Skiing Reports – Sainters and Friends in Rusutsu, Hokkaido, Japan

Last weekend, I went on a getaway to a ski resort called Rusutsu that is about one and half hours away from Sapporo, to meet up with my Australian mates.

My good friends come to Japan every January to enjoy snowboarding and love our culture. Japanese style pensions are their favourite.

I caught a bus on Saturday morning to get there. Having heard that Australians did skiing / snowboarding in other ski fields than the world famous Niseko in recent years, I thought that some western people might get on the same bus. But all passengers were only Japanese – I was sad…

At the summit of the Nakayama Hill between Sapporo and Rusutsu, I checked emails and read the one from John. He said that he would be around the pension or nearby convenience store or the singing tree. I thought that the singing tree was at our accommodation.

Having thought it would be better to get off the bus by the convenience store, I did and walked towards the shop. I was not sure where the accommodation was so wandered around. Finally I asked a convenience store staff where the lodge was and got there. Talking to the reception, I got a key. Then John’s son Zak was in the room and I told him that the bus was running late for 20 minutes so I was not able to see John.

Eventually we found John at the wing of the resort hotel and Mark came back from his snowboarding. Meanwhile John and I went to a hiring ski shop to organise equipment for skiing on Sunday. Then we all had catch up talks and watched sumo wrestling.

John had booked dinner at a local izakaya (a Japanese pub where patrons can order foods as well as drinks; some western people would refer such premises as restaurants rather than pubs) at 6:30 pm. Michael who stayed at the same pension in Niseko with Mark, John and Zak joined us and we (Michael and I) shook hands. We all had great Japanese foods and talked interesting stuffs.


(L-R) Mark, Zach and John. Rusutsu, Hokkaido, Japan. (pic Yoshi Imagawa)

(L-R) Mark, Zach and John. Rusutsu, Hokkaido, Japan. (pic Yoshi Imagawa)


About an hour later, we went to bed for Sunday’s snowboarding / skiing with expecting better conditions.

The brand new day arrived with a bit of wind. John kept up with the weather forecast. He said that the wind would be ease by 11:00 am. I checked with another source with hourly forecast that predicted that it would be sunny by 10:00 or 11:00 am.

At 7:30 am, we went to the reception building for cooked breakfast provided by the pension. Cereals, a toast, fried egg, potato soup, fruits and yogurt came with coffee. It was a nice meal. Most guests were Australians while we saw a group of four Japanese people.

I went back to the ski hiring shop at 9:00 am, but found something wrong with the boots. Getting replacements, we hit the mountain and started exciting snowboarding for John and skiing for me (Mark and Zak had gone to the mountain earlier; Michael who was staying in the resort hotel would join us about 10:00 am).

On ski lift chairs, John gave me details about the slopes and what had happened previously including last year. He said that trails were always empty and there was no queue for ski lifts over in Rusutsu.

Mountains in the ski resort spread into the west and east with three areas. John said that Japanese people were more likely to stay in the west for easy trails where he found boring. Indeed we hit Mt Isola mainly.

After an easy run at Mt West, we got the top of Mt Isola where we can see Lake Toya and the Pacific Ocean on sunny days. Over there, he took a photo showing a St Kilda guy sending a support message from the mountain in Japan. But I was not the only one who barracked for the Saints. Mark goes for the Saint as well. Two Sainters were in Rusutsu on Sunday, 18 January 2015!



Saints represent! Yoshi Imagawa at Rusutsu, Hokkaido, Japan

Saints represent! Yoshi Imagawa at Rusutsu, Hokkaido, Japan


Later, we caught up with Zak and John suggested me to make a run with Zak while he was doing on his own and we all would meet at the ski lift base. Young Zak loves fast runs with his favourite music on. He entered between trees and enjoyed fast pace. I had never entered outside designated courses and was scared to make runs in such areas with deep snow and less footprints. But I had no choice because I was not familiar with slopes so I followed him even if he was far away.

Surprisingly I was not getting into a panic. I tried to adopt new things and to gain skills dealing with such slopes. Even running slow, I was able to manage without falling out. At the ski lift base, I saw both John and Zak with feeling guiltiness for being late. But they said that they had only waited me for a few minutes.

Later Zak went his own for fast running and then we saw Mark and Michael and enjoyed snowboarding and skiing together. Indeed they love going slopes between trees and I kept taking new challenges.

As an inexperienced skier in between trees, I was still nervous that made me feeling hot. Also I thought it was because trees prevented winds from blowing up. Going down the almost untouched slopes, I saw a big snowball. However I was not able to pass them so collided and my skis have been pulled off. It was hard to attach skis with boots as I took some time to find a quite flat room. But falling was not as bad as it was in an icy trail.

In the morning, Mark suggested me to get a helmet because it warmed up ears and for safety reasons. But I was lazy to organise. Now I realised how important wearing a helmet while doing skiing or snowboarding, because we made runs between trees.

I did not regret to get into slopes of between trees. Even I could manage and gained confidence. Trying such activities was worth and I believe that I have got some orders. However I still need to train a lot dealing with such slopes.

Thanks to the good weather, queues at ski lift bases were formed, but not so bad. I had been in much longer queues previously, so had no complaint. It was new for John who made the way to the resort for the second time.

After runs in Heavenly Ridge Trails, we had lunch at a cafeteria called Steam Boat just before 1:00 pm. It was busy and queues were long. I think more than half customers were westerners that I assume mostly were Australians. But I did not see any mixed cultural group other than us.

Then we went back to the Heavenly Ridge Trails for a run for John and two runs for the rest of us. After making runs over there, we went through under a ski lift. Again Mark and Michael went fast, but I was able to manage to see them. As Michael was staying at the different accommodation, it was time for me to say good bye to him. And Mark and I went back to the pension.

It was really a good time doing skiing with them and gaining new experience. I truly appreciate my great friends for being generous and offering me to run between trees.

Time went so quickly for two days. I wish the time could stop!

After relaxing late afternoon, Mark needed to catch up with some emails so I said good bye with a hug to him at the lodge. Then three of us walked towards the resort hotel where I got on the bus going back to Sapporo. We said good byes with hugs and then parted (they had dinner at an izakaya with Michael).

I already miss the culture over in Rusutsu and wish I could be still there. We need more western people here in Sapporo.

About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Sounds terrific Yoshi. I wish you’d sent the photo that John sent me today with you up high in the beautiful mountains with your Saints scarf!


  2. Hi Yvette,

    Thanks it was wonderful!

    I wonder if the editors found my email with photos. If you find it, uploading pictures would be appreciated. If not, can you please tell me? And then I will email again.

    I hope you are fine, Yvette :)


  3. John Ambrose says

    Show them the mountains Yoshi. Get Yoshi to take you to the pub and be that cultural bridge or show you around the ice festival in Sapporo. Yoshi makes it easy to access the real Japan – he understands both cultures and this will enrich any experiences of Japan. He would make an excellent tour guide.
    So look him up – I know he’ll go out of his way to assist. We joked on the chairlift about organising a St Kilda Ski/Snowboard trip with Yoshi as guide – I can hear the “Saints Go Marching In” echo across the ski fields of Hokkaido.

  4. G’day John,

    Thanks for your comment and suggestion and everything at the weekend :)

    I would love to be a tour guide when you Almanackers come over here – please do not hesitate to email me to organise tours.

    Hope our joking will become reality!



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