Japan is a country of multitudes. From the manga madness of Tokyo to the temples of Kyoto and all the way to the beautiful beaches of Okinawa, the island nation is incredibly versatile and endlessly fascinating. To top it all of, Japan is also one of the best ski destinations on the planet. Planning your first winter trip to Japan? You’ve come to the right place. Here, we tackle the most frequently asked questions about skiing in Japan.
Where Can I Ski in Japan?
There are several hundred ski resorts dotted across Japan, so there is plenty to choose from. A good portion of the resorts is set along the Japanese Alps, which stretch along the main island of Hoshu. The most popular areas for skiing in Japan are Hokkaido in the north and Honsu’s Nagano, which is located some 300 kilometres west of Tokyo. Some of the most popular ski resorts in Japan include Niseko in Hokkaido and Hakuba in Nagano.
How Do I get There?
Japan is famous for its super-efficient transportation system and getting to the ski resorts from the airport is usually pretty seamless. If you’re travelling to Niseko, you’ll fly into New Chitose Airport – you can buy an international flight to Tokyo and then get a low-fare domestic connection to Chitose. From Chitose airport, you can catch a bus to Niseko which will take between 2.5 – 3 hours. For more details, check out our post about how to get from Chitose Airport to Niseko by bus. Taking the bus is the cheapest option, but you can also book private transport.
If you’re travelling to Hakuba, you’ll most likely be arriving at one of the airports in Tokyo, namely Narita or Haneda. From Narita, you can catch the Skyliner Express Train to Ueno station and then transfer to the Shinkansen bullet train to Nagano. The easiest way to get to Nagano from Haneda is to catch the Nagano Snow Shuttle. This will bring you directly to Nagano without needing to transfer. For more information, check out our Getting to Hakuba guide.
When Is the Best Time to Ski in Japan?
As the resorts are divided across the country, when is the best time to ski in Japan varies according to where you’re planning to ski. Roughly put, the ski season in Japan stretches from December to April. As with most travel destination, Christmas and New Year tend to be very, very popular and accommodation at ski resorts gets booked way in advance. The ski season tends to start a bit earlier on the northern island of Hokkaido as compared to the resorts on Honsu. Niseko in particular is known for offering reliable powder – check out when the snow in Niseko is at its very best.
Shoulder season at either end of the ski season is a good time to travel if you’re looking for bargains and want to avoid the crowds. It’s important to note, however, that the start and end dates of ski season vary between resorts and if you travel either very early or late in the game, some resort services might not be available.
Can I Rent Ski Gear in Japan?
Ok, so now you know where and when to travel for skiing in Japan. Now it’s time to actually get your skis on! If you’re not a frequent skier or simply want to avoid the hassle of bringing your own ski gear, you can rent all the equipment you need on site. In big resorts like Niseko, you can rent everything from skis to snowboards and from boots to jackets. Rhythm Rental offers a huge range of boards, skis and other equipment in both Niseko and Hakuba. You can book equipment online or simply head to the store once you’re in town.
How Much Are the Lift Tickets?
The price of the lift tickets depends of course on the resort but also on the number of resorts and days that are included in the ticket.
In Niseko, you can book the very convenient ‘Niseko All Mountain Lift Pass’ which covers Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri resorts. The prices for this Niseko United ticket start at JPY 6,300 (USD $55) for an eight-hour ticket. You can by a pass for up to 21 days or get a pass for the whole season. These prices are valid on season with the prices going down for off season and last season (that would be the beginning and end of the ski season).
Hakuba offers a similar Hakuba Valley Ticket, which gives access to 10 mountains in Hakuba valley. The prices start at JPY 5,700 (USD $50) for a one-day ticket. You can buy lift tickets for both Niseko and Hakuba online before you arrive, meaning you can start skiing in Japan straight after you arrive. Check Niseko United and Hakuba Valley for more details.
What About Accommodation?
So you’re done with skiing for the day – but where do you hang your hat? There’s plenty of great accommodation available in both Niseko and Hakuba. If you’re planning on skiing in Japan during high season (i.e. Christmas and New Year), it’s important to book in advance, as the best places get snatched up early.
Ministry of Villas offers luxury chalets in Niseko and Hakuba. Browse and book chalets directly on our website or contact our team for personalised assistance. Our service goes beyond what you see online: our concierge will help you arrange transfers, ski hire, snowboard hire, lessons and lift passes before your trip.