I sometimes wish it would snow and although I know I can travel to one of the ski resorts in country Victoria, it just doesn’t quite compare to the amazing range of ski fields in Japan. After a day on the slopes, relaxing in a hot spring or drinking hot sake at a bar with friends are some of the wonderful benefits of skiing in Japan.
Many people will have heard of some of the resorts in the Nagano region as well as those in Hokkaido. However, in this post, I would like to introduce some of the great skiing and boarding options in Tohoku, the northern region of the main island. Many of the resorts are easy to access by train and offer great skiing as well as having a longer season than some of the other ski areas.
This resort always sticks in my mind due to the catchy slogan, “Be Happy in Appi”. I think this encapsulates the essence of this resort, being a happy, fun, family-friendly ski area.
Access is straight forward, bullet train to Morioka, local train to Appi-Kogen Station, then a 10minute bus. All the trains are valid on the JR pass. This is a resort-style ski field, with no town attached.
Eating, drinking and playing is all done at your accommodation and there is a great range of restaurants, a ski area for kids and ski and board lessons with English speaking instructors.
This is a great area for families but not so much if you are wanting to get out and about on the town at night. The various accommodation options are of a high standard and the Hotel Appi Grand is ski-in and ski-out.
If you are looking for the next place to ski with your family in Japan definitely consider Appi Kogen.
This hot spring town is worth visiting at any time of year if you are an onsen aficionado such as me.
In wintertime, many people visit here for the skiing, the onsen and the snow monsters. Sounds scary? Due to the unique weather conditions of Zao Onsen, the heavy snow covers the trees on the slopes creating monstrous forms.
To get to Zao, take the bullet train from Tokyo to Yamagata Station and then it is a 40minute bus to the ski resort. What is great about skiing at Zao is that not only can you get out and enjoy the snow but also in the evenings relax in the hot springs and experience a traditional Japanese meal.
Many of the accommodation options have traditional Japanese rooms, but even if you are not so keen to sleep on futons there are some western options as well. Some people just visit Zao Onsen for a few days of winter sightseeing, but there are plenty of slopes including a 10km run that will keep the more avid skiers and boarders busy for a longer stay.
Saying the name of this resort 10 times fast is a challenge, but tongue-twisting name aside, this resort is part of the Prince Hotel Chain and is an excellent base for skiing in Iwate Prefecture.
There is only one hotel, the Shizukuishi Prince Hotel and it is conveniently skiing in and ski-out. A huge feature of this property is the amazing Takakura Onsen, a heritage hot spring with a particularly beautiful outdoor bath.
If you like a variety of ski slopes there are other ski fields not too far away including Amihari Onsen, Iwate Kogen and Tazawako.
To get to Shizukuishi is a bullet train ride from Tokyo to either Shizukuishi Station or Morioka Station then a bus from there. However, if you are planning on visiting multiple ski fields, hiring a car from one of these stations will give you more flexibility.
If you are bringing your family please be aware there are no kids group lessons in English, so this area may be more suited to experienced skiers or couples and friend groups.
Not too many foreign visitors head to this resort so if you want to ski with locals this is a great place to be!
For those of you who don’t realise yet, I am not the best skier and what attracts me to a ski resort is definitely additional facilities and onsen, lots of onsens. So when I say there is no way I would be visiting Hakkoda, it is not because the ski resort is terrible, in fact, it is a fantastic ski resort, but rather due to my lack of skiing ability I would not be able to cope with the difficulty level of the ski runs.
If, unlike me, you are a very good skier or boarder or like getting off-piste, skiing through amazing powder snow and backcountry skiing than you should definitely check out Hakkoda. This is the place for the powder hounds.
To get here is not too difficult thanks to the bullet train from Tokyo to Aomori, then you can take a bus for an hour and you are there. There is accommodation at the base, although no nightlife or town atmosphere. If you like to combine your powder skiing with other activities consider staying at a hot spring a bit further away or even in Aomori city. This is the place for experienced skiers and boarders and if you want to avoid crowds come during the week.
Many Australians visit the ski fields in Japan, with most heading to popular resorts such as Niseko or Hakuba but there are many other resort options that you might find suit your requirements for an excellent ski holiday. For me, it is definitely the onsen that will help in my choice of resort, but whether you are a family, expert skiers, onsen lovers or after a place to ski with locals, Tohoku has plenty of options for you!
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