People of Niseko

An introduction to the human side of our home-town.

Niseko isn’t just a Mecca for deep powder junkies and snow-hungry tourists. In fact, our home-town is a melting pot of colorful creatives, spirited wanderers, ideas people, entrepreneurs and, most importantly, lovers of the outdoors and mountain lifestyle. Through our blog we would like to introduce you to some of the humans who make Niseko their home and also make it an authentic and enlivening place to live. These are the people who inspire us, and we hope they will inspire you too. First on the roll call is Domi Churiki from Gentemstick, a snowsurf company that shapes snowboards inspired by Niseko’s unique environment. As Domi explains, to ride a Gentemstick is to experience snowboarding in its most natural and pure form…

When did you first come to Niseko?

In 98 / 99, that’s the year Gentem started. I started working in a lodge for a season and then got to meet the Gentem guys and go ride with them. Then, since I was speaking English, I started to help them out with translations.

Have you always been a snowboarder?

I used to ski, when I was a kid. My parents used to take me skiing but once I tried snowboarding I never went back to skis again.

You were addicted?


Where are you from originally?

I’m from Tokyo.

So it must have been a big change from Tokyo to Niseko?

Yes for sure. I grew up in Tokyo and then at 21 years old I took a semester off from college and did a season here. Since then I didn’t return!

You don’t miss it?

No not really. My parents are still living there so I go back every once in a while but after three or four days I get tired of it. It’s just too busy.

What do you like the most about living here?

You know you’re surrounded by mountains and trees and forests and also lots of people from all around Japan and all around the world. People who have similar values of life so you get along, or I feel like I get along better with people who live here. Of course in Tokyo there’s a lot of interesting people too but there’s just too many people. You’re so close to people but you don’t really interact with them.

Do you get much time to ride?

Yes I try to as much as possible. The shop is open from noon so that gives all the staff time to ride in the morning.

That’s perfect!

I think it’s important for everyone to snowboard. If you’re not snowboarding you can’t make a good snowboarding product. It’s a good idea to have a couple of hours in the morning to go riding.

What does the brand Gentem mean to you?

To me it means…you know after I first came to Niseko I used to ride Burtons and K2s and did two or three seasons on non Gentem brands and I started to feel a bit bored. Then I had a chance to try Gentem and it just changed the whole way I snowboard. It felt really fresh again. Since then I only ride Gentem and I love it. Taro Tamai is the guy who started Gentem and he’s one of the first professional snowboarders in Japan and when he started he was more into snow surfing than snowboarding. He rode Sims and Wintersticks, you know, those old school brands with the swallow tails, mostly for powder. So snowboarding started with a lot of people trying to surf on snow so Taro kept that idea. He never put too much value in competition or how much you can spin or how big you can air. It’s more about appreciating the riding. He was also surfing at the same time and as you surf you feel more like you’re in the natural element. You have to deal with the waves, the swell, the wind, which all have a lot of energy. You can’t really fight it. When it gets big you have to go with the flow. So that’s the idea, instead of having an artificial half pipe or whatever and trying to do more athletic things, it’s more trying to blend in with the environment and let the snow and the slope do the work for you.

When you snowboard do you prefer the backcountry or the resort.

For convenience resort riding and side country is nice. But for sure, when you hike up and you’re just alone or with your buddies and there’s no one around you, just fresh snow it feel much better, that’s for sure.