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    • Spring
      • Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Eating Wild in Japan

        Eating Wild in Japan

        Winifred Bird's latest book is an introduction to the world of sansai (mountain vegetables) and foraging in Japan.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkaido

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Northern Tohoku’s Top 5 Spring Hikes

        Chase the cherry blossoms north and enjoy five of Tohoku’s best hikes this spring.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.
    • Summer
      • Washi Papermaking Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Following the Paper Trail in Kochi

        Discover the traditional art of washi papermaking in Kochi with artist Rogier Uitenboogaart.
        Climbing Mt. Fuji Outdoor Japan

        Peaking in 2021: Climbing Mt. Fuji

        Thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji this summer? We talk to Mt. Fuji guides on best practices for scaling Japan's highest mountain.

        Japan Camping Guide

        Check out our picks all the way from Hokkaido to the Okinawa Islands and then plot your perfect Japan camping adventure.
        Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endangered Wildcats

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
    • Autumn
      • Pow Bar Founder Megumi Scott

        Beyond the Brand: Pow Bar

        An interview with Megumi Scott, the founder of Niseko brand Pow Bar.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
    • Winter
      • Indy Pass Outdoor Japan Tohoku

        The Resistance

        The Indy Pass arrives in Japan to bring avid riders to local resorts that punch above their weight class and offer varied terrain.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
    • Near Tokyo
    • Near Kyoto
    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Snorkeling, Surfing and Sustainability in Koch...

        Enjoy the clear waters of Kochi by snorkeling and surfing while staying at a refurbished hotel committed to sustainability.
        Outdoor Japan Shimoda

        Blue Waves and Black Ships in Shimoda

        Shimoda may be famous for its white sandy beaches and surfing, but it also played a major role in shaping the Japan we know today.
    • River and Lake
      • sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Sawa Nobori, High Above t...

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawa nobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endanger...

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Iriomote Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote Activity Guide

        A guide to Iriomote's outdoors, hiking, diving, cultural experiences and accommodation.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkai...

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor A...

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
      • Indy Pass Outdoor Japan Tohoku

        The Resistance

        The Indy Pass arrives in Japan to bring avid riders to local resorts that punch above their weight class and offer varied terrain.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
    • Travel
      • Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
        Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Market Watch Onomichi Market

        Market Watch: Omicho Market

        Discover Omicho Market in Kanazawa, Ishikawa for the best of seafood and local vegetables in Japan.
        sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Sawa Nobori, High Above the Wakasa Waters

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawa nobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
    • Food and Drinks
      • Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
        Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Market Watch Onomichi Market

        Market Watch: Omicho Market

        Discover Omicho Market in Kanazawa, Ishikawa for the best of seafood and local vegetables in Japan.
        sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Sawa Nobori, High Above the Wakasa Waters

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawa nobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
    • Races and Events
      • Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Yuji Hirayama Urban Base Camp

        Yuji Hirayama’s Urban Base Camp Opens in Shinj...

        One of Japan's top rock climbers Yuji Hirayama has opened Urban Base Camp, a new bouldering gym in the heart of Tokyo.
        Photo by Noriteru Ino

        2021 Summer Music Festivals in Japan

        Camp and listen to great music in the outdoors at these summer music festivals across Japan.

Protecting Japan’s Pow

Japan’s ski resorts experienced record-low snowfall and higher-than-average temperatures during the 2015-16 season. Hakuba’s (321 centimeters) was well below their 11-meter average and 80-year-old locals had never seen such little snowfall. For Hakuba-based snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu, it was a wake-up call.

Protect our Winter POW Japan

Born and raised in Niseko, Hokkaido, Komatsu started skiing when he was four years old. In the late ’80s, the 12-year-old followed his father to Whistler, Canada where he was first introduced to snowboarding. 

“Snowboarding had yet to come to Japan, so it was my first time seeing people snowboard,” remembers Komatsu. “I was already skateboarding, so it was a pretty quick transition.” 

Three years later Komatsu was riding professionally. He made friends with indigenous people in Canada and listened to their stories, particularly about land preservation. One person in particular was campaigning against ski resort development infringing on indigenous land. 

“Their land is technically protected under federal law, but the organizations and companies trying to make new resorts are working under province-level rules, so there are loopholes. There are many environmental issues as a result of mass development. The country wants more, newer resorts, even today,” says Komatsu. “I always thought having new ski resorts would be fun, but I was shocked to learn about the environmental costs, and I wanted to protect the mountains more.”

Komatsu has now been an advocate for nature conservation for more than two decades and regularly speaks and writes about environmentalism. He moved back to Japan, choosing to live in Omachi, near Hakuba, where he has been based for the past 16 years with his wife and three children. Apart from riding professionally, he also builds snow parks, is a judge on Freeride World Tour Hakuba and hosts events for yuki-ita (handmade bindingless snowboards).

“I always wanted to ride the mountains in Nagano,” recalls Komatsu. “Nagano’s mountains are gnarly—really steep and pretty dangerous. I wanted to ride here while still in my 30s and 40s…maybe when I’m in my 50s I’ll move back to Hokkaido,” he laughs.

Protect our Winter POW Japan

In 2018, he launched the Japan chapter of Protect our Winters, a non-profit organization founded by Jeremy Jones focused on climate change legislation. During Japan’s bubble economy in the ’80s, numerous ski resorts popped up around the country. In recent years, climate change and people flocking to bigger ski resorts have forced many smaller resorts to shut down while some existing resorts still operate the same way they did 40 years ago. 

Compared to his neighbors, Komatsu has lived in the Hakuba area for a relatively short time, but he’s already seen the impacts of climate change. 

“My kids learned to ice skate on this outdoor skating rink nearby, but the last few years it’s been too warm,” says Komatsu. “I also heard people went ice fishing back in the ‘70s at a lake nearby, but the lake doesn’t ice over anymore.”

Protect our Winters Japan works in three phases. The first is awareness about what they do and why preserving the environment is important.They have more than twenty pro skiers and snowboarders as ambassadors and people can donate to the non-profit directly through their website. 

Protect our Winter POW Japan

The second step is education. POW Japan holds workshops and classes at local schools, businesses and ski resorts to educate the public on what they can do to help. 

“We try to make the workshops fun, but it honestly involves sharing a lot of data, so I thought school kids wouldn’t be too interested in it,” says Komatsu. “I was surprised they were so attentive; I think it’s because they know it’s going to affect their future directly.

Protect our Winter POW Japan
Photo Courtesy of Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field

The third step is taking action. Currently, POW Japan helps ski resorts, mainly in Hakuba, to operate more sustainably. Some of these resorts are running 30% on renewable energy. Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field is aiming for a 100% sustainably run park using renewable energy. They don’t have vending machines; instead they encourage people to bring their own water bottles. 

“As snowboarders and skiers, we all know—and take for granted—what we do is possible because of nature,” says Komatsu. “I want us to keep enjoying nature and do what needs to be done to protect our winters.”

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