Why You Need to Ski in Japan
The past 20 years has seen an explosion in the number of international skiers and boarders’ heading to Japan; the secret of its fantastic winter resorts is definitely now out. Not only do the Japanese ski resorts have a lot to offer in terms of facilities, restaurants and cultural experiences, the main appeal is undeniably the “JAPOW”, copious amounts of fluffy powder snow. Pair this with the intriguing culture and customs, warm hospitality of the Japanese people, fantastic food, ease of domestic travel and reasonable pricing; you’ve got an unbeatable and unforgettable Japan Ski Holiday.
Japan’s powder snow is making headlines around the world. With weather patterns coming direct from Siberia, this is some of the lightest, driest powder to be found anywhere in the world. Many of the ski resorts get blanketed with exceptionally good snow coverage, seeing an average of 10 - 20 metres of snow per season at some of the resorts! If you enjoy light, dry and deep snow then Japan’s resorts definitely deserve a place on your ski bucket list.
Each winter we see many repeat guests returning for yet another Japanese snow season, they have worked out that Japan offers so much more in a ski holiday than many other countries. So where do you start when deciding a ski destination? Ski resorts throughout Japan are varied and offer a number of accommodation and ski village styles, perfect for families, single travellers and groups. The people in Japan are incredibly hospitable and humble and have taken the art of hospitality to a very high level. You may like to stay in a large resort hotel with spa, gym, and entertainment facilities on a ski in ski out resort, or you may prefer traditional Japanese ryokan inns serving up home-style meals. There are also self-contained apartments to suit every budget in the more westernised resorts. Whatever your group dynamics and preferences, there is sure to be a ski resort to suit.
With almost 500 resorts scattered throughout Honshu (the main island) and Hokkaido (the north island), there are so many to choose from, with some more widely known than others. Niseko, Hakuba, Nozawa, Rusutsu, Furano and Myoko have been making headlines as the top ski resorts in Japan. However, even the busiest resorts rarely see congestion on the runs and lifts, and weekdays are especially quiet, so more chance to score some fresh tracks! Not only does the snow impress but the variation in terrain is astounding.
Do we stay on the main island of Honshu for skiing or should we head to Hokkaido, is often a question we get asked. Both islands receive copious amounts of snowfall; Hokkaido skiing is particularly well known for the colder weather and dry fluffy powder, whereas Honshu resorts are better known for offering more challenging and wider range of terrain as well as deep powder experiences. The main island as well as the northern island of Hokkaido offer visitors unique experiences for the time spent off the slopes close by to the ski resorts. Enjoy onsen baths, with natural mineral-rich hot spring waters, visit local temples and shrines, or indulge in the variety of Japanese cuisine on offer. Cultural day tours and activities are often available, and highlights include the Sapporo Snow Festival in early February featuring huge and elaborate snow sculptures. Nagano’s snow monkeys are also not to be missed – unique troupe of Japanese Macaques who have learned to soak in onsens to keep warm in the harsh winters of the mountainous regions. The Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival is another spectacular event well worth viewing, one of Japans largest fire festivals to pray for good fortune and harvest for the coming year. When choosing your destination, consider ski resort terrain, accommodation types and cultural activities for your days off.
With great snow you will also find great cuisine from traditional Japanese dishes to modern fusion and western dining experiences. The high quality and variety of produce locally grown in the rural areas surrounding ski resorts, allow the resorts to offer their own unique and enticing array of Japanese and Western food choices. Japanese cuisine has even been listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural asset; the Japanese pride themselves in the quality of their food. Japan really delivers a vibrant culinary experience to savour. Japan also offers a fascinating and multifaceted culture; on the one hand it is steeped in the deepest of traditions dating back thousands of years; on the other it is a society in a continual state of rapid change, with one foot firmly planted in the past and the other striving for the future with continually shifting fads and fashions and technological development that constantly pushes back the boundaries of the possible. This is part of what makes it such a fascinating country to visit. There are so many things to see and do in Japan, from the geisha performances in Kyoto, exquisite gardens and temples, sumo wrestling, devouring the best sushi in the world at the biggest fish market in the world, the Japanese snow monkeys bathing in a hot spring. Avant-garde rock musicians travelling across Japan on bullet trains, sharing their seats with Zen Buddhist monks; the scenery, people and culture is just so diverse it needs to be seen and experienced.
Domestic travel in Japan is very easy and the customer service experience is of a very high standard. Many of Japan's larger cities are serviced by subways, trains, buses and taxis. The Japanese transport network is clean, reliable, punctual and often very comfortable! Japanese rail services are among the best in the world. Whether traveling alone, with family or friends, using public transportation in Japan is a lot less complicated than it seems. Signage is always in Japanese and English and there is a huge amount of information on the internet to prepare you, and information services at the stations and local government tourist information booths can be easily found across Japan.
Snow holidays are not the cheapest of pastimes anywhere in the world and Japan is no exception, but most people are surprised that travelling in Japan really can be quite affordable. In-resort items such as lift tickets, rentals, and meals are well priced. As with other big cities, Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto international hotels and restaurants can be costly and there are plenty of 5 star options for the discerning traveller. But step out onto the street and see how the Japanese eat and spend, and you will soon discover that Japan is very reasonably priced. Everything has a set price, no tipping or bartering, the whole retail experience offered here is highly in the favour of the customer. Combining a ski and sightseeing holiday can be achieved on all budgets.
Whatever you love about skiing and snowboarding, you will find it in Japan. Whether you prefer carving on immaculately groomed piste runs, smashing the light dry and deep powder or even taking your first turns, Japan has the resort for you. Let us here at Ski Japan Holidays guide you to a great ski holiday in Japan.