If you’ve been to any ski or snowboard movie premier over the last several years, you’ve seen shots of Japan that have left you wanderlust for adventure. And really, who’s to blame you?! The Land of the Rising Sun and the falling snow offers some of the dreamiest, fluffiest and deepest powder on earth and bountiful resorts to choose from. To top it off, a Japan ski trip is a culture hound’s dream! View sacred sites, eat unique foods, sit in Onsen hot springs and connect with some of the friendliest people around. With so many choices, where ARE the best places to ski Japan? If Japan has been calling your name, read on because we break down some snow-mission itineraries for you.
Pro-tip for Coloradans: United offers a direct Denver to Tokyo (Narita and Haneda). Better pack your bags.
BELIEVE US – IT’S SO EASY TO SKI JAPAN
Let’s paint the perfect picture for your Japan ski or snowboard trip. You’ll start with a flight to Narita or Haneda airports (Tokyo), and we’ll help you find which airport near you offers direct flights – there are a lot. Nothing gives you a better start to a trip when you don’t have to deal with the hassle of switching flights and no-fun layovers. After a (somewhat) quick flight, you’ll land in magical Japan, and the fun will begin to unfold. Every mile you fly gets you closer to snow-covered landscapes, intriguing culture and endless adventure! (We are giddy just typing this!) From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene beauty of Japanese mountain towns to the kindness of strangers, each moment in Japan is unique and unforgettable.
Pro Tip: Looking for the easiest way to ski Japan? Check out Ski.com’s guided Japan trips for pre-packaged deals.
WHERE TO GO, WHAT TO DO
There are a ton of different ways to organize your trip so let’s unpack a few itineraries. Since you’re most likely going through Tokyo, it’s worth it to give yourself a couple of days on the front or backend of your trip to explore the bustling city. Not sure where to stay, where to go or must-try restaurants? Our Mountain Travel Experts are an invaluable resource to help curate your dream trip to Japan! We chatted with a few of them to get their favorite suggestions on what to do in Tokyo with a short amount of time.
- Tokyo Ramen Tours – A great way to take advantage of a short time. The guide gives you a great lay of the land and takes you off the beaten path. They have a few options for different tours. Our agents suggest the “Ultimate Ramen Tasting Tour” which takes you to three stops with two (mini) bowls of ramen at each stop. You will have 6 different options at each stop. This ramen tour is progressive tasting experience highlighting ramen through out history – classic Hokkaido ramen, fusion ramen and savory curry.
- Tokyo Station – A train station with a vibrant food district and upscale shopping. Its the perfect spot to lounge around for the afternoon and try different foods and collect souvenirs. (Gifts we know you will want to get for all the friends you left behind while you went on your epic Japan trip).
- teamLab – An immersive art experience not to be missed. teamLab is an art collective that combines technology for a full-body immersive art experience. The artists and creators behind teamLab are a self-described “interdisciplinary group of ultratechnologists whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, design and the natural world.” They have created the ultimate art exhibit that is interactive and mind-bending.
- Stay: Shangri-la Tokyo – A beautiful oasis in the bustling streets of Tokyo. This hotel is a short two minute walk from Tokyo Station, making zipping around the city incredibly easy.
DONT STREESS ON LUGGAGE
Our experts can also get you set up with an amazing service that will transport your gear to your mountain for you. No need to worry about lugging gear around the city, on the train and through more airport security. From Haneda airport (AND Narita airport), you can catch a flight to New Chitose (Hokkaido’s airport) on the northern island, home to some of Japan’s most iconic ski resorts.
Hokkaido is the hopping-off point for many different ski resorts, including Niseko, Rusutsu, Kiroro, Furano and many smaller areas around the city of Sapporo and around the island. Each region has its own charm and unique terrain. But what they all share is that LIGHT, FLUFFY JA-POW you are chasing after. Niseko, world-famous for its pow AND its après. Rusutsu for its expansive terrain (the most lifts and gondolas of all the resorts in Hokkaido) and amazing views with Mt. Yotei as a backdrop. Kiroro, a locals favorite and hidden gem promises pristine powder and an intimate atmosphere. Furano boasts of 3,116 vertical feet of terrain, making it an ideal spot for world championships such as the FIS Ski World Cup and the Snowboarding World Cup.
THE MOUNTAINS ARE CALLING
And you obviously must go! However, if you have some time on your hands, consider spending a day or two in Sapporo, just two hours from Niseko and just under an hour from New Chitose Airport. The city is famous for its outdoor atmosphere, great food and famous beer. Sapporo also hosted Asia’s first-ever Winter Olympics in 1972. The city’s Snow Festival is an inspiring experience, with intricate ice sculptures and a vibrant winter atmosphere to round out your Japanese ski vacation.
HOW TO GET FROM SAPPORO TO NISEKO
There are a few different easy to get from Sapporo to Niseko between bus and train. Taking the bus is one of the easiest and most cost-effective. You can get straight to Rusutsu resort via bus from Sapporo. Speaking with a Mountain Travel Expert is the easiest way to figure out your best plan of action for getting to and from Hokkaido.
WHERE TO GO IN HOKKAIDO
Niseko is a great place to base yourself. Technically, the area is four different resorts that all fan out from a shared volcano on Hokkaido. The off-piste and out-of-bounds skiing is legendary at Niseko, but the on-piste blues and greens shouldn’t be dismissed either. Basically, Niseko is a great area for all types of skiers and riders! Kiroro and Rusutsu are just a short day trip away, and your Ski.com Expert can set you up with local, English-speaking ski guides who can show–and drive–you around to experience the best of Hokkaido.
MORE OPTIONS, MORE LINES TO FIND – HAKUBA
Another region off the beaten path, but just as dreamy, is Hakuba. This alpine landscape boasts peaks that soar over 8,000 feet above the valley floor and is known as the “Japanese Alps.” Hakuba Valley and Hokkaido are probably a couple of the most sought after mountain towns in the world. If you are flying into Narita, Hakuba is a short and incredibly scenic bullet train ride away. You’ll want to take the train from Narita to Nagano City, which will put you at the front door to Hakuba Valley.
Hakuba Valley has 10different resorts to choose from. Each offers a diverse array of piste terrain that caters to everyone, from beginners to advanced. If you’re after that plentiful Ja-POW, head right to Cortina for the ultimate powder paradise. The key to unlocking the gems of this region is a willingness to explore different resorts. Getting around is easy, and there are multi-resort lift ticket options. While Hakuba doesn’t get quite the same amount of snowfall as Hokkaido, the area boasts steeper terrain.
Those in the know understand the secret of Hakuba lies in its backcountry options. Opportunities for backcountry skiing and split boarding run thick throughout the area. The fusion of Hakuba ski resorts, backcountry options and charming villages is truly what sets this region apart. Your Ski.com Expert will help you take the guesswork out of finding all the stashes by arranging for you a private, local, English-speaking guide.
SO MUCH PLANNING, SO LITTLE TIME
We know that when you google “ski Japan” you are given an onslaught of information that can be hard to unpack if you don’t know someone who has been before. That’s what Ski.com’s Mountain Travel Experts are here for. They are the friends we all want – the ones with all the insider knowledge on where to stay, where to ride, what to bring and what to eat. The ones that will make your Ja-POW trip flow with ease.