The Weather It Was Built For

Battling Back Hokkaido Snowstorms in a Land Cruiser

Cars By Photo by Henry Phillips
From Issue Two of the Gear Patrol Magazine. Free shipping + 15% off in the GP store for new subscribers.

There’s something deeply comforting about the interior of a Toyota Land Cruiser in the middle of an 11:00 p.m. snowstorm. As the snow we sought from halfway ’round the world blanketed the Hokkaido roads, our portable living room moved silently and smoothly towards a ski resort a few hours north. It was our safe house wrapped in tobacco-brown leather.

Everybody knows there’s no great road trip without an equally great car. Kerouac had the Commodore; Kowalski had his white Challenger; hell, even the Griswolds had the Family Truckster. The fifth member of our four-man team just happened to be a V8-powered, Blizzard Pearl behemoth stuffed to the gills with all that’s necessary to make the most of an amazing island.


As it turns out, the 2016 Land Cruiser FJ200 is particularly well suited to hauling four dudes, 12 bags and two kilos of pudding across Japan’s northernmost island. Convenience features like radar-guided cruise control and a surprisingly good stereo paired perfectly with a hulking V8 (though the Japanese spec is a mere 4.6 liters instead of the US’s 5.7), and genuinely impressive off-roading chops meant it could handle anything, from snowy 16-hour drives to going off the beaten path to get a shot. In short, the perfect road trip companion.

The last few hours we spent in the Land Cruiser were during a cross-island, nighttime dash to catch our flight to Tokyo and, as always, it was snowing. As the four of us looked out on an island that was finally beginning to seem familiar, the Land Cruiser floated on, right at home

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A version of this story appears in Issue Two of the Gear Patrol Magazine, 286 pages of stories, reports, interviews and original photography from five distinct locations around the world. Subscribe Now: $39