I grew up skiing on the East Coast, so no powder, but powder wasn’t something I knew to miss! In fact, having skied in powder in the Hokkaido prefecture in Japan was amazing but so different for me. I share this fact to show that I’m not a powder snob! I just plain like to ski and I’ll take it where I can get it! The places I’m highlighting keep kids in mind and are do-able trips from Okinawa Japan where we are currently stationed! Our kids (13 and 8) have caught the ski bug so we try and go annually to Mainland Japan for the great skiing to maintain their skills! Here are my top picks/ideas for somewhat easy affordable ski trip ideas in Japan!
I can speak to this trip with all the confidence that it will blow your socks off to ski in full view of Mt. Fuji while gliding down the slopes. You can catch the full info here in my previous post, but know I would do this trip a thousand times over, we all loved it! P.S If you are not a skier, you can do a day of sledding here at either ski resort (Yeti or Fujiten) with scenic Mt. Fuji!
- FLY -space A to Yokota (via Patriot express every Saturday from Kadena Okinawa) Or Fly into Haneda
- RENT A CAR- rent a car from airport or Yokota passenger terminal and drive hour and half to Gotenba town
- STAY grab a hotel in Gotenba, great town full of shops, restaurants, and hot springs! or book a roon at Mountainview Inn at Camp Fuji Marine Base ($42/night 2 people per room)
- SKI drive to Yeti or Fujiten Ski resorts both within 30 minutes drive
If you are looking for that powdery goodness that skiers long for, you’ve got to head North to Hokkaido! Our boys were in absolute heaven here with this snow covered town, our full post here. In fact, in snowed on us for the entirety of our trip! You will be cold and wet, so bring your best weather ready gear, especially ski masks to see! We did a long weekend here which was doable but wished we had an extra day to ski for two days and tour the town for one! Hokkaido is also known for its farm lands giving way to wonderful corn, dairy, and potato produce featured in their famous ramen, so grab a bowl while your there and don’t miss the Sapporo brewery either!
- FLY to Sapporo Airport (CTS) grab the rapid train to Sapporo Station, pick a hotel close to the station for easy transportation through the city.
- STAY Hotel Mystays Sapporo Aspen- keeps you close to the train station and a bus ride directly to the Ski resort! Book fast, they fill up!
- TRAIN You don’t need a car here! We did just fine using the trains and cabs to get us around
- SKI Sapporo Tiene lots of slopes here, fun ferris wheel at the top of one of the hills and bus provided to and from resort via hotel. 30 minute shuttle from hotel.
Your quickest bet from Tokyo is a relatively quick bullet train (hour and half) away to Gala Yuzawa Station. There is about 13 ski resort options from this train station! You can actually rent your ski gear at the train station, so if you didn’t want to lodge in this area and prefer a hotel in Tokyo, you could totally do this as a day trip! (stay in the military lodging in tokyo-New Sanno or Hardy Barracks-we love Hardy barracks by the way, can’t beat $50/night) But I would stay in this area overnight because the deeper I researched the more there is here and ideally want two days of skiing with hot springs options all around! P.S this spot would be spectacular to visit in warm weather too, there’s a very scenic waterfall nearby!
- FLY Access from Narita / Haneda Airport take the Narita Express to Tokyo station which will take 53 minutes. From Haneda airport you will need to take the Tokyo Monorail to Tokyo station which will take 30 minutes. At Tokyo station follow the signage for the Joetsu Shinkansen and take a Shinkansen to Gala!
- STAY Yuzuwa New Otani Hotel
- Train Take Shinkansen from Airport (rental car not needed)
- SKI take your pick from 13 ski resorts located in this area, all driveable via taxi from Gala Yuzuwza train station
For military friends, this trip may be the most affordable on the list! Grab the Patriot Express Space A flight every Saturday and fly to Iwakuni, if it makes you feel better, purchase a one way trip back to assure your return home! Stay at the miltary lodging on base and rent a car! When you land at the terminal, take the free shuttle bus that circles the base to the car rental place! Grab your car and drive about an hour and half to the Hiroshima area to Ski. Staying on base will cost you about $80 a night and the car rental $70/day give or take! Check out our full Iwakuni post here for all things Iwakuni not to be missed!
- FLY Space A to Iwakuni or purchase flight to Iwakuni airport
- STAY Military Lodging on Iwakuni MCAS
- TRANSPORTATION Rent a car on base to drive to Ski resort
- SKI Megahira
This one is high on my list, but entails a bit more travel from the airport. Most people rent cars, (snow tires are essential) but you can take a train from Tokyo to Nagano (2 1/2 hours) and then rely on cabs/trains/buses to navigate Nagano. However the prefecture is huge and very spread out so renting a car may be your best bet. There’s so much to see here aside from great skiing in the Nagano area- the onsens, snow monkeys, matsumoto castle, and zenkoji temple to name a few! Even researching Nagano is a bit overwhelming since the ski resorts are all spread out and quite a distance from the main (Nagano) Station, so let me give you a few options based on different areas of Nagano! Heads up, I found lodging to be pricey, but from the looks of the scenery well worth it! Also side note, I prefer not to rent a car particularly in this area due to the snow tires requirement but personally think coming back to this area in the Fall/Spring and driving around would be spectacular.
Nagano Skiing Plus Snow Monkeys: Ski Shiga Kogen area of Nagano, comprised of 18 ski resorts (largest in Nagano) with hotel stays in the nearby resort hot springs town of Yamanouchi. Two days of Skiing and one day of touring snow monkeys and shiga onsen. Check out things to do Yamanouchi here!
- STAY- Hotel options: Kogen Prince Hotel, Zen Hostel, Aibiya hotel,
- TRANSPORTATION: Fly into SHINSHU/Matsumoto airport or Tokyo Narita Airport. Rent a car drive to Yamanouchi to stay. Or catch train from Tokyo to Yudanaka train station.
- SKI-Shiga Kogen Ski resort -From Yudanaka Station, two local buses service Shiga Kogen yet head to different areas of the mountains. While this can seem a little confusing, the journey is easily navigable. The Shiga Kogen Lineheads to Shiga Kogen with its final destination being Hotaru Onsen (Suzurikawa) while the Shiga Kogen Express Line also services Shiga Kogen but with a final destination of Okushiga Kogen Hotel.
- TO DO- Snow monkeys are close by from Yudanaka Station: catch a local bus that heads toward the snow monkey park. You have two options for reaching Jigokudani (snow monkey park) – 1. the Kanbayashi Bus Line, disembarking at the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop or 2. the Shiga Kogen Bus Line, disembarking at the Snow Monkey Park bus stop. Both stops are very close to the entrance of the monkey park.
Nozawa Onsen Ski Village: This is the Kyoto of Nagano-think old ski village, lantern lit streets filled with warm food smells and the best powder snow Japan has to offer! Here’s 8 more reasons to make Nozawa Onsen your pick for skiing and culture!
- STAY Nozawa Onsen Utopia, Elizabeth hotel
- SKI Nozawa Ski Resort
- TRANSPORTATION Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Iiyama (100-120 minutes, around 8500 yen one way, 1 train/hour) and transfer to the Nozawa Onsen Liner bus (40 minutes, 600 yen one way, departures every 1-2 hours) for Nozawa. Unfortunately, bus departures are often not timed to shinkansen arrivals and vice versa. The Japan Rail Pass and JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass cover the shinkansen ride, but not the bus ride. Also, note the town/village is very compact, car have a hard time driving, your best bet is walking and picking a hotel close to the ski resort!
- TO DO 13 free onsens in this village, sake is also famous here, as well as the nightlife and food!
Hakuba- Our nagano list wouldn’t be complete without the Hakuba area, renown for the Japanese alps and home to amazing ski powder! The Hakuba area’s main attraction is truly the skiing, so this location is for those who’d like to ski their entire visit! Many Ski in/out lodging options!
- STAY Hotel Villa Hakuba (ski-in), Hakuba Hifumi, Courtyard by Marriot Hakuba, Mominoki hotel
- TRANSPORTATION Take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano (100 minutes, 8000 yen) and then an express bus from Nagano to Hakuba (60-90 minutes, 1800-2000 yen), where the bus stops at Hakuba Station and directly at the base of several ski resorts. To get around town check out the shuttle buses that many hotels offer as well as the Genki-go local bus schedule here!
- SKI Happo One Hakuba Ski Resort
- TO DO and EAT Check out this ultimate guide for families to Hakuba.
The ski season is a high traffic time for flights and hotels, try booking a little bit closer to the Spring for cheaper deals especially in the Sapporo and Nagano areas that still offer skiing well into March/April! Or Book as early as possible for the window of optimal skiing in Japan from December-February for the best powder!
Check out our Japan inspired SHOP!