The scene is firmly set but the weather is against us here in mountains of eastern Japan. The resort at Ishiuchi Maruyama is playing host to the Ninth Annual Nippon Open this week. This second leg of a three-event series–which began in Livigno and concludes with the annual melee at Stratton in a few weeks–is off to a slow start. Fog and drizzle hung heavy over pipe practice today. Qualifiers have run and the contest is on–as soon as the weather clears. And despite rain, the pipe is holding fast–thanks to the work of master-cutter Pat Melandoski. From hotel rooms the size of jail cells, riders rose early today and made there way out to get some practice. Stefan Karlsson showed no signs of jetlag, while Rio Tahara and an unknown masked bandit were also heating things up early. For the women, Anne Molin Kongsgaard, Maelle Ricker and Minna Hesso came out riding in the rain. Trevor Andrew and Keir Dillon are rumored to be in town. It looks like Sunday’s final could be a fierce one. Hopefully the weather improves; because riders, media and the rest are getting restless here in this tiny mountain village.