Whether it’s the ability to stand tall upon a mountain or float on the ocean, perspective fuels our desire to head into the mountains as a winter storm bears down upon them and our innate drive to paddle towards tumultuous offshore swells.
Perspective is understood as a viewpoint or outlook, often with a metaphorical bent. We set out to change our perspective or perhaps gain a new one. In this heady hunt for an intangible shift, we often forget the literal meaning of the word. That perspective is simply the view from where you stand—a photo or a painting is presented from its creator’s perspective, where they stood on a hillside or in their mind’s eye. And high above the Pacific, surrounded by a blanket of fresh powder, the view is disorienting.
It’s easy to forget that Hokkaido is situated on an island, thousands of miles from any continental continuity. Standing atop one of the region’s famed peaks, the focus is singular. Returning to the base of the mountain requires skill and flow, a careful collaboration with the snow and the mountain beneath it, and at least semi-friendly negotiations with gravity. It can be more granular—the literal snowflakes that pile on top of each other until their billions of unique shapes conspire to create powder or spring slush or groomed runs, or it can be more abstract, like the perspective-altering experience of dining in a mountainside whiskey lounge and chasing it with a dip in a hot spring surrounded by snow.
Japan’s mountains do not gradually rise from expanses of land by starting as hills and slowly gaining elevation—instead they rise proudly and rapidly from sea level, suggesting that they’d be even taller if only the ocean weren’t there. They enforce this perception by pulling the snow down with them. On the biggest powder days, the sand is covered by snow and the sea meets its frozen counterpart in stunning contrast.