Asia

Dress For the Job You Want

The view going down the "Forest Course" on Mt. Hakkoda

And if the job you want is as a professional skier in the Japan boom-time 80s, then you’ve come to the right place.  In fact, as stylish and fashion-forward as the Japanese can be at times, it seems that certain folks missed the memo when the world, collectively, entered the 21st Century.

To be fair, I would say it’s a 60/40 ratio.  Of the ski mountains I’ve been to this winter, about 60% of the other outdoor enthusiasts are decked head-to-toe in the latest, hottest, most cutting-edge gear.  My local resort, Mt. Hakkoda, (more a backcountry-terrain powder playground with two suggested “routes” down than a proper “resort”) offers plenty of eye-candy for this category.  2010 year models of fatty powder skis and snowboards in hand, everyone struts around flashing their Marmot, Patagonia, and requisite Mont Bell outerwear (Japan’s outdoor clothing giant).  In this scenario, I imagine the job these folks want is as the main actor in an upcoming version of That’s It, That’s All, 2009’s big ski porn blockbuster.

[Tangentially, Mt. Hakkoda is known throughout Japan as being the site of an ill-fated military training exercise where 200some Japanese soldiers lost their lives in a storm in January 1902.  The exercise was apparently a way to prepare the soldiers for the fierce conditions on the mainland preceding the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.  Today, the mountain boasts one gondola and lots of varied terrain.  It is particularly known for its “snow monsters,” wind- and ice-blown snow covered trees.  The weather, however, can still change quickly and severely leaving the skier or boarder in conditions of low- to no-visibility.  At the top of the gondola, a movie of the fateful day is played on repeat while people obliviously warm their hands and feet by the kerosene stove.]

Mila warming up before a run, the movie of the Mt. Hakkoda Incident playing in the background

The view going down the "Forest Course" on Mt. Hakkoda

But back to the other 40% of the skiers I’ve encountered this winter: many of them seem to not have updated their wardrobe nor their equipment in the past 25 years.  There is definitely a prevalence of ill-fitting, neon, matching top and bottom sets and fanny packs.  On two separate occasions, at two separate ski mountains, I had the good fortune to come across individuals wearing normal ski clothes topped with pink and/or green ponchos, making them look not unlike lost flying squirrels as they zoomed their way down the runs.  In fact, these fashion sightings became such a highlight of our ski days that we turned it into a game: seeing how many photos we could snap of our unsuspecting style victims/heroes.  In a similar vein, in upcoming (warmer) months, I’ll discuss the outfit and gear of choice for middle-aged Japanese hikers; while being a little less colorful than their cold-weather brethren, it is certainly no less amusing.

And finally, lest I ramble too much, I’ll allow the pictures to speak for themselves.  Enjoy!  [All photo credits to E. Bolas except Mt. Hakkoda landscape.]

sailforth
Certainly a woman on the run, Karissa has lived in four countries and six states in the US. She has traveled to over twenty countries and forty-three of America’s beautiful fifty. And here’s to still counting. Currently, home base is a tiny fishing village in the wilds of northern Japan where she teaches English to Junior High and Elementary students, explores the world of Japanese cuisine, reads and writes and gets outside as much as possible. Follow Karissa’s explorations of Japan through the outdoor lens – worlds away from the Tokyo life that most people imagine. More thoughts, adventures and photos can be found on her blog: http://sailforth.wordpress.com.

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