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att. Travel - Winter Resorts in Japan
att. Travel - Winter Resorts in Japan
You are here: att.JAPAN > Travel Guide > Winter Resorts in Japan
att.JAPAN Issue 54, December 2010

Winter Resorts in Japan


It's winter again and that means skiing and playing in the snow. There are various ways to enjoy in snowy fields: skiing, soaking in a hot spring bath, snowmobiling, walking in the snow, and much more.


On January 12, 1911, the sport of skiing was introduced to Japan in Takada Town (now Joetsu City), Niigata Prefecture and so 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the event. Japan now has more than 400 ski and snowboard areas, ranging from areas easily accessible from the big cities for one- or two-day trips or for longer stays to areas with all kinds of slopes and facilities for a snow vacation. Most of the areas can be reached within 2- or 3 hours. Furthermore, ski slopes in Japan are said to be secure because of the strict regulations.
Most of all, the snow resorts in Japan offer a variety attractions in addition to skiing, so even those who are not skiing enthusiasts will have a good time. For example, viewing the snow-covered scenery while submerged in a hot tub or eating delicious local food can be a lot of fun. Other activities, such as snowmobiling or snow trekking, and joining a local festival, are sure to be enjoyable. We here introduce major snow resort areas in Japan including some of the extra delights.

For more details on ski areas in Japan, see these sites.
http://www.snowjapan.com/e/index.php
http://www.ski.com.tw/modules/skiresort/region.php?cat_id=51

*Transportation information in the text is generally from Tokyo.

 

 Hokkaido

There are many ski resorts such as Furano, Tomamu and Rusutsu that are wider with more facilities than the resorts on the main island of Honshu.
Niseko has three major slopes, which each boast a variety of courses and great powder snow, so this area is a paradise for skiers and snow boarders. Many of the staff are English-speaking so you may be relieved to know you can communicate with them. More than 100 restaurants serve crab, scallop and other local fresh delicacies of Hokkaido.

Access:
After arriving by plane at New Chitose Airport, the usual way to get to the various ski areas is by a JR train, a bus, or even by taxi.

 

 Tohoku

There are many wonderful places with really great snow even though this area is not as well known as Hokkaido.
The ski area in Appi, Iwate Prefecture, is famous for the wide variety of courses to choose from and also the powder snow. Hachimantai is especially recommended for beginners because of its gentle slopes. Cross-country skiing is very popular in Towada Hachimantai National Park as well. Hotels close to the slopes at all areas are equipped with hot spring baths.
Access:
Take the JR Shinkansen or a highway bus. Shuttle buses run from JR Morioka Station (150 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen) or Hanamaki Airport to all of the areas.

If you think Yamagata Prefecture, you most likely are thinking Yamagata Zao with its great courses running through the beautiful snow-covered tree landscape. Open-air baths adjacent to the slopes are available at no charge. For apres ski entertainment, go to Yamagata City and enjoy a meal at a traditional Japanese restaurant with pretty maiko girls (5800 yen).
Access:
40 minutes by bus from JR Yamagata Station (150 minutes from Tokyo by Yamagata Shinkansen)

Fukushima Prefecture has many skiing facilities and is close to Tokyo. Special ski tours from Korea include a free shuttle bus from Fukushima and Sendai airports. The slopes are blessed with good snow and comfortable skiing. This area also has a lot of hot springs and some good sightseeing. Ice fishing for lake smelt on Lake Hibara in the Inawashiro/Bandai area and the castle town in Aizu are other popular attractions.
Access:
Shuttle buses from the JR stations are readily available.

 

 Joetsu (Niigata Prefecture)

Niigata has a variety of ski areas with very easy access from Tokyo. This is the original ski resort in Japan because it is where Major Theodor von Lerch of the Austria-Hungary military came and taught skiing for the first time in Japan. Everyone, from children who seeing snow for the first time to skiing veterans, can enjoy the variety of slopes available. Particularly this winter, many events such as one-pole skiing will take place in the Naeba, Yuzawa and Myoko areas to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the introduction of skiing. You will probably see "Reruhi-san," the yurukyara (character mascot) at the events. After skiing, soak in a hot spring baths while viewing the snow and dine on the local cuisine. The rice from this area is said to be the most delicious in Japan and so the sake (rice wine) is also delicious.

Access:
Naeba, Yuzawa, Uonuma areas:
The Joetsu Shinkansen to GALA Yuzawa Station (1 hour from Tokyo) is direct to the GALA Yuzawa resort. Other ski resorts are easily accessible by bus from Echigo-Yuzawa Station (1 hour from Tokyo).
Myoko:
By bus from JR Nagano or Myoko-Kogen stations (2 hours ?? from Tokyo).

 

 Shinshu (Nagano Prefecture)

The Shinshu area was the home of the 1998 winter Olympics and is one the most popular ski destinations in Japan for many high level skiers and snow boarders. Here you will find a collection of slopes with various courses and excellent snow quality.
Hakuba offers deep snowfall with exceptional snow quality. Slopes with their magnificent scenery and the wide range of variations are sure to please. Heli-skiing, a rarity in Japan is available and there are many programs and services for those who stay more than a few days during the ski season. You can also enjoy apres ski activities because a free shuttle bus is available in the evening.

Shiga Kogen is a typical big ski resort in Japan, at a high elevation and with very fast snow. It is a favorite of the royal family for a ski vacation. Nozawa, enjoyed by novice and advanced skiers alike, is a very large and well-established winter resort with hot springs.
At Jigokudani Yaen-koen, you can see wild Japanese monkeys bathing in a large hot spring pond.

Access:
Direct by bus from Tokyo; shuttle buses are available from JR Nagano Station to each ski resort.

 

 Other Areas

From Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture, Gifu Prefecture ski areas are easy to access; from Osaka and Kyoto, Lake Biwa resorts in Shiga Prefecture are close. In western Japan, skiing is available around Mt. Daisen in Tottori Prefecture.

Conditions vary from year to year but most ski areas are open from around December until the following March. Some places start the fun a bit early (the end of November) and some extend the season if the spring skiing is good until around May.
Most ski areas rent the basics (skis, boots, and poles) and many rent ski wear as well. Be sure to bring your own tights and any other undergarments you will need to stay warm. It is better to check in advance if gloves, goggles and other accessories are available for rental as well.
Many resorts offer instruction in various snow sports but it is best to make sure beforehand if instructions are available in your language of choice. For beginners, be sure to specifically check for beginner slopes so as not to get in over your head too soon. Many places these days have slopes designed for families.
A good way to go a ski area is by "ski bus." Tour companies as well as airlines often have special ski packages, promotions and such that are often really good deals.

 Maps
Japan Railway Map PDF 414 KB

 Links
Inns in snow resorts (japan-ryokan.net)

 



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