By Leila Dorari
The island nation of Japan might not seem as the ideal winter getaway but you’d be surprised to find out what it has to offer to prospective skiers and snowboarders. Of course, you don’t have to be a professional to ski in Japan, nor do you have to know how to ski at all, as there is always time to learn during Japan’s ski season while enjoying off-piste activities. After all, if you are traveling to The “Land of the Rising Sun”, there are many other things you can experience from food to architecture to culture.
The Best Skiing and Snowboarding Spots in Japan
While you can explore all Japan has to offer anywhere in the country, you’ll find most of Japan’s ski resorts are located on the north island of Hokkaido and on the main island of Honshu.
Niseko is the winter pearl of Hokkaido and it’s famous around the world for its rich snow deposits in winter, as it can fall up to 17 meters of snow per season. This is especially alluring for tourists who prefer to stay in luxurious condominiums and apartments, as well as in five-star hotels that Niseko is known for. Besides the well-marked slopes, the area has a vibrant nightlife with a lot of nightclubs and restaurants that serve the local and national cuisine. This does not mean that families do not come here as well, as kids will plenty of things to do too and since it gets so many international visitors, you won’t have to worry about the language barrier as everyone speaks English well!
When it comes to family winter holidays, no place is better on Hokkaido Island than Tomamu. Located a 3 hours drive from the airport in Sapporo, the local capital, it has ease of access for guests flying in. The area welcomes all families with off-the-slope activities tailored for each member of the family from small children, who can learn their first ski moves here, all the way to adults who can turn semi-pro on Tomamau’s slopes. The accommodations available are more than solid and offers more relaxation as the whole place is a lot quieter than Niseko.
The Hakuba Valley
When it comes to the main island of Honshu, the hotspot for Japan’s ski season and winter sports is by far the Hacuba Valley. It is large in size and boasts 11 resorts which all have picturesque slopes. Much like Niseko, the nightlife is vibrant here and especially welcome are English-speaking skiers who at times feel like they never left home in linguistic terms. The staff is friendly and they will assist you with any problem you might have, proving that the Japanese people really are as hospitable as people say they are. The ski tracks are maintained regularly and ski lifts operate flawlessly, so you will not spend much time waiting in lines. Both beginners and seasoned skiers will find the trails interesting because there are both long and steep runs.
This area probably gets the most annual snowfall than any other place in Japan, making it perfect for snow sports. Myoko Kogen is easily accessible by the bullet train from Tokyo, just a two hour ride, so it is accessible to foreigners flying into the country’s capital. The main village of Akakura Onsen is where most of the accommodation facilities are located and from there you can access any of the four major resorts that are connected to one another through ski lifts. The best feature is that one ski pass is valid at all four locations! For those who are thinking of skiing in Japan on a budget, Myoko Kogen is perfect because most of its hotels are mid-range in terms of prices.
The last ski area in Japan on the list might not be as famous as the other four but it is slowly becoming a favorite among Western guests. This is because its snow is powdery, making it ideal not only for skiing and snowboarding but for simply playing in the snow or long walks through the forest. Located in the Tohoku prefecture, this area offers a lot of side activities, such as traditional restaurants and hot springs to relax in. Large hotels, like the Appi Grand Hotel include all of these amenities in the price, so you will have a variety of activities to choose from. A day trip to Morioka city, the cultural hub of the region, is highly recommended as you can experience Japan as it once was.
The winter tourism in Japan is quite developed and when you consider this destination’s other benefits such as culture and transport, it makes Japan the perfect place for a ski holiday. Tanoshinde [enjoy] as the Japanese would say!
About The Author
Leila Dorari is an entrepreneur and freelance writer from Sydney. She is passionate about exploring different places across the globe and believes that first you need to get lost before you can get found. In her free time you can usually find her hiking with her furry four-legged friend.
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