You might know Japan for its mouth-watering food and high-tech cities, but did you know that it’s also a world class skiing destination? Mountainous regions like Hokkaido island in the north experience on average 50ft of snow every single winter, making it one of the snowiest places on the planet.
With all that champagne powder, it’s really no surprise that skiing in Japan has become such a popular pastime. Legend has it that a Major in the Austrian army introduced it to locals in Nozawa Onsen way back in 1911. Delighted by the sport, the following decades saw ski schools popping up from Mount Fuji to Mount Asahi.
Nowadays, you have literally hundreds of Japanese ski resorts to choose from, each offering up jaw-dropping scenery, incredible skiing opportunities (including plenty of night skiing) and a truly unique ski culture. Sushi and sake anyone?
If you fancy witnessing the country’s unmatched snow-sure slopes for yourself this winter, get in touch with our experts over WhatsApp or Messenger to start planning your unforgettable Japan skiing holiday.
With over 11 different resorts to choose from, Hakuba Valley certainly has something to suit everyone. The gateway to the Nagano region, it famously hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998 and is only a short three hour hop from Tokyo.
Hundreds of miles of snowy slopes means Hakuba is rarely too busy, plus its resorts have a nice selection of bars and restaurants to enjoy in the evenings. If you’re looking for family-friendly activities off the pistes, you can sign up to a snow monkey tour or try snowmobiling through miles of untouched powder.
Myoko Kogen is another awesome resort area located in Nagano. It’s been welcoming visitors since the 1930s (including the Japanese Imperial Family), making it one of the most historic skiing spots in not just Japan but the world.
The resort is additionally home to both the longest and the steepest ski runs in the country, giving it plenty of appeal for more experienced skiers. If you’re going on a group ski holiday with children, you’ll find great kids’ ski schools in Myoko Kogen and hotel options that are either ski-in, ski-out or located right next to the ski lifts.
Niseko is probably the best known of Japan’s ski resorts and it’s found on the slopes of Mount Yōtei on Hokkaido. Made up of four different but linked ski areas, it’s a top choice for many Brits thanks to its friendly, English-speaking staff. Niseko’s popularity also partly comes down to the quality of the powder, the wide tree-lined pistes and the fact it’s the liveliest resort in the country.
You’ll find a brilliant mix of eateries and bars in Hirafu Village, plus numerous off-piste activities like onsens and snowshoeing. The Sapporo Ice Festival is also well-worth a visit, too, if you’re skiing in the area in February.
For a balance of modern and traditional après, Nozawa Onsen – the birthplace of Japanese skiing – is ideal. Part of the Nagano ski area, the charming mountain village resort has built up a reputation as quite a lively place thanks to numerous bars, izakayas (informal Japanese pubs) and even a couple of karaoke venues.
One of the best features of Nozawa Onsen has to be its namesake onsens. There are thirteen to choose from and they’re all free to use, giving you no excuse not to soak your muscles after several hours of skiing. And if you’re keen to tick night skiing off your bucket list, there’s opportunities for it throughout the ski season here, too.
Also located on Hokkaido island, Rusutsu is much smaller than neighbouring Niseko but far better suited to family groups. It’s spread out over three magnificent mountains, with around 40km of immaculately cared for slopes for skiers and snowboarders to contend with.
Less crowded runs (many of which are easy blues), a quieter après ski scene limited to the hotels and various activities will appeal to those after a more relaxed getaway. You’ll also find a couple of convenient ski-in, ski-out hotels in Rusutsu, too.
One of Japan’s largest ski areas and a UNESCO biosphere site, beautiful Shiga Kogen in Nagano comprises 21 separate resorts with much of the area above 2,000m. Most of them are pretty traditional when it comes to accommodation and après, with little available beyond the hotels and guesthouses.
Japanese visitors tend to spend their evenings eating and relaxing in the onsens. If you’re keen to do some off-piste skiing in Japan, Shiga Kogen is a paradise and has some of the steepest and longest runs you can find.
The volcanic island of Hokkaido in northern Japan is a real hotspot for skiing. That’s all down to its cold climate, which is strongly influenced by pockets of low-pressure weather fronts that blow over from Siberia. Hokkaido’s huge peaks like Mount Asahi and Mount Yōtei are criss-crossed with picture-perfect pistes of varying difficulties and lengths.
Due to its insane snow conditions (picture walls of snow dozens of feet high), Hokkaido is where you’ll find many of Japan’s major ski resorts such as Niseko and Rusutsu. It’s also home to loads of smaller resorts that each offer up their own completely unique skiing experience.
If you’d prefer to stay on the main island of Honshu, Nagano is the place to go for an awesome Japan skiing holiday. It also gets an insane amount of powder every year and was even the location of the Winter Olympics in 1998.
As well as the Hakuba Valley and Shiga Kogen – both of which are made up of multiple ski resorts - the region is also where you’ll find two of Japan’s oldest ski destinations: Myoko Kogen and Nozawa Onsen.
Access from Tokyo by bullet train in less than two hours makes Nagano’s resorts a great shout if you’re keen to combine skiing with some sightseeing.
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If you like to hit up a club or chill out to live music after a day on the pistes, set your sights on Niseko. The highly popular resort on Hokkaido is famed for its lively and diverse après ski scene, plus it’s home to dozens of tempting restaurants where you can tuck into steaming bowls of ramen, fresh sashimi or even upmarket French haute cuisine.
Family groups with less experienced skiers will want to check out Nozawa Onsen in the Nagano ski region. Around 40% of its snow-sure slopes are designed for beginners, while English-speaking instructors make lessons fully accessible.
Due to its sheer size and impressive range of amenities, Niseko is always a safe bet for a big group Japan skiing trip. If you’d rather stick to the main island, the 20 or so individual resorts that make up Shiga Kogen are ideal for a wide range of runs and off-piste activities that’ll appeal to everyone.
Japan’s epic snow coverage ensures all of its resorts are snow-sure throughout the winter season. Nevertheless, resorts like Rusutsu and Niseko on Hokkaido island are particularly well placed for dustings of dry yet fluffy champagne powder.