Skiing in Japan
A ski trip to Japan will be unlike any other ski holiday you have been on before. The skiing alone is world class with the resorts benefiting from Siberian weather systems ensuring huge amounts of lovely light dry powder – it’s not called Ja-Pow for nothing!
However a holiday here is so much more than just a ski trip. It is a fascinating country with a sense of history and unique traditions that will captivate visitors of all ages. Whether it’s the incredible food, the relaxing onsens or the vibrant cities that draw you in, one thing is certain – a ski trip to Japan is one you will never forget.
The majority of trips will start by flying into Tokyo. Direct flights have really increased in number in recent years and the flight time is similar to heading over to parts of the US – around 11 ½ hours. From Tokyo it is then either a short connecting flight or a transfer to your chosen resort. As with all long haul destinations, the trick to getting the best prices is to book early with rates being available from late spring onwards.
The Ski Resorts
Japan has hundreds of ski resorts, most of which are small with just a couple of lifts and fairly basic accommodation. However there are some real gems, both in terms of the skiing and the resorts themselves. We have carefully selected the largest and best of the country’s ski areas and these are located on either Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island, or in the prefecture of Nagano on the main island of Honshu.
Hokkaido is where storms blowing in from Siberia ensure a vast supply of the lightest, driest powder there is. The season on this island runs from mid-November to the end of March with the best of the skiing being in January and February. It is a 1½ hour flight from either Tokyo or Osaka and the resorts of Niseko, Rusutsu and Furano are all found here. The resorts can all be combined on one trip and the transfer between Furano and Niseko/Rusutsu is approximately 4 hours. Although Hokkaido is home to Sapporo, one of Japan’s rapidly growing cities, it is predominantly rural with National Parks covering areas of mountains, lakes, forests and coastline – a real contrast to Japan’s large cities.
Nagano, on mainland Japan, was home of the 1998 Winter Olympics and is a much loved destination in the Japanese Alps. The season on Honshu is slightly longer, running from December to mid-April. Resorts here are around a 4 hour bus/car ride from Tokyo Narita Airport, or a 3.5 hour train ride involving the iconic Shinkansen bullet train.
The relatively close proximity to Tokyo means that resorts here can get very busy with day-trippers at the weekends. However this often means that you have the slopes to yourself during the week. The resorts we feature are Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen and Myoko, all of which have their own very unique feel but again can be combined on the same trip.
The vast amounts of powder that Japan receives is obviously a big draw – we have all seen the picture of the coaches driving down roads with walls of snow towering above them. However another defining characteristic of the terrain in Japan is the tree-skiing. Snow accumulates between the well-spaced trunks of the deciduous trees lining the slopes, creating the best glade skiing imaginable.
The resorts all have slightly different off-piste policies so it is worth checking before you go. Resorts like Niseko are similar to North America with pretty much any area within bounds being up for grabs but some do have pretty strict restrictions. Even in the more liberal resorts, respect is very important and ducking a rope is seen as the height of rudeness. Make sure you use the gates to get where you need to go.
The volcanic scenery is also a feature unique to the Japanese ski experience. The impressive Mt. Yotei, a dormant volcano, dominates the view from Niseko and can also be seen from Rusutsu.
Beyond the skiing
You will be lured to Japan by the skiing but you should take the time to see what else this fascinating country has to offer. A stay in Tokyo is a must, and an easy add-on as all flights go through Tokyo Narita. A few things to see here are the Imperial Palace, the highly photographed Shibuya Crossing, the Tsukiji fish market, the Sumo wrestling if in season, and much more!
Kyoto is the temple mecca of Japan. There are literally hundreds of temples and sights in the inner city, including the famous Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji), the Kiyomizu temple with views over the whole of Kyoto, the rock gardens and the geisha district of Gion.
Alternatively why not try something really different and include a stopover in South Korea. Take a few days to experience the vibrant city of Seoul and witness all the exciting developments as the ski resorts prepare to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. For more information please see our Ski Asia Safari pages.
All our Japan ski holidays are put together from scratch meaning that no two holidays are the same. We include all the flights, transfers and accommodation that you need and our specialists have visited all of the resorts and cities that we offer. One of us has even lived out there!
We are UK based company but can help package up a ski holiday from wherever you are. Above all we put together a holiday to suit your needs, making the process as easy as possible and saving you time and money. We will even make suggestions that you may not have thought of to ensure the best holiday for your money and the ski trip of a lifetime.