On a mission to complete a full day of riding, our plan was surf and then snow, so we headed to The North Shore and Big Mountain.
Well, actually it was the north shore of western Honshu in Tottori Prefecture.
But as the Japan Sea came into view on this early spring day, our simple hope of finding some rideable waves was realized. Turning off Route 9, the main road along the San-in Coastline, we discovered waves peeling enticingly at a left-hand point break.
While the sun made it bearable to change into our wetsuits, not even boots, gloves and a hood could prepare us for the initial shock of the icy 10ºC water. Between sets we hurriedly paddled out to the line-up, intent on avoiding duck diving.
Wave selection was critical. Not completing a ride meant having to dive under the wave and suffer an instant ice cream headache. Additionally, the light breeze blowing on any exposed wet skin was bitterly cold. We managed some decent rides but, after about an hour, the frigid water seeped into our bones and began to triumph over our willing spirits.
With muscular control rapidly diminishing, getting out proved quite a challenge. It was necessary to clamber over slippery rocks, then climb the surrounding seawall. It came as a relief to be back on dry land with boards and bodies intact. Back at the car, we defrosted with a shower from a tank of hot water.
After tying boards back on top of the car and cranking the heater, we set off for the snow. Our destination was nearby Mt. Daisen, literally translated, “Big Mountain.” It’s one of the highest mountains in western Japan, though it’s a baby slope in comparison to the Japanese Alps. Even so, it’s an attractive peak and, on a fine day, it’s said to resemble Mt. Fuji.
As we approached, however, Daisen was completely shrouded in clouds. The gradual incline and appearance of snow were the only indicators of its existence. Soon we were boarding a shuttle bus that conveniently provided access to the ski area from the lower slopes. We hurriedly changed into our snow gear, eager to hit the slopes while there was still light.
Our lift passes allowed us on the slopes for the rest of the day, including the “nighter” session. Despite the ubiquitous J-pop blaring from the P.A. and overcast conditions, it was great to be sliding downhill. With few people about, and trees blanketed in white, there was some fresh snow to carve turns, and Daisen felt like a winter wonderland.
Playing in the snow was a breeze compared with the frigid surfing. We got a few last runs before we had to head back for dinner at our lodge. Over a tasty nabe stew, we toasted our full day of sliding fun, satisfied to have completed our mission for surf and snow in the same day.
There are numerous possibilities for doing the double in Japan. On the Japan Sea coast, try the Hokuriku region (Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama). The Tohoku Region (Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima) is your best bet on the Pacific Coast side. Hokkaido also offers plenty of possibilities. Wherever you choose, make sure you have adequate protection from the cold. (I’d recommend a dry-suit for surfing!)