With a careful eye for deserted mountain roads, a cool late summer morning in Iwate Prefecture brought about a sensational downhill longboard carving session.
Mt. Iwate (Iwate-san) sits surrounded by the folded green pastures of Northern Tohoku. During winter, the region is alive with skiers and snowboarders enjoying the many resorts and onsen. Summertime, conversely, is quiet. The endless snow of winter is a faded memory. Iwate Prefecture takes warm summer days one at a time.
Hiking, sawanobori (river climbing), and other forms of recreation abound in Iwate. Waking to dry pavement and the promise of a 3.6-km. longboard descent through the Amihari ski area was all the motivation necessary to get up the mountain before sunrise.
By the time we reached the start point, dawn had crept up to the summit and would soon spill down into the shaded valley. Amber light filtered through moist morning air. This time of day is that of sacred stillness. As hoped while scouting out the road a few days earlier in the rain, it was spectacular. The gradual descent of the first 500 meters woke us up slowly, and from there the intensity increased significantly. Just after we passed a stunning vista, the road dropped deeper into the woods and the board accelerated quickly. Wind whistled through the holes in my helmet as the rear wheels swept around, skidding slightly.
The combination of graceful turns in a lush forest, the cool morning air and the sway of pendulum slide after slide was meditation in motion. The required concentration was all-consuming and distractions vanished. Longboarding creates this sensation time and time again and drives forward the search for the perfect road. This experience can be had in abundance on an otherwise slow summer morning in Northern Japan.
Iwate-sanroku National Vacation Village
Located adjacent to the Amihari Ski Resort, the newly renovated Iwate-san National Vacation Village boasts attractive onsen (hot spring) lodging next to renowned alpine skiing. With comfortable accommodations, indoor and outdoor baths and delicious buffet dining, this resort makes an excellent day or overnight destination. Summer recreation options include hiking, trail running, cycling, longboarding and motorcycle touring, among others. In winter Amihari and numerous other resorts in the area are in full operation. Amihari Ski Resort and Iwatesanroku National Vacation Village are an easy 35-minute bus ride from the Morioka Shinkansen Station.
Getting Started Longboarding
If you are already involved in other board sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding or surfing, you may pick up longboarding quickly. Many surf shops, outfitters and skate shops offer a limited selection of longboards, but the greatest selection can be found online. The best option is to get out with somebody who already rides. They can help you sort through equipment options and may have a spare board you can try. See the longboarding section online at www.outdoorjapan.com for more information.