Big mountains, great powder
Just 1.5 hours from Tokyo, Nagano is home to many ski resorts with Shiga Kogen and the Hakuba Valley hosting some of the largest resorts in Japan.
Travelling to the north, the mountainous Niigata prefecture also provides plenty of options for mountain adventures.
Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen ski resorts showcase a beautiful Japanese experience with traditional architecture winding through their village streets.
We’ve all seen photos of onsen loving monkeys, and this region is home to the Wild Monkey Park where you can watch them bathing in the natural hot springs.
Located only 4 hours from Tokyo, the Hakuba Valley consists of 11 ski resorts that offer a wide variety of terrain. Whilst most of the Hakuba ski resorts are not interconnected via the slopes, they are accessible by shuttle, and the common lift ticket covering all resorts gives you the choice as to how you spend your day on the slopes.
Nozawa is a hot spring and ski resort village near Nagano, and the village is certainly the highlight of the area, offering a unique Japanese cultural experience. We recommend visiting the many onsens (in fact there are 13 free hotsprings, maintained by volunteers, many dating back to the 8th century.) With hotspring steam emerging from the cobblestoned village streets, it is certainly worth exploring all of the sights and sounds of Nozawa, and the entire town can be explored by foot.
Myoko Kogen lies in mountainous surroundings near the historical entrance to the Echigo Plains, an easy 2.5-3.5 hours drive from Tokyo. The area is dominated by 5 impressive mountains (Madarao, Myoko, Kurohime, Togakushi and Iizuna) that make up the border of Nagano and Niigata prefectures. Known for its powder, Myoko gets around 13 metres of white stuff every season on average (comparable to Niseko), perfect for powder hounds after a secret stash.
Located east of Nagano city, Shiga Kogen is a large complex of 22 mostly interlinked ski areas, with more than 120 lifts. It is unique compared to most resorts around Nagano prefecture, as you have to drive up to the resort area. As a consequence, the resorts are at a higher altitude with lighter and drier snow than anywhere else in the region. As one of the highest ski resorts in Japan (‘Kogen’ means heights or highlands in Japanese) with its excellent quality of snow, Shiga Kogen is certainly a popular spot for visitors; just don’t expect much in the way of night life.
Madarao mountain resort is located in the northern part of Nagano prefecture, between Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen. Great accommodation options, a tonne of powder, and plenty of ungroomed trails will make sure you get your share of Japow.
Naeba & Kagura
The first thing that grabs you is the steepness, Japan is not well known for this but Naeba has the steepest terrain by far. Out of bounds is strictly off limits but there is good steep powder to be had inbounds and many lines to keep you going.
Neaba is everything you need in one spot, really good rentals, accommodation and a good time with many restaurants and bars in the hotel and a couple of secret ones down the road within walking distance. Home to the Dragondola, the longest gondola in Japan, takes you from Naeba to Kagura
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