Home to over 500 ski resorts, its hosted two Winter Olympics, and the ski season here is one of the snowiest in the world! When it comes to pure, unadulterated powder skiing, the Land of the Rising Sun is undisputedly world-class. Here's our top list of the best ski resorts in Japan!
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by Japan which impacted the 20/21 ski season. The strict border closures resulted in resorts operating predominantly for local residents only. In Hokkaido which is home to Niseko and Furano, restrictions included face coverings and physical distancing. Additionally, the Japanese Ministry of Health implemented a contact-tracing application “COCOA”, enabling residents to receive notifications about the possibility of contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Rusutsu is home to some of the deepest snow you’re ever likely to experience in your life, a place where crowds are non-existent (for now), and offering true indulgence to enjoy off the slopes. Perhaps what makes Rusutsu such an awesome ski resort is its versatility, with a nice balance of trails to suit all abilities. If you want to party, this resort isn’t the best choice, but honestly, after bouncing through powder all day you’ll probably be too exhausted anyway. It’s really the place to live in luxury for your Japanese ski vacation and comes complete with thermal hot spring baths, lavish to say the least!
Niseko is often the first choice for international skiers and snowboarders planning a ski vacation in Japan, and it really is no surprise why. This place caters for English speakers better than any other ski resort in Japan and has plenty of restaurants serving up western fare. Multiple transport connections also make it really easy to get to, plus there’s accommodation to suit every budget and taste. It’s one of the snowiest ski resorts in Japan, with an awesome variety of terrain and access to amazing backcountry! However, its fame has brought with it an increase in prices and crowds on the slopes.
Hakuba 47 and Hakuba Goryu are interconnected at the summit and are both accessible with one lift pass. Hakuba 47 is known for its winter sports park that offers a half-pipe for professionals and various jumps. Meanwhile, Goryu is more beginner friendly and has the largest night skiing area out of all the resorts at Hakuba. Both parts of the resort will give you an authentic Japanese ski town experience without it being difficult to navigate by English speaking visitors. On the downside, off the mountain there isn’t so much to do, with just a few places to stay, eat, and drink next to the slopes.
Made famous by the Nagano Winter Olympic Games in 1998, Happo One is the most popular resort in Hakuba Valley. To accompany Happo One’s huge terrain there are great shops, nightlife and restaurants that cater for those who want both western dining and traditional Japanese Izakaya. Happo really excels in their availability of sidecountry and access to the highly famed alpine backcountry with steep bowls at the ski resort. Although Happo One best suits intermediates, novice skiers will have plenty to do near the Sakka region which is loaded with beginner ski areas, tubing courses, trampolines and a children’s park.
Skiing at Sapporo Teine offers one of the cheapest ways to experience the legendary powder that Japan is so famous for. It’s not a particularly big resort but does get pretty steep here, something that Japanese ski resorts aren’t renowned for. Being literally just outside of Hokkaido’s biggest city, Sapporo Teine holds something unique over most other ski resorts in Japan. Head to the Highland Zone to see the snow, sea, and sity all in one view. However, intermediates might feel let down by the terrain here so if you fall into this category, consider a more intermediate-friendly ski resort, like Kiroro.
Nozawa is blessed with over 32 ft of powder each season and is only made up of one ski area with around 740 ac of skiable terrain. Although originally famed for their onsens, Nozawa is becoming a mecca for keen skiers and après-skiers while still retaining its traditional Japanese charm. In terms of Japanese standards, Nozawa has one of the best après ski scenes with a wide range of bars, restaurants and karaoke joints. Families will find Nozawa especially accommodating as there is a ski school with English speaking instructors and a free-of-charge ‘Kids Park’ on weekends with a bouncing castle as well as tubing and sledding.
Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest ski area with 19 interlinked resorts which are all accessible on one lift pass. Experts may find the terrain not challenging enough as there is nothing particularly steep and off-piste skiing is banned at most of the ski areas. The nightlife at Shiga Kogen is very modest, with no central village due to the layout of the resorts and most guests opt to eat, drink and socialise within their own accommodation. Your trip to Shiga Kogen would not be complete without a trip to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, with daily bus services running between the resort and the park. If you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture, Shiga Kogen is the place to go as the resort is not overrun by tourists.
Furano is one of the most famous ski resorts within Japan, and has adapted very well to its increasing popularity, catering well for international skiers without losing its authentic Japanese charm. Alongside a fulfilling cultural experience, you’ll enjoy some fantastic skiing here too. The ski area is above par in comparison to the rest of Japan, providing plenty of terrain to suit all abilities. Being so close to the city of Furano, just 4 mi away, means you’ll find a huge variety of restaurants serving all manner of traditional Japanese delicacies.
There aren’t many ski resorts like Tomamu in the world, being nestled within a pristine national park and blessed with bundles of fluffy powder during the winter. Whatever your first impressions might be, once you stay here you’ll realize just how much of a unique and amazing experience this place serves up! Not only does Tomamu cater well for expert off-piste skiers, there’s also a nice balance of beginner, intermediate, and advanced groomed trails to keep families of all skiing abilities happy. There's an indoor wave pool, church made out of ice, sledding, snow rafting, snowmobile rides, and the list continues.
Kiroro is a modern Japanese ski resort that enjoys all the benefits of a well-thought-out layout and a top-notch lift system. It’s perfectly suited for destination skiers ready to spend all day on the mountain, then ski right back into their hotel at the bottom of the slopes. Not to mention, the resort's non-skiing activities including tubing and the Snow Bubble Ball make it a great family-friendly option. It’s true that not as much English is spoken here but if epic skiing is your number one priority, this place is an absolute gem.
What makes Kagura so special is the stuff that lies beyond the boundaries - the off-piste tree runs, snow drenched peaks and exceptional powder. Although Kagura is relatively unknown to the international ski world, it means you won’t find many crowds on the mountain here. It really is a hidden gem considering how much amazing backcountry there is to explore, with much of it perfectly suited for a skier’s first foray into a powder-filled wilderness. The only downside to this high altitude is the freezing temperatures and wind chill, so just make sure you wrap up warm!