If you see a bright orange van parked in a Niseko carpark, or an orange flash on the mountain, there’s a good chance Yama-san is in town. Also known as Orange Man, Kazushi Yamauchi is one of the most colourful characters on the Hokkaido snow scene.
TEXT: KRISTIAN LUND
PHOTOS: KATSUHIDE FUJIO
APPEARS IN: POWDERLIFE WINTER 2017 EDITION
I first met Yama-san about eight or 10 years ago at the premiere of one of the famous local Car Danchi snowboard movies. At that time he wasn’t Orange Man – he had the goatee beard and long hair but essentially just came across as a down to earth, local snow-surfing legend. At the same time, there was a certain aura about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I came away from the meeting thinking, “that Yama-san is a cool guy”.
When I met him again this year, however, the transformation was complete. Yama-san was orange from the top down. He stepped out of his signature orange van, wearing an orange beanie, orange sunglasses, orange T-shirt, orange jacket, orange sarong, and orange sandals. I was late for our meeting which is not very good form in punctual Japan, but Yama-san didn’t mind at all, smiling warmly, clasping his hands together and bowing before we started chatting.
Yama-san is from Asahikawa in central Hokkaido – home to the awe-inspiring Daisetsuzan mountain range. Long-time buddy and Car Danchi filmmaker Neil Hartmann says when he first met Yama-san about 15 years ago he was all about jumping and tricks. “After a few years we all started venturing into the backcountry and his riding style started to change. Soon after that he was introduced to yoga and his life has become a snow-surfing spiritual path to enlightenment – multiple trips to India, endless hours of yoga, meditation, vegetarianism and studying the Hindu religion”.
Yama-san took on his orange persona from Indian sadhu yogis, and says ever since it has brought him good fortune, especially good snow, good surf, and good weather to go with it. This year he went on another trip to India with fellow Car Danchi snowboarder Shark Boy (Hayato Doi) and Gentemstick photographer Katsuhide Fujio, who snapped the photo opposite in the Himalayas. They filmed the entire trip themselves – no professional videographers – and Hartmann put the final edit together. The resulting “Orange Trip” DVD is a very cool insight into Yama-san and his spirituality. Om Namah Shivaya!