Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

March 2, 2012

Famous in Hokkaido

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 9:12 am

Partying with the Glitterati.

We have been partying hard in Furano the last week or so. Mainly just playing guitars and singing with our lovely Japanese friends. Nori brought his electric guitar which has an inbuilt amplifier built into it. I had lots of fun playing it and pretending that I was a rock star.

Screaming lead guitar
Me playing a portable electric guitar

Nori is a great skier who lives near Tokyo and usually skis in Hakuba. He plays some great guitar as well and it was a great pleasure to play along with him.

Nori and me
Nori and me

We had a party on Sunday night where we invited lots of Japanese friends and played some music and had some fantastic food. Kazuki made the awesomest Okonomiyaki which tasted so good. I am on the right in this photo.

party action.
Party Action

A reporter from the Hokkaido Shimbun came around and took some photos and they did an article in the Hokkaido newspaper and Boris and communicating through music. I think that is what it says, I have no idea, doh!

Hokkaido Shimbun
Famous in Hokkaido

Then last night we had another get-together and made some music and had a little food. We are non-stop party people here in Hokkaido. The craziness just never stops!

Hiro and Toku
Hiro and Toku

Toku is a Taiko drummer and ski instructor in Furano. Hiro has a restaurant with his wife, Em, called Senggoku. They do the most amazing dinners for really cheap. Lovely people.

Noriko and Hiro
Noriko and Hiro

I helped Noriko to make some takoyaki. They taste sensational.


Takoyaki means fried octopus in Japanese and is a popular ball-shaped dumpling made of batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. We put in the batter first and then filled with diced octopus, pickled ginger, and green onion. The takoyaki were rolled with a skewer until browned. Then we squirted on takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, and topped with katsuobushi (shavings of dried bonito). It was first made in Osaka and I have seen them making them there in the Shin-sekai district. I will try some again when I get back to Osaka.


Then finally after all that party madness, it is back to skiing. whew!

nori and boris
Nori and Boris

The top four photos and the feature image are from Nori’s camera and the rest are mine.

February 23, 2012

Temples and Ploughs

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 10:09 am

Japanese Dichotomy.

This morning I got up and went for a ski but got bored real quick as there was not any fresh powder to play in. Pistes get old very quickly for me. So I came in early and decided to go shopping instead. Wow! On the way there I stopped in at the local Furano Shinto temple to take a few photos. On New Year’s Eve many Japanese come to the Furano shrine to welcome in the new year. This is a traditional practice that was passed down through the generations. The bell is rung 108 times to symbolize the worldly desires that will be cleaned away to welcome in the fresh new year.

furano shinto temple
Furano Shinto Temple

There were all these plaques hanging on a board in the temple grounds, so I asked boss-san what they were and he said that they were ema. Ema are small wooden plaques on which Shinto devotees write their prayers or hopes, usually at New Year’s. These ema are then left hanging up at the shrine where the spirits will receive them.


Then I trucked on into town and took a photo of some of the secular aspects of small town Japanese life. This is about as normal as you can get.

furano crossroads

Down one of the main streets they were chomping up the snow and putting it into trucks and carting it away somewhere. I think they cart it off to farmer’s fields so that when it melts, it will water the coming crops. But I am not totally sure about that. It sounds like a good idea to me. No use wasting resources.

snow chomper
Snow Chomper

The snow plough came and cleaned up after the snow chomper. I keep thinking about Homer Simpson whenever I see one of these, I do not know why. doh!

snow plough
Snow Plough

And last but not least, is Cinderella’s magic pumpkin coach, all lit up with fairy lights at the Furano Marche. How cute is that? Kawaiiii, desu ney?

cinderella's magic pumpkin
Cinderella’s magic pumpkin coach

February 18, 2012


Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 10:43 am

Furano, Hokkaido, Japan.

I had heard yesterday that there had been an avalanche on the Premium Zone (Kumatoshi) and this morning I saw a photo of it. So on the way up the gondola, I had the camera ready to take some photos of the avalanche from the window of the Gondola.

Kumatoshi Avalanche
Avalanche Kumatoshi

When I got close enough to see the avalanche I started snapping away, but it was difficult from the window and with my helmet on. doh! But I think I got enough to show the full extent of it.

Kumatoshi Avalanche
Kumatoshi Avalanche

I took this shot from the top of the link chair. You can see the full extent of it from this angle.

Premium Zone Avalanche.
Kumatoshi Avalanche

The Premium Zone to the right of the avalanche seemed ok.

Premium Zone up the top
Premium Zone, further to the right and above.

The Dam run or the Widowmaker had a big crack in it as well and could go off at any time.

Cracks in the Widowmaker

The face to the right above the top of Furano Ropeway has some massive cracks in it as well.
Cracks in the face
To the right of the Ropeway

The rest of the morning I just took some scenic shots.

View from top of gondola
View from the top of the Kitanomine Gondola

Above ropeway
Just above the ropeway

snow scrub
Snow Scrub

snow lip
Snow lip

furano and tokachidake
Furano has a bridge, a Pachinko Parlour, and Tokachidake mountain

Trees in the National Park

February 14, 2012

Chair Ski Ramen

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:44 am

Furano, Hokkaido.

We got the first chairlift up the mountain today. There was only about five centimeters of fresh snow on the Kitanomine side. Here is Toyo walking to the ski-jo.

Kitanomine Ski-jo
Kitanomine Ski-jo

So, up the quad chair we went and back down for a warm-up run.

Buddy on the Chair-lift

Then off up the Downhill chair, or as it is correctly called, Kitanomine Daini lifto. Here is Boris and Toyo on a couple of chairs ahead of me. I got them to wave. Aren’t they obedient?

Boris and Toyo
Boris and Toyo on the Dai-ni lifto

I managed to get a shot of a random snowboarder from the chair as he skied down the side of the run.

Random snowboarder
Random snowboarder

After that, we went over to the Furano side and skied down the Challenge run. It is becoming our favourite run this year. Here is Toyo skiing the powder on his 1980 skinny skis. Hard Kore!

Toyo Skiing
Toyo shredding the Gnar

Around half past eleven we stopped for lunch at the noodle restaurant at the bottom of the Furano Ropeway. We just managed to get our orders in before the power went off. It was lucky we stopped when we did, else we would have been stuck up the ropeway for half an hour or so freezing our butts off!

Ramen Shop
Ramen Cooking in the vats

I had a pork bun and a sandwich, plus a free glass of water.

Ramen for lunch
Ramen for lunch

February 12, 2012

Skiing and Cooking

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 10:44 am

Japanese Style.

These are some of the photos that I have taken over the past week or so. The snow has been dumping down for about five days so I have had little inclination to take any photos because I just want to ski the fresh powder.

Ropeway crowd
Crowd waiting for the ropeway at Furano ski-jo

There is no time to stop and take any photos. ha ha.


That is the skiing part taken care of. When we are back at the hostel, we rustle up some mean grub.

Ryan chopping up a sweet potato, I think

Boris cooking dinner

This is a pretty standard lunch for me. Noodles with wakame (seaweed) and moyashi (bean sprouts). I usually chuck in dried garlic and chilli.

Lunch in Japan
My lunch

Sometimes with dinner I have a can of Chu-hai, which is Korean rot-gut vodka type drink made out of sweet potatoes and mixed with fruit juice such as lemon or grapefruit. It is delicious.

January 23, 2012

Japanese Culture

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 10:36 am

Furano Cultural Night.

Last night I headed up the hill to the second floor of Furano Ski-jo for the first Japanese Cultural night for 2012. Last year I made a few videos of the cultural performances, and this year I had my camera. The light was not so good, so I was struggling to get decent photos.

hand painting
Hand painting

When we first went in, the kids were getting their faces and hands painted by an artist. They were similar in style to the belly paintings which you will see later.

Japanese dancer with fan
Japanese Dancer with fan

There were a few groups of dancers and they got some of the Gaijin (Westerners) up to have a go at using a fan and juggling. This lady looked like she was having a good time.

Furano Dancer
Japanese Dancer

Afterwards, the ladies got up on the stage so the gaijin could get their photos taken with the dancers.

Japanese dancers
Photo Opportunity

The belly dancers have faces painted on the bellies and then they dance around. This guy has been in training all year down the pub.

Furano Belly painting

Furano Belly Painting

Here is a shot of the guys dancing with the belly paintings.

Furano Belly Dance
Furano Belly Dance

January 17, 2012

Japan Mountain Landscapes

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 5:24 am

Snow Scenes.

We have not had any new snow for about three days now. It is getting a bit dire. I thought I might do some landscape shots today. I thought I might get the surrounding mountain sides around the ski resort at Furano. This one is looking to the right from the top of the Ropeway.

halfway between gondola and ropeway
Halfway between Ropeway and Gondola

Here is what is called the Premium Zone or Kumatoshi. There is a massive crack about half way down so it is closed.

Premium zone
Premium Zone

This slope is called the Widow-maker for obvious reasons and is Keith and Grommet’s favourite run.

The widow-maker
The Widow-maker

Above the Ropeway there is a double chair with pistes going off either side.

Above the ropeway
Above the Ropeway

And finally this is the jaws of ice hanging off the roof of the restaurant at the top of the Ropeway.

jaws of ice
Jaws of Ice

January 14, 2012

Furano Skiing 2012/01/14

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 4:47 am

A Windy Day.

This morning I was not going to go for a ski because we only got less than five centimeters of fresh snow last night and the wind was howling. So, my reasoning was that the fresh snow would be wind-packed and not very nice to ski. But later on in the morning the sun came out, so I decided to go out and take some photos.

top of the gondola.
Looking towards the top of the gondola

When I got outside the wind was still blowing a bit, but I kept going, seeing it was such a drama getting all my ski gear on. I could not find hardly anyone to take any photos of. There were hundreds of beginners on the lower slopes but hardly any good skiers around.

downhill training
Downhill Racer training

The sun had started to disappear by this time, and there were clouds rolling in a when I took my gloves off to take photos, my hands would start freezing up. It was so cold.

boy racer
Grommet downhill racer

I eventually managed to get some of the racers training on the training run. At least I got some shots this morning. The snow off-piste was horrendous. As I had forecast, the fresh snow had been packed and was all crusty and yucky.

downhill racer
One of the big boys having a dig

Most of my photos today were taken at 1/1000 shutter speed and aperture of f/8.0. I had to up the ISO to 200 because the sun had gone away. The Canon 350D seems to take pretty sharp pictures for an old camera, but the burst is pretty horrendous. You can only take about four or five photos in a burst. It must have a pretty tiny buffer. Oh well, you make do with what you got.

December 29, 2011

Snow Clearing

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 7:20 am

Furano, Hokkaido

This morning on my way up to the ski lift I spotted all the snow-clearing action, so I whipped out my camera to get all the Tonka-toy action. Us blokes love a bit of machinery. The snow had been piling up in bit lumps along the side of the roads, so I guess it was the day to clear it all up.

Clearing Snow
The snow chomper dumps it onto the trucks

Snow gobbler
The snow chomper eats up the snow and funnels it out to the trucks.

The grader comes along and cleans up behind the snow chomper

snow clearing
the procession winds down the hill

the digger cleans up the stuff left behind

snow plough
the snow plough pushing the snow onto the side of the road

And everything is all cleaned up. The snow is taken away and dumped somewhere in the trucks. Nice clean streets again until it snows again. Which is tonight. See you next week.

December 21, 2011

From Osaka to Furano

Filed under: Japan — Tags: — admin @ 11:36 am

Finally Skiing.

I checked out of my hotel around 9am and headed for Shin-Imamiya train station. Jumped on a train going around the Osaka loop line and got off at JR Osaka. Then shifted across to the Kobe line and rode the rails to Sannomiya Station at Kobe. I was really early. I had miscalculated how long it would take to get to Kobe. I had a coffee at the station and took a few photos while I was waiting. There was a big long line of taxis waiting.

Taxis at Sannomiya station
Taxis at Sannomiya Station

This is the Port Liner, which goes from Sannomiya to the Kobe Airport. I guess it is sort of like a monorail because it goes up over the city and across the harbour to the airport. Anyway, it is very good and just shunts you out to the airport with the minimum of fuss.

Kobe Port Liner
Kobe Airport Port Liner

I took a few shots of the planes landing and a few general scenery shots. I did not catch this one. I was on Skymark, which are pretty good. They get you there relatively cheaply.

kobe airport
Plane landed at Kobe Airport

I landed at Shin-Chitose airport on Hokkaido and had to wait a couple of hours for the bus to go to Furano. I was the only one on the bus, and halfway to Furano, it started snowing. I arrived at the hostel and find out that I am the only person staying there so I have the whole place to myself. This morning I headed up the hill and the Kitanomine side had been groomed to the max. There is heaps of snow and it makes a great base seeing it is so early in the season.

Furano Ski-jo
Furano Ski Resort

This shot is from the top of the gondola looking towards the town of Furano and Tokachi-dake mountain. Luckily it was a pretty clear day and you could see the mountains really well. Most of the time you cannot see them.

Furano and Tokachi-dake

I just pottered around the slopes getting my legs in and learning how to ski again. I had a bit of a wander off-piste but it was very heavy and wet so I did not spend much time there. The trees were all full of snow, so I guess there has not been much wind lately.

snow on trees
Snow-laden trees

This afternoon I went shopping and got all my groceries for the week. Tonight I cooked up this wicked Soba noodles and pork and vegetable stir-fry. I am going to have to do a post about one of my culinary creations. When I get inspired, perhaps.

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