Black Skiers and Snowboarders Hit the Slopes in Japan at the 2016 Japow! Powder Party

Beautiful scenery and a chance to experience a different culture are the highlights of this annual event.

Japow! Powder Party members at the Rusutsu Resort atop Mount Isola in Hokkaido, Japan

LaCrecia Williams 

For the past three years, more than 200 black ski and snowboard enthusiasts have descended on the beautiful, powder-snow-covered mountains of Hokkaido, Japan, thanks to one snowboard-loving African-American professor who lives and works in Japan.

The Japow! Powder Party is a great way to experience Japow! and a different culture. (“Japow” is a term used to describe some of the driest and lightest powder snow found in Hokkaido, Japan: Japan plus powder equals Japow!)

Many people have a narrow perspective of Japanese culture, but it’s a rich, modern and ancient society. During the event in January, many of the Japow! party members made a two- to three-day stop in Tokyo, and many of the Japow! members said the people were very courteous and approachable. In all, we definitely received a warm Japow! welcome.

Japow! Powder Party Hosts

Fanon Wilkins and Leon Henderson at the Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido, Japan

Fanon Wilkins

Fanon Wilkins is an associate professor of African-American and African Diaspora studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto. Wilkins’ love for snowboarding and the outdoors motivated him to start hosting weeklong snow adventures in Niseko, located on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. He wanted to encourage and expose his friends and other black skiers and snowboarders to Hokkaido’s unique powder snow. In 2013 he teamed up with his friend—Akron, Ohio, native Leon Henderson, a firefighter, snowboarder and certified thrill seeker—to host these events. Next, they reached out to their friend Noriko Kanda, the sales manager for the Green Leaf Niseko Village Hotel, to provide accommodations.

Powder to the People

Eric Rhea goes waist-deep while snowboarding in the back country of Asahidake, Hokkaido, Japan, with Hokkaido Outdoor Adventures.

Courtesy of Hokkaido Outdoor Adventures

During the snow season in Niseko, it’s practically all-white everything. Skiers and snowboarders love it here because the climate produces powdery snow almost every day. The Niseko United Resort is a virtual snow paradise. There are four mountains that can be accessed: Mount Niseko, Mount Annupuri, Mount Hirafu and Mount Hanazono. The crew likes to roll deep on the mountains.

A group enjoys the snow at the Niseko resort on Hirafu Mountain in Hokkaido, Japan.

Kirk Sykes

Sonya Brown goes in on her snowboard while in the back country of Asahidake, Hokkaido, Japan.

Courtesy of Hokkaido Outdoor Adventures

Tele Mike jumps off a nice pillow while in the back country of Asahidake, Hokkaido, Japan. 

Courtesy of Hokkaido Outdoor Adventures

Yes, We Do Ski and Snowboard

Japow! members are all geared up and ready to hit the slopes at Mount Hirafu in Hokkaido, Japan. 

Kirk Syke

Many of the Japow! Powder Party members are very passionate about skiing and snowboarding. For some, it’s their second or third time traveling to Hokkaido. Many Japow! Powder Party attendees are members of their own local ski and snowboard clubs, including the Renegade Kings, Jim Dandy, Soul Boarders and the National Brotherhood of Skiers, founded in 1974 to serve African-American snow-sports enthusiasts.

Toya Burns takes the lead hiking the hill, followed by Kennis Baptiste, at Rusutsu Resort on Mount Isola in Hokkaido, Japan.

Mo Willis

Jody Stancil, Carl Foulks, Henry Hipps, Ahmaad Brunson and Kennis Baptiste at the Rusutsu Resort in Hokkaido, Japan.

Ahmaad Brunson

The ladies of Japow! pose in a wooded area of the Niseko resort in Hokkaido, Japan. 

Kirk Sykes

Angie Walton, Lisa Davis, Leon Henderson, Tony Mitchell and Hakim Fajardo on Mount Hirafu, Hokkaido, Japan 

Leon Henderson

Taking in the Local Culture

Erika Shannon, Lauren Smith, Heather McDaniel and Basheerah Enahora at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. The Tsukiji Fish Market is located in the heart of central Tokyo and is the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, with over 400 different kinds of seafood sold there. 

Basheerah Enahora

Japow! Powder Party members took some time out to mix it up with the local community, and some visited Tokyo for a few days to experience the culture. Many people from the community went out of their way to offer assistance. People were kind and definitely down to party.

Japow! members get it in at happy hour with ski shots of sake at Wild Bills in Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan. 

Eric Sadler


The Niseko resort offers kids and high school groups ski lessons throughout the resort.

Justin Stearn

Beautiful Scenery

Jason Grant takes time in Hokkaido, Japan, to capture a great picture with the ever-present Mount Yōtei in the background. 

Jason Grant

What makes the Japow! Powder Party so awesome is the amazing views, especially of Mount Yōtei. Strawberry Fields, located on Mount Hanazono, was our go-to slope. It’s fun and full of beautiful trees and lots of Japow! We kept finding ourselves stopping for pictures. It’s hard not to with all the beautiful mountains in the background. The Japow! Powder Party was an exciting experience. Wilkins and Henderson are already beginning plans for 2018 and a smaller trip in 2017. If you want to learn more, contact them at

Powder to the People!

The crew gets ready to storm that slope at Mount Hanazono’s Strawberry Fields in Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan. 

Erica Kelly Cruz 

Eric Rhea, Gisele Mullen, Jason Grant, Leon Henderson, Rosemarie Li and Fanon Wilkins at Mount Annupuri, one of four mountains that make up the Niesko United Resort in Japan. Mount Annupuri is 1,305 meters high and is located at the most eastern part of the Niseko Volcanic Group. 

Fanon Wilkins



Another group shot at Rusutsu Resort at Mount Isola in Hokkaido, Japan


Erica Kelly Cruz

Mount Yōtei is one of Japan’s most iconic inactive volcanoes. It also goes by the name “the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido.” It’s the highest mountain in the region at approximately 1,898 meters.

Hakim I. Fajardo

Hakim I. Fajardo is a native of New York City and a graduate of the University of Vermont. He works as a consultant and creative in the digital-media industry. You might spot him in Harlem jogging or riding his fixed-gear bike. Follow him on Twitter.

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