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
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 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

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.