In Search of Japow 

Japan’s extraordinary ski culture has something for everyone—plus some of the best snow on earth. 

By Gabriella Le Breton 18/03/2024

Japanese snow is the stuff of legend. In an average winter, freezing Siberian winds scoop up moisture from the Sea of Japan and blanket the country with over 9 metres of cold, bone-dry powder—famous in the ski community as “Japow”—making it one of the snowiest places on the planet.

There are around 450 ski resorts across the island nation, and during good winters lodges such as Nozawa Onsen, Kiroro, and Geto Kogen can get over 22 m. If you’ve never skied here, picture charging through beech forest, bouncing down pillow lines in chest-deep Japow as crystallised white smoke billows toward the sky, and you’ll soon grasp the appeal. 

But there’s more to shredding Japan than staggering volcanic landscapes and the world’s most beautiful snow. Here, ramen is the go-to skier’s lunch, hot tubs are replaced by the traditional outdoor hot springs known as onsen, and karaoke bars trump nightclubs. The country’s diverse resorts showcase quintessential local cuisine, culture and hospitality, and there are options for every type of trip, from family vacations to ski safaris to hard- core powder pilgrimages. 

Just be sure to avoid the holiday crowds over Chinese New Year and hire an expert regional guide (more on which, below) to help you search out the best snow, smooth over lost-in-translation moments and steep yourself in the unforgettable surrounds.

For a Bit of Everything
Nozawa Onsen & Hakuba Valley 

A macaque bathing in a natural hot spring.

To experience a generous sampling of what Japanese skiing has to offer, the neighbouring mainland prefectures of Nagano and Niigata are home to over 130 ski resorts, including the historic spa town of Nozawa Onsen and the Hakuba Valley, which sit in the shadow of the towering northern Japanese Alps. Simon Meeke, managing director of UK-based luxe-ski specialist Powder Byrne, calls Nozawa Onsen “the perfect ski town, retaining a traditional Japanese atmosphere and adding dramatic scenery, quiet pistes and easily accessible side country”. 

Meanwhile, Hakuba’s resorts—notably Hakuba 47, Happo-One and Cortina—provide a skier’s dream pick-and-mix between them, offering Japan’s steepest ski terrain, diverse groomed and off-piste options, and stellar tree skiing, all easily accessible. For a comprehensive Japanese mountain experience, Powder Byrne provides an eight-night Nagano ski safari combining three nights each in traditional ryokan in Nozawa Onsen and Hakuba plus two nights in Tokyo, complete with ski guiding and lift passes, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, train travel, private transfers and city sightseeing. From around $15,100 per person based on two guests 

Skiing pure powder in Niseko Village

For the Extreme Pow-Hound
Tohoku & Niseko 

Ritz-Carlton Higashiyama Reserve offers near-perfect views of Mount Yōtei, an active stratovolcano located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Hokkaidō, Japan.

“Tohoku is the next off-the-beaten-track ski destination, with very few foreigners and an abundance of fresh powder and traditional onsens,” says Nickie Mabey, founder of ski-adventure specialist Mabey Ski. 

Making up the north-eastern third of Honshu, the Japanese mainland, Tohoku encompasses multiple small independently owned ski areas, among them Aomori City, allegedly the “snowiest city in the world”; Juhyogen Slope, named after the hulking frozen trees called juhyo, or snow monsters; and Alts Bandai, where the powder is so fine you literally can’t form snowballs with it. 

Mabey Ski has created a 14-night adventure around the region, skiing several local resorts, including Appi Kogen, home to one of the largest hot springs in Tohoku, before venturing farther north for Aomori Springs and then crossing the Tsugaru Strait to spend six nights in Niseko, on the island of Hokkaido, where guests can ski tour into the Mount Yotei crater. From around $14,800 per person based on two guests.

For an Immersive Experience

Traditional cuisine served at a ryokan in Hokkaido. NOLAN ISOZAKI

The region of Myoko takes its name from Mount Myoko, which straddles Nagano and Niigata. Myoko’s resorts are among Japan’s oldest, retaining an authentic, low-key feel while benefitting from huge snowfall—one local lodge, Seki Onsen, claims some 15 m per winter—making it popular for off-the-radar backcountry terrain and genuine Japanese hospitality.

Myoko Kogen is a lift pass-linked area comprising four key resorts (Akakura Onsen, Akakura Kanko, Ikenotaira Onsen and Myoko Suginohara) while additional resorts, including Lotte Arai, Madarao and Tangram dot the surrounding mountains. Naomi Mano, founder of the Japan travel specialist Luxurique, customises itineraries in the region for travellers seeking immersion in the local culture; a week in Akakura might include shredding with Olympic coaches, staying at intimate ryokan, cat-skiing in virgin powder bowls and visiting the snow monkeys of Jigokudani. From around $12,300 per person based on two guests.

For the Family That Shreds Together

The Green Leaf Niseko Village – Onsen

The island of Hokkaido is famous for its dry, abundant snowfall and sophisticated ski resorts, which number over 100. Hugely popular with Australians, destinations such as Niseko and Furano offer a cosmopolitan vibe with modern design, Western-style hotels and Michelin-starred dining. As one of Japan’s leading seafood and agricultural producers, Hokkaido is known for its cuisine both local and global, from ramen and yakitori to pizza and bouillabaisse. Niseko-Yo in the heart of the 4 main Niseko Village resorts provides traditional and modern culinary experiences to hungry skiers in a ski-in, ski-out format.

Niseko links four resorts (Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono) that combine to offer gentle, kid-friendly pistes, snow-laden backcountry terrain, epic tree runs, night-skiing and sweeping views of the volcanic Mount Yōtei. 

“Skiing in Niseko is a magical experience,” says Bella Syme, founder of downhill-holiday specialist ALS Ski, “and a great option for families.” 

She recommends the new Niseko Kyo, with its 22 luxury slopeside residences for which her company operates the ski-concierge service, a logistical must for large families and groups of various skill levels. From around $42,500 per week for a family of four.

Niseko Village

Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 048-1592,

Telephone: +81 (0)136 44 3311

Ritz-Carlton Niseko

Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, 919-28 Aza Soga,  Niseko, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, Japan

Telephone: +81 136 44 3491


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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.


Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time


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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.


This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.


Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively;

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