Editor's Note: Most of us can only dream of setting off on a world tour. This year, Jake Burton and his family will be living the dream, embarking on a 10-month trip to snowboard all over the globe, covering six continents and following winter the whole way.
Jake, Donna, George(13), Taylor(10), Timmy(7) and niece Victoria (15) set off in July for a year of adventure travel. They will be snowboarding at resorts and in the backcountry of Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Morocco, throughout Europe and in the Himalayas (India). To round out the trip, they will be surfing in the Galapagos Islands, Peru, New Zealand, Tonga, Australia and Hawaii, sea kayaking in Thailand, and touring through China, Tibet, and Vietnam.
We spent all of December prior to Christmas in Japan. It was awesome. The night we arrived from Hawaii, AK and Kumi (from Burton Japan marketing) met us and said that Eric Clapton had been in our Tokyo office that day picking up some product and asked AK, Kumi, Greg and me to join him and Hiroshi for dinner. Hiroshi is a Tokyo local who plays a big part in defining Japanese youth culture. He is a musician, DJ, artist and designer. He loves to ride and is a super fun guy to ride with. He has helped us out on some design projects, most recently our Japanese-only line of iDiom clothing. Dinner was a lot of fun. Eric was kind enough to flow us some tickets to his show at Budokan the next night. Greg, Donna, Victoria and I went to the show and really enjoyed it. Being a product of the 60's and 70's, I used to worship Clapton, but I just don't seem to listen to much blues/rock like I used to. That said, the quality of the music was unbelievable. I will gladly pay the going rate to see him again.
We stayed in Tokyo for the first week as I had a bunch of Burton meetings lined up. It was a productive week, but the combination of meetings all day and Tokyo nightlife kicked my ass. I did make serious headway in the Sushi department, eating tuna and salmon for the first time in my life. I'm not a fish eater, but when you go to a restaurant where the freshly prepared sushi plates come by on a mini conveyer and you just take what you feel like, I got inspired to give it a shot and got right into it. Donna took it to the next level, waking up one morning at 4:00 AM to check out the fish market. She ate breakfast at a place in the market where the shrimp were alive when served ('dancing shrimp'). This put Donna's sense of food adventurism to the test.
Since Laurent, Greg and Alexander were heading back to the States, we decided to get a quick foot massage before sending them off to the airport. All of us, including the kids, lined up on these cots and went for it. We were all crying in pain and laughing hysterically at the same time. I'm not sure if it was a conspiracy, but I ended up with this little girl who is notorious for inflicting pain. Laurent had experienced her act before, and laughed when I got her. When she started digging her knuckles deep into the middle of my foot I was pretty much screaming at the top of my lungs. And whenever she backed off, I found myself laughing uncontrollably along with everyone else who was laughing at me because I was crying like a baby. After the 30-minute session, we left with several of us in a cold sweat. What a great way to say goodbye to some friends!
We then took a bullet train (217 kph/135 mph) to the town of Kyoto where I opened the Burton Winter Sales Meeting being held in Colorado with a webcast from a hotel room. It was fully interactive. I was projected on a big screen at the meeting and I could see all of the 300 people at the meeting on a TV screen in front of me. The whole experience was a bit unnerving, but it was the best way to feel involved in the meeting and to keep them up to date on what I was learning on the trip. After the webcast, we cruised around Kyoto, and all the girls in our posse put on the full Geisha costume, makeup and all. The boys couldn't tell who was who when they were done. After cleaning them up, we hit a traditional Geisha restaurant.
We then visited Hakone for a night and stayed at the Fujiya hotel, which is a killer old school, hot spring hotel where everyone from Japan's Emperor to John Lennon to U.S. President Eisenhower had visited. The hotel was more of a summer spot and despite having hundreds of rooms, there could not have been more than 20 guests there. It felt like a scene out of the movie The Shining. But we loved it, especially the hot spring pools surrounding the hotel with the mutant goldfish swimming around, which were the biggest goldfish of the trip, and that's saying a lot.
We then cruised back to Tokyo on the bullet train to see the Nissan X-Trail Jam in the Tokyo Dome. This is a quarterpipe and straight jump event held in an indoor baseball stadium. They bring in ridiculous amounts of snow and host a sellout crowd with 45,000 people attending. Terje, DCP and Heikki Sorsa came to town for the event. Terje killed it in the quarterpipe, winning the event and $20,000. DCP got to the final three in the straight jump, but with only a two jump final, DCP could not pull together a clean run and had to settle for third, with Gian Simmon winning. We had fun hanging with those guys, and Terje's son Kekane (age 6) moved in with us so that he and Timmy (7) could trash our hotel room and stay up all night watching vids.
From Tokyo, we headed north to the mountains to finally kick off our winter snowboarding season. Having spent July, August and September in the southern hemi (their winter) riding, I already had a lot more days than I usually have by early December, but by this time at home I would have already logged a lot of northern hemi days in Vermont and out west. We were all randy for some snow, and spending two days watching pros ride in Tokyo only made it worse. In my last update (#5) I told you about my first day of riding in Japan, which was an early evening hiking sesh with Naru from our Japanese team. It was one of the soulier snowboarding experiences of the trip, and reminded me of back in the day when we could only go to ski resorts at night when they were closed, so we would hike up.
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