Meet Kenji, Hokkaido Local and Our Japan Country Manager
Our Japan Country Manager, Kenji Matsuzawa, is at the Telegraph Ski & Snowboard Show this weekend to answer questions on all things Japan, so we thought it was time to formally introduce him!
Kenji flew over from Hokkaido this week to attend the Ski Show and meet our whole team on his first ever trip to Brighton and Hove. Everyone in the office was keen to pick his brain, but I managed to catch up with him for 15 minutes (having first met him in Niseko last year) to learn a bit more about his skiing history and discover some local's secrets.
You’re currently based in Niseko, how long have you lived in Hokkaido?
When did you first ski?
"I started skiing at six but my first decent ski experience was at high school when I joined a ski racing club. I started teaching skiing when I was a university student at 18 and I taught in New Zealand for five winters. I still enjoy ski racing and try to join at least one race per winter."
It’s your first run of the season in Niseko, where do you head on the mountain?
"The most popular base in Niseko is Hirafu, but I still choose to go to Hanazono because there are fewer people and more powder runs. My favourite one is called Strawberry Fields."
If you're not skiing Niseko, where would we find you?
"I would go to Kiroro, which is still close to Niseko, for the variety of terrain. It’s not just powder but wide, groomed runs."
Many of our customers ask what kit they need to make the most of Hokkaido’s powder, what do you normally take to the mountain?
"I usually bring a couple of pairs of skis - one for powder and one for carving - and choose based on the conditions. Don’t hesitate to hire powder skis as these days they also work well on groomers. I recommend at least a 100mm waist to make the most of the powder."
The food in Japan is a big reason to visit, what’s your favourite local Hokkaido dish?
"You might expect sushi or seafood but my first choice would be ramen - especially on a really cold day."
Where would you recommend eating out in Niseko?
"I would jump on the free shuttle bus to Kutchan town and try the local restaurants there - you can try a different meal every night."
Japan is well-known as a destination for powder hounds but that’s not all it has to offer. You have two young children, would you say that Hokkaido is a family-friendly ski destination?
"Yes! Rusutsu has one of the best ski schools in the world in the Crayon Shinchan Kids School, with a unique indoor slope which encourages fun while learning before heading outdoors."
And finally, how are you finding your first visit to Brighton and Hove?
"I really enjoyed fish and chips for my first dinner and all the old buildings which people still live in and use - which is very unlike Japan where everything is new!"
Join Kenji on Our New Niseko Powder Week
Kenji is hosting our new Niseko Powder Week, running from 25 February to 5 March 2018. The trip includes seven nights in a luxury townhouse, two days professional guiding and a traditional sukiyaki group dinner. Kenji will be on hand throughout to take you to some of his favourite secret powder stashes and give advice on local restaurants, bars and relaxing onsens.
One of the handful of non-skiers before joining Ski Safari, I've now skied in North America, Europe and Asia. After my first taste of powder and tree skiing in Japan last winter, I'm looking forward to more off-piste adventures!