Holy Gozaimasu doesn’t really translate into anything. Gozaimasu is like a positive postscript. An exclamation mark.
photos: All Us In Winterland –
words: Tori Beattie
The fact that it makes no sense but felt so good to say was exactly why it stuck. It was a phrase introduced to us on day one in Hakuba, and it quickly became the catchcry for our trip. Everything we encountered during our two weeks in Japan felt like it deserved the respect of a positive postscript. An extra nod of appreciation. It guaranteed a face-splitting smile on even the most earnest of Japanese faces when we dropped a gozaimasu into a stumbled sentence, and that was always our goal.
When Cam McDermid and Tom Brownlee (the masterminds behind All Us In Winterland) put together a last-minute trip to Japan at the end of an unseasonably dry Japanuary, they did so with minimal planning. With accommodation and transport sorted thanks to the generosity of the Kamoshika Views guesthouse in Hakuba, the recruitment of fellow pow enthusiasts was simple. Pat Greene and I joined the boys as we boarded a plane to Tokyo on a hot New Zealand summer’s day.
We arrived in Hakuba on the 15th of January to bare rice paddies, dry roads, and the worst start to winter in over 50 years. The freedom to just go with the flow and take whatever came our way was the key to the success of the trip. Patiently awaiting the arrival of the snow, we travelled around in our faithful mini-van Sauce and feasted on the delights of Japan. Our first week was spent wandering lost through valleys and villages, exploring shrines and backroad onsen, chasing snow monkeys, walking frozen beaches, and enjoying the gentle generosity of the Japanese people.
Then overnight our patience was rewarded and the switch was flicked.
Hakuba’s unique coastal position delivered a 2m insta-base, and the floodgates blew wide open. Every action we took then became a means to a simple end: to get as pitted as possible and have all the fun doing it. When it snows 3 metres in a week that’s a simple task.
< That one golden turn – Mr Tom Brownlee.
Tap. Rarrrrr. >
From runs through the Cortina trees to hike-accessed lines behind Tsugaike Kogen and Happo One, we gorged ourselves on the fruits of the Hakuba valley. In our increasing appetite for that sweet sweet Japanese pow, we outran patrollers in private tree zones, hiked one-turn lines from the side of the road, ski toured up avenues of ancient trees, and dropped alpine faces in the sunshine. We sought every experience we could from of the 2 weeks in Hakuba and still left craving more.
“Every action we took then became a means to a simple end: to get as pitted as possible and have all the fun doing it.”
Holy Gozaimasu is a collection of the stories and faces that made those 2 weeks feel like a lifetime. None of it would have been possible without the generosity of the Kamoshika Views guesthouse in Hakuba, for providing the friendliest accommodation imaginable and the use of a tiny, rusted, moustachioed van. www.skilodgehakuba.com