Powder, Wagyu, and Snow Monkeys in Japan

A plate of Waygu beef, a type of high-quality Japanese beef
Chase Gerwin
A plate of Waygu beef, a type of high-quality Japanese beef

Ever wanted to eat some of the highest quality beef while snowboarding or skiing some of the best snow in the world? You could still have the chance. Over winter break, Sierra Nevada College hosted a travel course in Japan. This trip will be available to students again this May.

Art Department Chair Sheri Leigh O’Connor took a group of students and some adults from the general public to study the culture.

“I’m obsessed with Japan. I love it. I’m always gushing about it,” O’Connor said.

Although usually the class is composed of SNC students only, this winter break, many adults from the general public attended as well.

“I took the class to experience Japanese culture, food, and to ski the fresh ‘Ja-pow’,” Sophomore Chase Gerwin said.

Many students may not see the benefits of travel abroad. But the rewards are priceless.

“When the students finally get there, they’re like, ‘oh I get it now,’ because it’s just such an amazing experience,” O’Connor said.

Students, who travel to Japan with SNC, tend to go for these reasons.

“Japan has many traditions and customs that are unique and truly fascinating,” Sophomore Morgan Barth said. “While I was on this trip I tried to learn as must as I could about the culture because to me it’s really interesting.”

One large part of Japanese culture is their food; one of the most familiar to those of us in the United States is Wagyu beef.

The Japanese specifically breed and pamper the Wagyu cattle to be some of the most flavorful and tender meat in the world.

“Ben Carpenter, Steven Jenab, and I were on a mission to find the beer-fed and massaged Japanese Wagyu beef,” Gerwin said. “After days of skiing fresh powder, we found an upscale Wagyu steakhouse. Our loud sounds of enjoyment made the Japanese girls across from us put their hands over their mouths and giggle.”

Students had different interests along the trip.

“My favorite part of the trip was staying in Akiabara, which is known as electric town in Japan,” Barth said.

While the trip felt mostly like a vacation, there were educational aspects as well.

“We did a paper cutting workshop and a choking metal stamping workshop so we did different Japanese art forms,” said O’Connor. “It’s a three credit course for the two weeks, and their one assignment is writing a journal.”

Despite having to do a little work the students seemed to enjoy themselves.

“Japan is such a homogeneous culture. There is really nothing like it in the world. Bill Murray in the movie ‘Lost in Translation’ captures some of the essence,” said Gerwin.  “It was more fun than I expected. I want to travel back to Japan and experience the skiing and food again.”

There will be another opportunity for students to take the trip this upcoming spring. In May, O’Connor will be taking a class to Japan with a concentration in ceramics.