Japanese snowboard holidays conjure up thoughts of chest-deep powder, fresh sashimi, muscle-melting onsen and friendly locals. But with hundreds of resorts to choose from how do you decide where to go? This list of the 10 best Japan snowboarding resorts should help.
Famed for its epic snow, Japan is a snowboarders wet dream. Combine this with the unique Japanese culture and you have a holiday destination that should be on every snowboarders bucket list. But where to go?
In no particular order here are the top 10 destinations to snowboard in Japan.
Happo-One is one of Japan’s larger resorts, although quite small when compared with European and North American resorts. Home to the Winter Olympics in 1998, two massive ski jumps dominate the lower left-hand-side of the mountain from afar.
Located in the Hakuba Valley, every type of riding is catered for. From steep groomed pistes such as the Men’s Downhill, to fun ungroomed runs. There is also mini Alaskan style sidecountry that remains untracked for days after a storm.
Happo-One is ideal if you are looking at backcountry Japanese snowboard holidays. But having all the backcountry gear is vital as it is considered a double black diamond off-piste area. Also, if heading off-piste you should hire a guide. Not only may it may save lots of walking but it could save your life…
Another resort located in the Hakuba Valley, (Happo-One, Tsugaike and Hakuba 47 are the others in this list of the best Japan snowboarding resorts). Cortina is the business for inbounds tree skiing.
An insane amount of snow accumulates here every year. Combined with the perfectly spaced trees and lack of crowds, it’s not surprising many riders declare this their favourite resort in the Valley. For many it’s their ‘go-to’ resort for Japanese snowboard holidays
With wide long and often quiet runs, Tsugaike is a great resort for beginner to intermediate snowboarders. Experienced backcountry missioners will love the huge variety of easily accessed, out-of-bounds riding. But avalanche safety is paramount to stay safe in this area which few people visit.
Also, be sure to check out the foot onsen, just down from the gondola station. It’s the perfect spot to relax aching feet after riding hard all day.
The main draw for the small resort, linked to the larger Goryu area, is its well-maintained park that has some seriously poppy kickers. There is also a halfpipe to keep all those Kazu Kokubo aspiring shredders happy. Hakuba 47 also does a great job hosting many events throughout the season.
With all Goryu’s runs included in the same lift ticket, it’s a good family destination for Japanese snowboard holidays. Accommodation and food are cheaper than neighbouring Happo-One, plus you’ll avoid the crowds at the many bank holidays the Japanese have!
Nightlife is a lot quieter. But there are a few good bars, check out Tracks Bar who put on most of the top events in the area.
For a truly unique and Japanese experience that combines almost guaranteed, epic powder riding, Nozawa Onsen is the place to visit. This is such a charming little resort that instantly satisfies your preconceptions of an idyllic rural Japanese village.
Plus you get to go snowboarding as well!
This onsen town is famous throughout Japan for its many varied public baths. In summer Japanese tourists can be found wandering around the town in their bathrobes, hopping from one onsen to the next. After riding dreamlike powder, relaxing in the purifying waters is the ultimate way to unwind.
Beware though, some of these natural volcanic springs can get extremely hot. Ask a local which are the cooler ones before you get a scolding!
Another non-snowboarding – but equally cool – attraction is the Nozawa fire festival each winter. This mad, traditional ceremony involves lots of sake, and some very drunk, fire brandishing Japanese guys. It will be a highlight of any trip.
A no-brainer when considering Japanese snowboard holidays! The combined 18 ski fields of Shiga Kogen make up Japan’s largest ski area, including 51 lifts, gondolas, ropeways and tows.
Over this massive area there is terrain to suit all snowboarding styles and abilities. There are special slopes for complete beginners, and there are amazing views.
The 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Giant Slalom and Paralympic events were held here. The results of showcasing these events are the speedy and efficient lift systems.
A small resort similar in size to Cortina, Char Mont is on the north coast of Japan’s main island Honshu. Its location means it’s one of the first places to get the full effects of the Siberian storms that come across the sea.
The storms unleash unbelievable amounts of the white stuff in incredible quick periods. Ride through the trees here the morning of a snowstorm, and then take shelter in the mountain top cabin, chowing down on some fantastic local sashimi.
By the time you’re ready for round two in the afternoon, all your tracks will be filled and the resort fresh again. Not often frequented by ‘Gaijin’ (foreigners) it can be trickier to find accommodation near the hill, but with a little bit of persistence you’ll be welcomed in true Japanese style.
Not exactly the most touristy, but still a deserved entry on our list of the best Japan snowboarding resorts.
A list of Japanese snowboard holidays wouldn’t be complete without the most recognised Japanese resort. Niseko is famous for showcasing the light, dry powder that gave Hokkaido its identity.
An influx of Australian businesses has made this the top spot in any list of the best Japan snowboarding resorts. Easy to navigate, and with a more European feel than many of the smaller resorts, a week or two here is easy for those only wanting to dip their toes into the Japanese way.
Located on the northern island of Hokkaido, this is perhaps the most snow sure place in the world. Don’t expect much sunlight until well into spring, but do be prepared for your back leg to burn like never before.
Almost as famous as Niseko, Naeba is a larger resort with facilities to match and easily one of best Japan snowboarding resorts. Want to be pampered in a traditional Japanese ryokan? Like to spend time relaxing in a top western-style hotel? Naeba has many options.
If you fancy a change of scenery just jump on the ‘Dragondola’ and get whisked a massive 5.5km over to the Tashiro area of Kagura Ski Resort. With lifts open until late in the evening there’s plenty of time to ride without feeling bad for having a lie in.
For Japanese snowboard holidays with a European feel, Naeba is a top choice.
Located in Niigata Prefecture, Myoko Kogen includes many resorts. Of these Myoko Akakura is one of the favourites with locals.
Unspoilt by western or Australian influence, the resort is charming and quintessentially Japanese. But there are plenty of handy English signs, and (the seemingly mandatory) pictures of food outside most restaurants.
Steep tree runs and long verticals are easily found all over the area.
Japan is rightly considered the king of the fluffy deep white stuff! But there is so much more to book a ski holiday in Japan than the infamous JAPOW.
This list of the 10 best Japan snowboarding resorts gives you the best of all worlds. Small resorts where you can sample authentic Japanese culture. Large resorts that are more commercial and have a more European feel.
Have you been to any of these resorts? Where do you think is best for Japanese snowboard holidays? Let us know in the comments.
Be sure to check out our snowboarding holiday discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.