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Winter might not be everyone’s favourite time of the year. After all, it can be trying at times…. having to cope with mittens, hats and gloves, freezing cold tiles on the bathroom floor, dark mornings and early sunsets… But there is one aspect of winter in Japan that makes it the absolute best season of the year. Snow! And huge great big mountains of it! You might not know it yet, but not too far away from Tokyo, there are mountains that transform into winter paradises come December (or earlier), bringing with them all the fun and excitement of winter sports.

According to a recent survey conducted by the popular winter sports website, the majority of foreigners who arrive in Japan have never had the chance to put on skis or a snowboard, and their first time skiing or snowboarding was at one of the hundreds of resorts scattered across the Japanese mountainsides. It seems that living in Japan turns a large number of foreigners into powder hounds!

The biggest problem faced by the would-be skier and snowboarder in Japan is the huge amount of choice. Luckily for those based in Tokyo, there are literally hundreds of places that you can get to within a couple of hours from the big city. Of course, not all of them are well-known, large-scale, world-class ski resorts. In fact, many are small operations offering just a few lifts and runs. But while they may not be as big, many times these smaller “resorts” can often be just as enjoyable as their larger counterparts.

Below are some of the more popular and recommended places to consider that are fairly easy to reach from Tokyo and are definitely worth checking out for a few days. Wherever you end up….. happy riding!


Yuzawa town is probably the easiest place to get to from Tokyo, and the most convenient for day trips from Tokyo. Using the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, you can be in Yuzawa in around 80 minutes, and on the slopes within two hours! With trains running regularly from early morning until late at night, day trips really are practical - although there is enough in Yuzawa to keep you busy for more than a few days! There are over 10 resorts within easy reach of the station, with a choice of resorts in the Yuzawa area ranging from the large trendy but family-friendly Naeba-Kagura areas (20-30 minutes by taxi or shuttle bus from Echigo Yuzawa Station) to some smaller less busy resorts nearer the station. Naeba Resort has lessons for kids, and a special children’s play area (WakuWaku Family Snowland) with snowslides and snowmobiling. The NASPA Ski Garden resort (5 minutes by taxi or shuttle bus from the Station) is a popular resort with English-speaking families. NASPA often offers ski lessons in English for both adults and children (ages 4 and up) and they are accustomed to assisting non-Japanese guests. They also offer childcare for babies age 2 months and up.


Hakuba is little bit further a field than Yuzawa - located in a valley to the north of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture - but it is definitely worth a trip and a few days of your time. Once you arrive in the valley, you will be impressed by the surrounding mountains and the look of the imposing (and highly recommended) Happo-one resort, as well as other popular nearby resorts Hakuba 47 / Goryu and Tsugaike. A few more resorts in the lively village make this a popular destination. Private lessons in English are available for skiers ages 4 and up.


About one hour’s journey from Nagano City, Nozawa Onsen, is another favourite of many skiers and snowboarders and offers a really good mix of runs that will keep almost any rider more than happy. If you have a tiny tot anxious to hit the slopes, lessons here are available for ages 3 and up. Another attraction of Nozawa is also, of course, the fantastic public onsen that are dotted around the pretty village.


What is often referred to as “Shiga Kogen” is actually over twenty different interlinking resorts in the northeastern part of Nagano, which makes up the biggest ski-able area in Japan! Riding directly from Okushiga Kogen in the south, to the highest point of the region - Yokoteyama - in the north, would take the best part of a day in and of itself. Even though all of the Shiga Kogen resorts are covered by one lift ticket, it’s probably best to stick to one of the main regions for the day and enjoy what that has to offer, rather than having to worry about getting back from one end to the other in one day. Several events in the 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Shiga Kogen. The Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel boasts a kids’ club for ages 6 months to 6 years.


The Myoko region is actually Niigata Prefecture, but it’s just to the north of Nagano City and most people from Tokyo get there via Nagano. There are a number of good resorts in this region, including Myoko Suginohara, and a little further to the north, ARAI Mountain & Spa resort. ARAI is a favourite amongst English-speakers as they have English-speaking instructors and are very English-friendly (as well as having a modern resort with some interesting terrain). Children are definitely welcome at ARAI - with two kids’ clubs (one for babies/toddlers and one for kids 3-12), kids’ ski lessons, 100% stroller accessibility, and restaurants that cater to children.

For a complete rundown of resorts in the region, over 1,300 Resort Reviews and 1,600 Journals written by readers and the latest weather reports, check out the website. Have fun hitting the slopes!

SnowJapan.Com has now been online for six winter seasons. In addition to providing literally mountains of information about the Japanese Winter sports scene, it also brings together like-minded people with an active and popular online community. Just some of the things on offer:

- Daily weather and snow reports for all of Japan

- Listings of hotels and places to stay in popular regions

- Popular forums and chats

- Member pages, journals, reviews, photos

- Trip Maker

- Lessons in English

- And lots more

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