6 Best Ski Resorts for Snowboarding in Japan

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Any snowboard enthusiast would know that Japan is world famous for snowboarding and winter sports; There’s over 500 facilities in the country and the snow quality in Japan is amazing.

But you don’t need to be a hobbyist to enjoy snowboarding in Japan and it’s an activity recommended to anyone that visits the country. However, with the 500 different facilities in this small island, it’s hard to choose where to go during your limited time here. 

In this article, I present 6 different snowboard resorts, handpicked by us and our friends, that are some of the best ski resorts in Japan. Make sure to read until the end to find out Tomomi’s favorite spot!

Why Japan for Snowboard?

There are two main reasons why Japan is famous for snowboard: the snow and the facility. 

Japan is made up of 73% mountain and there is constant snowfall in these mountainous regions during the winter. The snow that falls in these regions are powder snow, really soft snow and something that you can only get in really cold climates. 

To complement the perfect landscape for snowboarding, Japan has built incredible facilities to encourage winter sports. There’s tons of ski lifts, restaurants in the slopes, and great transportation and lodging in these remote ski resort areas (not to mention the amazing views you can get at just about any ski resort).

When is Snowboarding Season?

Specific dates for snowboarding season may vary from area to area, but in general, it starts around the second week of December and ends around the end of March. Off-season usually starts and ends one week before and after the the season. 

For specific dates for snowboarding season, you can confirm through each ski resort’s website.

What to Bring?

While you can rent the snowboard, winter jacket, and winter pants at just about any ski resort, these are some items you should consider bringing to your trip:

  • snow hat/ helmet
  • snow goggles
  • snowboard gloves
  • winter socks
  • warm inner layer (like Uniqlo HeatTech)

Mailing Your Snowboard

In Japan, if you’re bringing your own snowboard, you have the option to send it by mail to the hotel you’ll be staying at. When you make the reservation, accommodations near ski resorts often also provide a mailing address for this reason. 

For those that take public transportation to the ski resorts, it can help take some load off their hands and for those that go by car, it can help clear up some space in the car. It’s not a bad idea and relatively affordable. Yamaneko provides quotes on their website if anybody is curious about the prices.

Niseko in Hokkaido (Most Popular)

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Niseko is one of the biggest and probably the most famous ski parks in Japan. This back-country ski resort is located in a remote location in Hokkaido and comprised of 4 ski resorts, each with fresh powder snow and its own unique courses.

How to get there

  • From Shin Chitose Airport: 3 hours by train or bus (reservation required)
  • From Sapporo: 3 hours by train
  • From Hakodate: 4 hours by train

Where to stay

Budget

  • Always Niseko – Modern hotel with great service and free shuttles to the ski resort.

Mid Range

Luxury

Shiga Kogen in Nagano (Most Interesting)

Shiga Kogen is an awesome ski resort that’s less known amongst travelers. It is actually one of the highest ski resorts in Japan and is very close to nature. The Shiga Highlands, one of Japan’s 9 UNESCO biosphere conservation area, is located right at the base of the ski resort and the hot spring monkey park in Jigokudani is very close as well. 

The village area is very quiet and don’t often have English support, but for those that want to experience Japan’s nature in a more remote region, Shiga Kogen is a great place to visit. 

How to get there

  • From Nagano Station: 70 minutes by train
  • From Yudanaka Station: 35 minutes by local bus
  • From Narita/Haneda: 5.5 hour bus ride (reservation required and only during season)

Where to Stay

Budget

  • Hotel Mount Shiga – Simple hotel with snow gear locker and hot spring near the ski resort.

Mid Range

Luxury

Hakuba in Nagano (Most Balanced)

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Hakuba is where they held the 1998 Olympics and it’s been a popular snowboard destination since. Once you’re in the Hakuba valley, you’re surrounded by white-topped mountains in every direction and there are a number of hot springs and restaurants so you can enjoy your time before and after the slopes. 

How to get there

  • From Nagano: 70 minutes by bus
  • From Tokyo: 6 hours by bus (reservation required)

Where to Stay

Budget

Mid Range

Luxury

Kusatsu in Gunma (Best Onsen)

The Kusatsu ski resort is one of the more underrated places for snowboarding. The Kusatsu Onsen Village is one of the most famous hot spring areas in Japan and the ski resort is within walking distance from here.

The Kusatsu ski resort is a bit smaller than others but it’s usually not crowded so it’s a good balance. It’s also very close to Tokyo and much cheaper than other resorts so you can even make a day trip!

How to get there

  • From Kusatsu Hot Spring: 20 minute walk or shuttle bus
  • From Tokyo: 6 hours by bus (reservation required)

Where to Stay

Budget

Mid Range

Luxury

  • Hotel Ichii – Spacious ryokan with Japanese and western rooms overlooking the famous Yubatake. 

Yuzawa in Niigata (Most Accessible)

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Not only does the area get tremendous snowfall every year, Yuzawa is also one of the most easily accessible ski resorts from Tokyo, with an expressway and a Shinkansen station running through the area. 

The place is also filled with sightseeing spots, onsen, and restaurants which make it a great travel destination as a whole. If you happen to be traveling around in Tokyo in the winter months, I definitely recommend making a snowboard trip out to Yuzawa!

How to get there

  • From Tokyo: 90 minutes by Shinkansen or 4 hours by local train

Where to stay

Budget

  • Sports Plaza Shirakiba – Simple tatami floor rooms and has a restaurant, equipment rentals, and communal bath. 

Mid Range

Luxury

  • Hotel Futaba – 4 star hotel with Japanese and western room options and upscale outdoor bath. 

Zao in Yamagata (Most Unique)

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The Zao ski resort is most famous for the thick, snow covered trees called Juhyo or “Snow Monsters”. There is so much snowfall in this area that the snow completely envelops the trees, making them look like giant snowmen.

Even with thousands of snowmen guarding the mountain, there’s still lots of room to ride your board down the slopes as Zao is one of the biggest resorts in the area. Throughout the year, Zao is also famous for its onsen, which is a perfect relaxation after a long day of winter sports. 

Snowboarding in this snowman village is a completely out of this world experience and she highly recommend taking a trip out to Zao if you can!

How to get there

  • From Yamagata: 40 minutes by bus
  • From Sendai: 100 minutes by bus
  • From Tokyo: 8 hours by bus (reservation required and only during season)

Where to stay

Budget

Mid Range

Luxury

What are some places you like to go for snowboard? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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