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Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29

ZOOM-ZOOM \41 park on a turntable, get out and watch in awe as the car is whisked away by robots to some unseen spot. Another good reason for leaving the car behind is that Sapporo is home to Japan’s first brewery, founded in 1876. Sapporo’s namesake lager goes down very well with a steaming hot bowl of ramen. The morning brings clear skies and, although the outside temperature gauge reads -10°C, I decide to enjoy the sun while it lasts and drop the roof of the RF. After warming the engine (and the seats) I press the switch and just 13 seconds later the roof has been stowed away thanks to a mechanical ballet that draws approval and some disbelief from the locals. With hat and gloves on, heater blowing, and a posterior that is gently toasting, I leave Sapporo behind. The built-in wind deflector means there’s little buffeting, and it’s only when I have reached the Nakayama Pass, an hour to the south, and the snow has begun to fall in earnest that I raise the roof again. Slowing right down to a near-walking pace, the precision performance takes place in reverse as the roof goes up and I’m soon peeling off layers of clothing as it’s so snug inside. Like many of the twisting, turning country roads in Hokkaido, the Nakayama Pass has a low speed limit, but as I climb deeper into cloud and thick snowflakes swirl and dance across the windscreen, I’m hardly even approaching double-digit speeds. I can barely see beyond the bonnet and am grateful for the bright red overhead arrows installed to mark the edges of the road. It’s decidedly odd to look up rather than down to work out where the road goes, but it works. On a clear day, with views of the Mount Yotei volcano (thankfully, inactive), I’m sure that this would be a beautiful, thrilling drive, but right now I’m just glad to stay on the road. The ski area of Niseko is accessible from four resort villages, Hanazono, Niseko, Annupuri and Grand Hirafu. There’s a lift system that links all four and the slopes of Mount Niseko offer a depth and quality of snow that is world class. The area is booming, with the number of fine restaurants, hotels and luxury homes growing year by year. Think of it as Japan’s Aspen, with a mix of hardcore snow junkies and discerning tourists seeking the finer things in life from onsen (hot springs) to Opposite page: the all-new Mazda MX-5 RF attracts attention (bottom left); Canadian Andrew Spragg (centre and bottom right) guides intrepid splitboarders off-piste


Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29
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