Japan is made up of four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The islands mostly feature mountainous terrain and numerous lakes. The cities are Western influenced yet distinctly Asian. They bustle with activity and the people are among the friendliest and most courteous of anywhere in the world. The Japan Alps in Central Honshu is the busiest skiing area in the country and the ski season here runs from December to May.
Most of Japan’s ski resorts are scattered around Central Honshu and on Hokkaido Island to the north, while Nagano prefecture to the northwest of Tokyo in central-westHonshu offers the best choice. The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano.
Nozawa Onsen is one of Japan’s most extensive ski resorts, but it doesn’t permit snowboarding. The ski and village facilities here are superb and there are free hot springs dotted around the town. The slopes here are well groomed for beginner and intermediate skiers, while experts have some mogul runs near the top of the mountain and one very long slope. Accommodation and après-skioptions are also good, but prices are expensive in the high season.
Not far to the south is Shiga Kogen is a collection of 22 major ski resorts that are interconnected by trails and buses. The mountain is given over to all types of resorts, with some being quiet and others well geared for the tourist hordes. Prices are generally cheaper than at Nozawa Onsen and there is greater hotel availability at the lesser resorts.
North of Tokyo, Appi Kogen is one of Japan’s best ski areas, withwell-groomedpistes and trails for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. There is mogul terrain galore here, deep powder, loads of ski lifts and excellent après-skifacilities. Other top resorts in Japan include Niseko, Furano and Asahi Dake in Hokkaido as well as Sun Alpina and Zao on Honshu.
Tokyo’s Narita International Airport receives the bulk of air traffic into Japan and has excellent access to Tokyo and farther afield. While Narita is the main point of entry into Japan,Osaka-KansaiInternational Airport is also a busy hub with excellent transfer options by road and rail. Other airports in Japan include Chitose and Sapporo on Hokkaido Island. Japan is crisscrossed by well-maintainedexpressways and bullet trains provide fast access to major points.
If you’re travelling here, we recommend that you take a good guidebook. We like the layout and content of the Lonely Planet book. It provides an excellent mix of travel information and practical advice. Click below to purchase. You won’t regret buying it!