district, an area known for its legendary native primates: the snow monkeys. After catching glimpses of the little guys on rooftops and treetops, we decided to get a closer look by catching a bus to their home in the hot springs. It was incredible to see the snow monkeys walking right by your feet, jumping around in trees, and then fully relaxing in the hot spring.
Next, we travelled by bullet train to the world famous city of Tokyo. What an experience, coming from my little town in British Columbia with 500 year-round residents to a city of 14 million people. The lights were bright, the people were lively, the food was delicious, and I would go back in a heartbeat. The variety that Tokyo had to offer was simply incredible. There were skyscrapers chock-full of arcade games, hundreds of authentic restaurants, and crazy vending machines, but there were also tranquil parks with enormous trees and quiet temples hidden within the vast city. There’s something for everyone there.
What an experience, coming from my little town in British Columbia with 500 year-round residents to a city of 14 million people.
After the bustling streets of Tokyo, our next stop was the more traditional city of Kyoto. Kyoto is known for its gardens, wooden houses, geisha, and most importantly, its temples and shrines. While there, I witnessed many of these spiritual and architectural wonders. The Buddhist temples and shrines were, truthfully, my favorite part of Japan. They were so beautiful, not only because of their magnificent build, but also because of the way they made me feel calm and connected. Taking time to appreciate their significance was truly humbling.
Amid the temples and other historic sites, the women of Kyoto walked around us dressed in traditional kimonos. Seeing them travel the older streets was nothing short of lovely. I even witnessed some early blooming cherry and plum blossoms on my adventures through Kyoto. I can only imagine how stunning the downtown area must look in full bloom.
Japan is an amazing country with an intriguing, rich culture. If you ever plan a snowboard trip there, make sure to see some of the other treasures Japan has to offer. I promise you won’t regret it. ∆
Zuzy Rocka is an equally talented snowboarder, photographer, and illustrator. She’s also part of the Burton Girls Ambassadors Program, which highlights a diverse crew of women from all over. What ties them all together is their love of the mountains, their desire to explore, and their mission to inspire and engage with other women in their communities. With their passion and unapologetic attitudes, the Burton Girls Ambassadors are leaving their mark on the world and we’re taking note.