It’s peak skiing and snowboarding season, and if you are in Japan, you couldn’t be in a better place!
With two Winter Olympic Games under its belt – Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998 – skiing and snowboarding are very popular activities in Japan. More than 800 resorts help make these pastimes both relatively affordable and easy to access.
Ski resorts from the northernmost island of Hokkaido to the south of the main island of Kyushu ensure that almost everyone in these regions can find a ski lift no more than a couple of hours away from where they reside.
Japan’s resorts range from small facilities with one or two lifts and short runs to large popular haunts such as Niseko, in Hokkaido; Hakkoda, in Aomori Prefecture; and Hakuba and Nozawa in Nagano Prefecture.
These major resorts have their own instructors for beginners and guides for adventurous skiers, boarders and snow trekkers. Hakkoda near Misawa Air Base, for example, is one of the most popular snow trekking spots in Japan.
Rental gear of every ilk is readily available at shops in or near most resorts, with knowledgeable staff on hand to offer advice and assistance. Nearby towns or villages usually offer an abundance and variety of accommodations, including rooms at a fairly reasonable price for as long as a month.
Although large ski resorts are concentrated in Hokkaido and northern and central Honshu, there are many that meet international standards in Western Japan – especially in Hiroshima and Tottori prefectures near Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.
Of southern Kyushu’s three resorts, Tenzan in Saga Prefecture – near Sasebo Naval Base – is very popular for its well-equipped shop and restaurants, although smaller than its counterparts in Hakuba and Niseko.
Package tours to major resorts in Hokkaido and Honshu are available from anywhere throughout Japan. One major drawback, however, is the crowds, especially on weekends and holidays. The slopes, along with trains and highways leading to them, can be packed with more people than snow.
So now that it is peak skiing and snowboarding season in Japan, why not check out all the powder, pristine vistas and hot springs the Land of the Rising Sun has to offer?
Niseko Annupri International Ski Area (Hokkaido)
Hakkoda International Ski Area (near Misawa)
Hakuba Happo-One Winter Resort, Nagano (four hours from the Kanto Plain)
Geihoku Kokusai Ski Area, Hiroshima (near Iwakuni)
Tenzan Resort, Saga (near Sasebo)