Best day trips from Hakuba, Japan

Ski resorts in Japan Swift slopes and the best snow in the world

Great pistes, awesome snow and high level of service

Japan is one of the world’s top ski and snowboard destinations. Thanks to the cold winds blowing from the Sea of Japan, there is a lot of snowfall. The country is especially famous for slopes with dry fluffy snow, which is best suited for winter sports.

Japan has a huge variety of ski resorts: from the largest, Niseko in Hokkaido, to small modest resorts in the valleys of hot springs. There is a slope for everyone, whether beginners or professionals, families with children or couples in search of adventure.

In Japan you can not only ski, but also have a great vacation, restore health and emotional balance, taste the delicacies, swim in the hot springs and culturally enriched.

When to ski

The ski season usually begins in mid-December and lasts until April. The exact dates always depend on the individual resort. Hokkaido, because of its northern location, and the Nagano Mountains, because of the high altitude, usually have earlier snowfall than other places.

The season peaks in January and February, when snowfalls become regular. March also has occasional heavy snowfall, but the weather becomes less predictable. Thaws occur more often. During the Christmas and New Year vacations, as well as the Chinese New Year in February, the mountain resorts are especially crowded.

Where to go skiing

The best place for skiing and snowboarding is on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Another popular place is Niseko on Honshu, the largest and most developed resort in Japan. Hakuba region in the Japanese Alps in Nagano Prefecture is also worth mentioning – it has many hotels and excellent pistes. The resort is easily accessible from Tokyo.

Japan has a lot to choose from – you can find resorts here wherever the snow falls. Tohoku, in northern Honshu, has a lot of easy entry-level and intermediate trails. This resort will interest families with children. In the prefectures of Nagano, Niigata, and Gumma in central Honshu, there are more diverse slopes, including some challenging ones. The resorts are relatively close to Tokyo, so you can come here for a day.

The eternal controversy: Niseko or Hakuba?

It’s not easy to choose between these two ski areas, especially if you have limited time. Both get a lot of snow in the winter. Both regions boast a variety of excellent slopes and gorgeous views.

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According to many publications, including such reputable ones as National Geographic, the Niseko ski resort is one of the top ten in the world. It is a mountain village in southwestern Hokkaido with excellent views of Mount Yotei. It has beginner’s slopes and is very much adapted for English-speaking tourists.

The Hakuba Mountain area in Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. There are a total of 10 resorts with a wide variety of skiing and snowboarding trails of all difficulty levels. Many resorts are not connected and are more distant from each other, if you compare this region to Niseko. But in Hakuba is a richer choice of accommodation options, including relatively budget.

In the less famous (and less crowded!) places there are very good deals on room and elevator prices. Almost anywhere in Japan you will find high quality snow and great slopes.

Hokkaido

Niseko is the most famous, but by no means the only ski resort in Hokkaido. There are several other great places on the island with few people and lots of snow.

Not far from Niseko is Rusutsu resort, known for abundant snowfalls, good elevators and great wooded trails. East of Sapporo is the family winter resort of Furano. Here are not only skiing, but also race and snowmobiles, do winter fishing. A lot of entertainment for children as well. There is teaching skiing and snowboarding in English.

In the Sapporo area there are two more interesting resorts – Sapporo Teine and Tomamu, known for their high standards of service, convenience for family vacations and the possibility to ski off-piste on the slopes.

Japanese Alps.

This vast mountain range on Honshu Island is called the “Roof of Japan.” The mountains here often exceed three thousand meters in height. They occupy the central part of the island, stretching from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean. On average, 11 meters of snow fall here per season, offering great opportunities for skiers and snowboarders. The Hakuba ski resort is located in the Northern Japanese Alps next to Nozawa onsen and Shiga Kogen. In addition to skiing from here you can go on a day trip to Yudanaka onsen and see wild monkeys bathing in hot springs.

Tohoku

The Zao onsen ski resort on the border of Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures is one of the gems of Tohoku, the mountainous region that occupies the entire north of Honshu Island. The Zao onsen region is mostly famous for its “snow monsters” – trees completely covered with snow on the slopes. There are also great hot springs where you can relax after a day of climbing and descending. You can take a shinkansen to Yamagata Station and from there you can take a local bus to the resort. Another star of Tohoku is Appi Kogen in the Hachimantai area of Iwate Prefecture. It’s a luxury ski resort. It has exquisite accommodations with direct access to the slopes, great food, plenty of slopes for kids and beginners, and English language ski and snowboarding instruction groups. Appi Kogen is especially known for its groomed ski slopes.

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Day trips from Tokyo.

There’s so much to see around, but not enough time to do everything at once? Luckily there are mountains near Tokyo. You can always carve out a day to go skiing. Go to the Gala Yuzawa Resort in Niigata – it’s very convenient to get there, and the elevator with closed gondolas is right next to the station. A little further south is the Kagura ski resort. It is located quite high, so there is a lot of crumbly snow and long slopes. There are also safe slopes for beginners and amateurs. The most experienced skiers and snowboarders go to the resort of Tenzindaira in Gumma prefecture. There is a shinkansen going there, get off at the Jomo Kogen station.

Snowboarding

Japan is a snowboarder’s paradise. There are many resorts with wide slopes and untouched slopes. During the winter a huge amount of crumbly snow falls. Snowboarding is very popular in Japan, especially compared to Europe and North America. Almost all resorts have good conditions for snowboarders, they are allowed to ski on the slopes. However, it is recommended to find out about the rules and restrictions of specific resorts.

Family vacations

Conditions in most Japanese resorts are suitable for families with children: slopes of different levels to choose from, day care, various activities for children and teaching in English. Many choose Shiga Kogen with its varied slopes. Nozawa onsen has a children’s ski school. Tsugaike Kogen in Hakuba has gentle, safe slopes for beginners. There are several ski schools in the Hakuba area that offer both group and private lessons for children. Certain resorts have children’s play areas where you can play in the snow or go sledding. In general, child care services are available at all resorts in the country – for example, in the upscale hotels of the Niseko resort. However, in most places the staff only speak Japanese. You can also find self-catering accommodation in houses or apartments – they are good for those who want to cook on their own.

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How to get there

Japan has a very well developed transport system, so to get to a particular resort is not difficult. Usually you have to take a high-speed train or plane to the desired region, and there take a local transport that goes directly to your destination. Some hotels and chalets offer free shuttle service from the train stations.

To get to Niseko, take a one-and-a-half hour flight from Tokyo to Chitose Airport in Hokkaido. A direct bus from there takes about three hours and makes several stops in three main areas: Hirafu, Niseko, and Annupuri. There are direct flights to Titose Airport from Australia and Asia.

For those who want to get to the Hakuba area directly from an international flight, the Chuo Taxi service offers a direct shuttle service to the resort areas from Tokyo Narita and Haneda airports. The trip takes 4-5 hours.

Hakuba

Hakuba

One of the most popular ski resorts in Japan is Hakuba, or Hakuba-mura. It is a small town located at the foot of the local Alps.

General Information

The area of the settlement is 189.37 square kilometers and the number of local residents is 8,916. The city belongs to Nagano Prefecture and is located on Honshu Island. There are landscaped mountain hot springs and entire bodies of water. In the winter, you can often see Japanese macaques basking in the water in the lakes.

Japanese Macaw.

In 1998, the country hosted the Olympic Games. Hakuba hosted the participants in ski jumping, slalom and ski racing competitions, for which a specialized stadium was built here. The facility with the equipment survived to this day, and today it is used for training athletes.

Athletes

For foreign tourists, the city has become attractive relatively recently, and therefore began to actively develop its infrastructure. The level of service in Hakuba is high enough and meets world standards.

Resort

Weather at the resort

The climate in the city is quite mild, with warm, dry summers and cool winters, which are characterized by abundant rainfall. Every year in Hakuba falls about 11 m of snow.

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The average temperature in winter is +6°C, and in summer the mercury gauge stays at +30°C. In the warm season, it rains briefly and the wind blows weakly. Alpine air strikes the guests of the city with unusual freshness.

Alpine meadows Winter City

What to see in Hakuba?

The main attractions of the settlement are the colorful and unique mountains. The most popular are considered 3 peaks:

Their average height is 2900 m above sea level, from here you can enjoy picturesque views of the valleys. Also here you can meet the sunrise, ride the elevators, go downhill skiing and snowboarding, to take a course for beginners.

Mountains

Hakuba is also worth a visit:

  • thermal springs, some of which are completely free;
  • Museum and the Olympic Stadium.

In the vicinity of the city are attractions such as:

  1. Chubu Sangaku National Park and the castle of the same name, built in the 16th century.
  2. Wasabi Farm – the famous Japanese ingredient is grown and processed here. It is used to make beer, ice cream and other dishes, and master classes are held for tourists.
  3. Zenkoji Temple or “Golden Pavilion” built in the Edo period (1397). It is located on the shore of a crystal clear mountain lake. The interior has preserved the spirit of the country’s first emperors.
  4. Sake Museum – dedicated to rice wine, which introduces the technology of production and its history. It has a range of about 100 varieties.
  5. Jigokudani Park – ideal for exploring the Japanese snow macaques, which are used to tourists and are happy to be photographed with them.
  6. Resort Cortina – here the wildlife is closely intertwined with civilization, natural hot tubs and local monkeys will give you an extraordinary experience.
  7. Kurobe Dam and Gorge – a place with picturesque and colorful nature, which many travelers try to visit.
  8. Titibu-Tama Reserve .
  9. Jesinetsu Kogen Protected Area .
  10. Minami Arupusu Nature Park .
  11. Lake Taise with springs .

Where to stay?

The hotels in the city are located in the tourist areas close to the attractions. Hotels rent skis and provide shuttle service to the thermal springs and elevators. The most popular establishments in Hakuba are:

  1. Hotel Villa Hakuba – here there are fully equipped family rooms. Internet and parking are available.
  2. Hakuba Haven Lodge – a guest house made of log wood in the traditional Japanese style. It has a bar, a guest room, and a place to store skis.
  3. Bluebird Chalets is a four-star hotel with a ski school. There is a barbecue, parking, and laundry facilities. Staff speaks Japanese and English.
  4. Cortina Apartments – The facility has a restaurant, car rental, tour desk and ski instructors. There is a garden and non-smoking rooms.
  5. Backcountry Lodge Hakuba – The hotel is rated 3 stars. Accommodation with pets is allowed here, there is a storage room, bar and private parking.
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The most expensive hotels in town are considered to be: Hotel La Neige Higashi-kan, AMO 54, Hakuba Tokyu Hotel. They offer a variety of services: spa, onsen, training, shuttle service, laundry, etc. There is a restaurant with international cuisine, baths, and bathhouses.

Hotel

Where to eat?

Hakuba has a huge variety of cafes, snack bars, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. The most popular eating establishments in the city are:

  • Hummingbird – serving national dishes;
  • Mimi’s Restaurant and Bar – European and international cuisines;
  • Soba Shubo Zen – traditional local dishes;
  • Kikyo-ya – Japanese cuisine with seafood and sushi, serving gluten-free dishes;
  • Kobeya – Asian cuisine with barbecue.

Most Japanese recipes include rice and spicy condiments washed down with sake or green tea.

Dishes

Ride Features.

The city combines 10 resorts: Iwatake, Happoone, Sanosaka, Hakuba 47-Goryu and others. There are smooth wide slopes with steep sections, various ski jumps and extreme slopes. The latter are suitable for experienced skiers only.

Many slopes are suitable for beginners and families with children, but you should always be trained and try to find a safe and predictable slope, avoiding dangerous areas.

Descent

There are equipment rentals, various ski elevators, stores, playgrounds, restaurants, onsens and other entertainment. You can buy a general ski pass for all resorts, its price depends on the number of days: a day will cost about $ 50, and a week – 300. In Hakuba, it is better to carry cash, as credit cards are not accepted anywhere.

Funicular

How to get there?

From Tokyo to Nagano you can take the Hokuriko Shinkansen high-speed train. The trip takes 1 hour and 40 minutes and the ticket price is $70. In winter, a special bus service runs from Nagano Airport, with a round-trip ticket price of $90 and a journey time of up to 6 hours.

From Nagano you can get to Hakuba by express bus ($17) or by car on highways 19 and 31. The distance is about 45 km.

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