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.

Yes, We Do Ski and Snowboard

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.

Taking in the Local Culture

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.

Beautiful Scenery

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 fanonche@gmail.com.

Powder to the People!

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.