Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

January 26, 2013

Niseko Night Skiing

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:08 pm

Hirafu Nighta.

It has been snowing all day so tonight I went night skiing at Niseko Hirafu resort.

Hirafu nighta 3
Up top near the top of Ace quad chair

Hirafu nighta 2
Skiing the nighta

Hirafu nighta
Night time skiing at Niseko

A few days ago the sun was out and I took some photos of the peak at Niseko.

Niseko peak
Mount Annapuri

And this is my clearest photo of Mount Yohtei yet.

Mount Yohtei
Mount Yohtei

January 22, 2013

Hirafu Terrain Park

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , , , — admin @ 7:16 am

Hirafu, Niseko, Hokkaido.

There was no snow again here in Niseko. The sun was also out, so I decided to go for a walk to get some sun and photograph the jumps at the Hirafu Terrain Park. I just had to walk up the road to the car park then climb up some stairs and I was on the park.

Hirafu Aerials 1
Young guy taking a leap

I took the 400mm lens to try it out. Big mistake. It is not much good for photographing terrain parks. You have to get too far away from the skiers. The 50mm is a much better option for jumps. You do not learn unless you try new things. I am not afraid of failure. Some of the photos turned out despite my reservations. You be the judge.

Hirafu Aerials 2
He has got his happy face on

This guy was pretty stoked to be going over the big jump and had a huge smile on his face. It is good to see someone enjoying themselves flying through the air.

Pooh Bear jumps
Pooh Bear all jumbled up

As well as a performing Pooh Bear, there was a dinosaur. Possibly it was Dorothy.

Hirafu Aerials 3
Rotating in the air


My mate Alex from Sweden. In our hostel there are Australians, Swedes and Koreans.

Hirafu Aerials 4
Getting Sideways

Hirafu Aerials 5

January 21, 2013

Mount Annapuri

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , , — admin @ 7:02 am

Niseko Photos.

Back up the mountain this morning after a couple of days bludging. There was a bit of wind about early and the sun was peeking out now and again.

Mount Annapuri
Mount Annapuri from the top of the Ace Quad Chair.

This is the peak from the top of the Ace Quad chair.

Lineup for the meathook
Lineup for the meathook.

People line up here on the single chair to get to the gate for the peak.

Ants to the peak.
Climbing the peak

Like ants they climb to the top to come tumbling back down again.

Kutchan town
Kutchan town

I went into Kutchan this afternoon to do my weekly shopping run. This week I was a day late, going on Monday instead of the usual Sunday bus ride.

Mt Annapuri
Mount Annapuri from Kutchan

In the afternoon it was so clear that you could see the Niseko resort from Kutchan. Most of the time you never see it.

January 14, 2013

Niseko Skiing Number Two

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 4:56 am

Hirafu, Hokkaido, Japan.

I thought I had better take some photos today. It is a holiday here in Japan so it was a bit crowded and there was not a huge amount of new snow overnight – less than ten centimeters. I got the early lift up the Ace quad and here is the view back towards Hirafu village.

Hirafu Village
Hirafu village from Super run

I skied half way down the Super run and stopped near a pylon to get some shots of the random punters skiing past.

Super Run
Snowboarder on Super run

Super Skier
Skier on Super run

Super Snowboarder

I then went up the top of the Ace double number 3. This was the line up for the Ace number 4 lift. I did not bother lining up.

Ace Double #4
Lineup for Ace #4 lift

I waited for ages half way through the trees skiers right of the Ace #3 but nothing decent came up. I got this one from the lift. I like the higher angle.

Snowboarder on Shirakaba run

My battery ran out after this. This photo is by Sarita Leal , from the top of Hanazono Number 2 lift. Mount Yohtei.

Mount Yohtei from Hanazono, by Sarita Leal

December 29, 2012

Niseko – Japan

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 7:05 am


I made it to Niseko. Actually I have been here for a week and this is the first time I have got the camera out. This is the early morning going up the Ace Quad chair at Hirafu in Niseko. The lifts start operating at 8:30am.

Ace quad chair
Ace Quad chair

This is the ridge to skiers right of the Ace quad chair. It has been pretty much tracked out because there had not been any snow overnight except wind-blown stuff.

super Ridge
Super Ridge

On the way to the Seico-mart konbini store, I saw this guy blowing snow out of the car park of Hokkaido Tracks. I love snow machinery.

Blowing snow
Blowing snow.

This is Mount Yotei, a dormant strato-volcano to the west of Niseko. It last erupted about three thousand years ago. The sea is just behind it somewhere.

Mount Yotei
Mount Yotei

This is looking up the road at Hirafu towards the ski slopes.

Hirafu ski slopes
Hirafu ski slopes

There are heaps of vans selling hot dogs and other types of foods and snacks.

Food van
Food van

December 21, 2012

Osaka December 2012

Filed under: Japan — Tags: , — admin @ 7:00 am

Osaka Photography.

I got into Osaka last night, had something to eat, a beer and then crashed out for the night. This morning I got up and had breakfast and then went off for a walk around the city to see what was going on. I went through Shin-sekai. It was almost ten o’clock in the morning and hardly anyone was about.

Crab for sale

Further down the road I diverted into the Kuromon Markets. They had lots of sea-food, including a few crabs.

Puffer Fish – Fugu

These puffer fish or fugu were in tanks, waiting for be sold or sliced up.

slicing fugu
Processing fugu

This guy is slicing up the fugu. It can be highly deadly if it is not done properly. If you do not clean out the poisonous bits, it can kill you!

dried fish
Dried Fish

Not sure exactly what this is, probably dried fish.

Pickled Vegetable
Pickled Vegetable

And again, not sure exactly what sort of vegetable it is, but it has most likely been pickled.

The loneliness of the pachinko player

This photo feels sad and lonely to me. There are so many of these gambling places around Japan. They were lined up ready to go at nine in the morning.


Japanese love cute things. It is almost over powering. Kawaiiii, desu ney?

December 25, 2011

A White Christmas

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , , — admin @ 9:31 am

Feliz Navidad.

I woke up this morning and did not realize that it was Christmas Day. I was wondering why everyone was going Merry xmas on Facebook, so I had a look at the date and it was the 25th. Doh! I had lost a day somewhere. But all was not lost. It was snowing outside and it was my first xmas in the snow. And it was snowing, so it was all good.

Snowing on xmas day

I got all dressed up and headed out to the gondola. First run down and there was fresh powder all over the place. There was even boot depth on the pistes. It was nice and light as well. The previous few days have been a bit wet and heavy. I headed over to the link lift and had a ski down that and it was glorious. There had been a few other people on it earlier but there was still some nice fresh snow.

Kitanomine xmas day

The Furano side had some great snow and I was able to snaggle some nice stuff. Then I went up the chair lift higher than the ropeway and found some really deep snow right along the side of the piste. Some of it was knee high. It was light and fluffy and I had a ball. I skied that run until midday, then had some lunch at the bottom of the ropeway and had a few more runs, and by then I was pretty much exhausted.

Furano Ski
Guy skiing down the road

When I got back to the hostel I took some photos of the receptionist’s dog. The dog’s name is Kai, which means “sea”.


All in all, it was a great xmas because I got a great present – a nice day skiing powder. That will do me. It has been the best day so far.

Bonsai tree
A bonsai looking tree

October 4, 2011

Getting to Hokkaido

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , , , — admin @ 1:53 am

From Sydney to Hokkaido.

This is the part where I plan out my trip to Hokkaido. I may as well lay it all out for you so that you can understand the steps I go through when planning a trip. I have sussed out a flight from Sydney to Osaka via Jetstar. I could have gone with AirAsia and had a holiday in South-east Asia on the way there and back. But I would have skis with me and lugging skis around Indonesia does not seem like a fun idea at all. I may stop on the way back yet, and leave my skis in Japan.

Luckily I have been to Osaka a couple of times now so I am fairly confident about getting around. From the aiport in Osaka(Kansai International Airport), I will take the Nankai train line to Shin-Imamiya Station. This will cost about a thousand yen. When you get out of the station turn left and go down the road and you will see heaps of cheap hotels for around 1500-2000 Yen per night. The area is a bit run-down but it has a lot of character and grunge unlike most of Japan which is sparkling clean. I stayed at the Hotel Toyo last time and it was fine. Rooms are about 1500 Yen and you can get a Japanese or western style room. Japanese style is a futon on a tatami mat and I guess Western is a bed. doh! The Hotel Toyo is a couple of blocks down the road right near the Dobutsuenma Subway station, so it is super handy for getting around in Osaka.

When you are at the airport, I will drop my skis off at the Yamato counter and they will get delivered to my hostel in Furano. Yamato Express is a courier service which delivers baggage. They are awesome. Just drop them off and your gear will be at your hotel when you arrive. The service is called Takkyubin and is very efficient. They are open from 9am to 6pm at the airport. If you arrive later, then your hotel will fix up the Takkyubin service for you. Get the hotel to book your ferry while you are at it.

Now to get to Maizuru. I loaded up the Jorudan train finder website and found that there is a train going from Umeda/Osaka station to Kyoto, then I have to change to the Ayabe train to Higashi-Maizuru. That will take me about three hours so I could take it easy as I would have all day. Make sure you go to Higashi-Maizuru station which is the port and not Mishi-Maizuru which is the town. I could also spend a day in Kyoto if I wanted but I am not in the mood this time. The Shin Nihonkai ferry goes from Maizuru to Otaru in Hokkaido. It leaves at midnight each day and arrives in Otaru the next night at around 9pm. You can get a Second Class berth for 11,700 Yen.

So, the next night you will arrive in Otaru at the ferry terminal and you need a place to stay. I will stay at the Otarunai Backpackers. I will probably have to get a taxi there (~550 Yen) but if I did not have skis I could probably walk. As a side note, taxi drivers in Japan are incredibly honest and helpful. They will go out of their way to do their best to get you to where you want to go and will not rip you off. The hostel will cost about 3000Yen per night.

From the Otaru bus terminal I will get a bus to Sapporo. They should leave every half hour or so. Then from Sapporo bus terminal I will get the bus to Furano via the Chuo bus. et voila, I will be there, ready to ski for another season. Bring it on!

April 5, 2011

Osaka 2

Filed under: General — Tags: , , — admin @ 12:28 pm

Osaka Castle to Umeda

This morning I took off early to get to see Osaka Castle inside and to take some video of the Japanese Waxwings that have been hanging around outside the keep of the castle. I took 2 subways to the castle and when I got there, the Japanese Waxwings were being photographed by the hordes of bird photographers. There must have been more than a couple of dozen bird photographers snapping away.

Bird Photographers
Bird Photographers

I found out what the Japanese names for the birds were and then did an internet search to find the English names for them. The Japanese names were Hirenjaku and Mahiwa. I still have to edit the video yet, so that will be next post. (Edit) I have finally finished the video and uploaded it so here it is very late.

Birds of Osaka

I then went into the castle and had a look at the exhibits. I liked these little action figures of the Battle of Osaka. I think it was about the 17th century.

Battle of Osaka
The Battle of Osaka

There was also some very interesting newspapers from a couple of hundred years ago. They were printed from wood blocks and I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it would be to carve out Japanese script in a mirror image. Oh, maybe they used a mirror. doh! This is the view from the top of the Osaka Castle. Pretty impressive and ironic as it looks out over the modern city.

Osaka city
Osaka City Skyscrapers from the ancient Osaka-jo

After that I took the subway to Umeda and had a look around but there was not much there, it is just a huge terminal for trains, subways and buses. So, next post I will hopefully have the bird videos edited up and ready to go.

April 4, 2011


Filed under: General — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:45 pm

Osaka Castle.

Today my mission was to get to Osaka-jo, Osaka Castle. I walked up towards Nipponbashi and then turned right at Honmachi and walked another couple of kilometers until I got to the museum where there was this structure pictured below. The Hoenzaka Warehouses were built about the last half of the fifth Century. They were large elevated warehouses, having the characteristic multiple supporting posts and “Irimoya” roofing style.

Hoenzaka Warehouse
Hoenzaka Warehouse

I then continued on over the road to the Osaka Castle surrounds. It has a magnificent moat. I would have hated to have been part of an army charged with the task of storming this castle. I can picture the ninjas sneaking in after midnight, though.

Osaka Castle Moat
The moat around Osaka Castle

The current tower of Osaka Castle is the third one since the Toyotomi and Tokugawa periods. The present structure was restored by the mayor of Osaka during the Showa period. There were many other people there taking the exact same photo as this one.

Osaka Castle

There were a few couples getting their photos taken in traditional costume. I still do not know what it is all about but I promise to find out before I leave. The bloke was standing off to the side having a durry and looking very bored in his kimono.

Traditional Photo
Traditional Costume

I met a few fellow bird photographers on the way out and they were getting some great shots of some birds in the cherry blossoms. I tried to ask what the names of the birds were but I could not quite make out what they were saying. Cue an internet search. brb. I think they were Eurasian Siskin and maybe something like a grosbeak or a bullfinch. Anyway, on with the show. This next photo is of a typical past-time when the Cherry blossoms bloom (Sakura). It is called Hanami and consists of sitting under the cherry blossoms and drinking sake and having a picnic. It is a tradition in Japan.

Hanami at Sakura
Hanami at Sakura time

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