HDE Advent Calendar 2016

“one day - one person - one blog post”, from December 1st - 25th

HDE Advent Calendar Day 21: Skiing/ Snowboarding in Japan - Why I Urge You to Go This Season

Hi I'm Rima, translator at HDE Support Team and I heart snowboarding. 

I'd like to encourage you to go skiing/ snowboarding this season as I think it is one of the best ways to spend winter in Japan.

Due to the La Niña effect, 2017 winter is expected to be very cold with heavy snowfall. Though I'm saddend by the human impact on climate change, more snow during the winter months is fabulous news for enjoying winter sports!          f:id:rimahde:20161220164431j:plain

                                                 Zao, Yamagata - Source: Yamagata Prefecture/ JN

Since I lived in Singapore, California and Hawaii, I've never really been a big fan of winter and avoided cold places at all costs. I used to go surfing everyday in Hawaii, but after returning to Japan, jumping in the freezing, dark water in the middle of winter just didn't seem appealing to me so I took up snowboarding.

I have fallen in love with it ever since and have been going consistantly for the past 6 years. 

Here's why. 

6 Reasons to Go Skiing/ Snowboarding in Japan:

 1. Awesome J-Pow

Japan is known to have world class quality of powder snow. This freshly fallen, unpacked snow is so soft and literally feels like "powder". It won't hurt much when you fall, which is appealing to everyone but especially beginners who tend to fall on their bum a lot.

It feels like surfing when you're riding on powder...


                     Niseko, Hokkaido - Source:  http://hiltonhotels.jp/hotel/hokkaido/hilton-niseko-village


                                    Niseko, Hokkaido - Source: http://www.hanazononiseko.com/

To get the most consistant amount of powder, head north to Iwate or Hokkaido. Niseko is great for all levels and attracts a LOT of foreigners. The entire village seems like a foreign country with English signs and foreign staff working everywhere. Maybe not the place to go if you want to experience authentic rural Japan, but for the ultimate powder experience, Niseko is a must go:


If you prefer a more Japanese experience, head to Appi in Iwate:



                                           Appi Kogen, Iwate- Source: http://www.powderskijapan.com

If you're looking to go somewhere closer from Tokyo, go to Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Shiga Kogen in Nagano and Naeba or Myoko Kogen in Niigata as they are also known for the powder. There are day and weekend bus package tours as low as 9,800yen per person with roundtrip transportation from central Tokyo, accomodation, lift pass and meals included:

Tour Packages (Japanese only):


Tour packages (English available):


2. Appreciate the Beauty of Nature

Viewing great scenary while exercising is what really got me hooked on snowboarding. The snow does wonders to the terrain... 


                                                              Kagura, Niigata - Source: Me


                                                           Shiga Kogen, Nagano - Source: Me 

3. Onsen (Hotspring) & Winter Sports - The Perfect Combo

Japan has over 3,000 onsen spots with facilities and a whopping 22,000 natural hotspring sources nationwide! No wonder bathing is deeply rooted in our culture.

Most ski resorts and hotels have onsens either on site or close by which makes it easy to access after a day of getting pounded in the snow.  

Natural onsen in particular has minerals that are known to be theraputic for your body and mind. It alleviates wounds, muscle aches and keeps your skin firm and moist duirng the winter months. 

One of my favorite ski resorts, Nozawa Onsen, has lots of fun off piste runs and free natural hotsprings right by the slopes:


                                               Free public onsen "Ooyu"in Nozawa Onsen village:                   

                                               Source: http://www.nozawakanko.jp/spa/sotoyu.php


                                                   Nozawa Onsen, Nagano - Source: Ryokan Sakaya

4. Experiene Rural Japan

Tokyo is a big, bright city and has it's perks like unlimited food choices, gadgets, events and night life, but there are beautiful and fun things that only the country side can offer.

For insntace, Shirakawago is an ancient mountain village in Takayama, Gifu and the entire place is a proud UNESCO World Heritage site.

Walking through the village that's filled with snow-topped traditionally thached "gassho-zukuri" houses, you'll feel like you've slipped back in time:


                                   Shirakawago, Gifu - Source: http://rurubu.travel/theme/column/55/

Skiing/ snowboarding in Nagano and visiting this village may be difficult to do on one weekend as it takes about 3 hours one way by car from Hakuba. But, there is a small ski hill right by the historic site if you want to enjoy both sightseeing and winter sports.


You can go watch wild monkeys bathing in hotsprings just because you can (and they are pretty cute):     


                                                    Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, Niigata - Source: 

                                 温泉に入る猿!?「スノーモンキー」 | J ● T | Japanese Traditions and Culture


5. Enjoy the Country Night Life 

Just because you're out of the city, doesn't mean you can't have a good night out. Both Niseko and Hakuba have decent bars and clubs to go after dinner.

I do recommend that you check out these festivals before hitting the bars!:

Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Fire Festival (January 15th, 2017): 


Sapporo Snow Festival (February 1-12, 2017):


Shiga Kogen - Snow Monkey Beer Festival (March 19-20, 2017):


And last but not least...

6. Stay Fit and Healthy

Winter months can make you hiberante. Excercising feels like a chore since it's just so damn cold outside and you'd rather load up on carbs and binge watch netflix.

This is why going skiing and snowboarding is a great way to break a sweat and keep that extra weight off. You'll most likely be going with friends or family so it'll be way more fun than hitting the gym in Tokyo alone.

As Japanese winters tend to be generally sunny, you can also get enough sunlight and vitamin D to keep that winter blues away!


                                                            Nozawa Onsen - Source: Me 


So there you have it. My recommendations and tips on why and how you can enjoy winter sports this season.

Hope at least one or two things on this post inspired you to try them out.

Happy Holidays everyone and thanks for reading!


                                                                      Nagano - Source: Me