Most Japanese say having the ability to enjoy all four seasons outdoors is what makes Japan unique. The tourist records set over the past few years is in agreement with that statement for sure. Here in Tokyo, we can trek to western Kanagawa, Nagano, Gunma and Tochigi Prefectures in search of the perfect slope to ski down. But what if you have only a few days to yourself? You’re in luck because some of the best skiing on Earth can be found a short hop away.
Many companies cater to getting you to and from the slopes for a day’s snowboarding or skiing, and many of those are all-inclusive. Just pay one price, and it covers the bus/train roundtrip, as well as lift tickets and more. Here’s a short list of some of the best we’ve found so far:
Perhaps the most accessible ski resort to get to from Tokyo, Gala Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture northwest of Greater Tokyo is only 80 minutes by Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, and directly connected to its namesake station. The ski area itself is very English (also Chinese, and Thai) friendly and offers skiing and snowboarding for all ages and levels. No need to bring your equipment; the equipment rental office can supply everything.
If you stay in the same area as Gala above, in the town of Yuzawa, and you’re the type that likes to “wing it” and go where the day takes you, much of a plan isn’t necessary, to be honest. Take the same Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train as above and get off at Echigo Yuzawa station (one stop before Gala Yuzawa) and there are at least two slopes within walking distance of the station! Many more offer free shuttle bus service from the station. The town itself is a great destination any time of the year since it’s also famous for its hot springs but comes into its own during the winter ski season. Some of the ski areas around town include:
And of course, check out the town tourist info office for more details on everything else.
The great thing about living in a major metropolis is you’re bound to find people that are into the same thing you are, and the Tokyo Gaijins group proves this point. The group is dedicated to those who love sports and the outdoors, and when winter rolls around, they make sure every weekend is an opportunity to enjoy skiing and snowboarding out on the slopes without hassle. Their trips are usually all-inclusive with transport, hotel stay and meal provided; rental, lessons, lift tickets are extra, but their website spells out the charges. Do check their listings for upcoming ski trips planned to make sure you can get in on the fun.
Lastly, if you’re still a bit undecided and your Nihongo is OK, you can always pop into one of many travel agent offices around town and ask to see their ski packages. For the rest of us, the best way is to go to JTB’s English travel site, Japanican.com and check their ski package listings. From day trips to Mt Fuji area ski areas to 3-day packages to Hokkaido ski resorts, you can find something that will suit your level of skiing or boarding.
Website: Japanican.com (Ski Packages)
–By Jason L Gatewood