Japanese style room with futons on the tatami floor
Japanese style room with futons on the tatami floor
Ryokans have traditional Japanese architecture and decor
Ryokans have traditional Japanese architecture and decor
Traditional Japanese decor of a ryokan
Traditional Japanese decor of a ryokan
Ryokan often have onsen (hot spring) baths
Ryokan often have onsen (hot spring) baths
Outdoor onsen: ideal to have at your Japanese ski resort accommodation
Outdoor onsen: ideal to have at your Japanese ski resort accommodation
Western style rooms typically have twin single beds
Western style rooms typically have twin single beds
Massive resort hotel at the base of Rusutsu Resort
Massive resort hotel at the base of Rusutsu Resort
Large resort hotel at the base of Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort
Large resort hotel at the base of Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort
Small pre-fabricated bathrooms are somewhat common
Small pre-fabricated bathrooms are somewhat common
Ryokans and minshuku (Japanese pension) generally have futons
Ryokans and minshuku (Japanese pension) generally have futons
Western/Japanese combo room; twin beds & tatami sitting area
Western/Japanese combo room; twin beds & tatami sitting area
Japanese room before the futons are laid out after dinner
Japanese room before the futons are laid out after dinner
Niseko has lots of apartments with kitchen and living area
Niseko has lots of apartments with kitchen and living area
At a ryokan you can wear your yukata to dinner
At a ryokan you can wear your yukata to dinner
Kaiseki dinner at a ryokan
Kaiseki dinner at a ryokan
Typical western room with twin single beds
Typical western room with twin single beds
King beds are rare, except at resorts like Niseko
King beds are rare, except at resorts like Niseko
Western/Japanese combo room
Western/Japanese combo room
Large full bathrooms are not the norm (Chalet Ivy Niseko)
Large full bathrooms are not the norm (Chalet Ivy Niseko)
Capsule hotel style dormitory at Geto Kogen
Capsule hotel style dormitory at Geto Kogen

Accommodation

Japanese Ski Resort Accommodation

A lot of the accommodation at the Japanese ski resorts is very Japanese in nature, because it is in Japan after all! The style of Japanese ski resort accommodation can be very different to western-style lodging that you may be used to, so for some it offers a lovely opportunity to experience the Japanese culture, whilst for others it can come as a rude shock – unless of course you have your expectations set appropriately beforehand.

You can book your accommodation for the Japanese ski resorts on Powderhounds.com, and for many of the ski areas you can search for available accommodation, and filter by rates, accommodation type, distance from the slopes, number of stars and property features.

Western Style Accommodation

As a general rule, when it comes to accommodation at the Japan ski resorts, western style accommodation in hotels and pensions consists of single beds that have a frame so that the bed is up and off the floor. Even though the bed will have a mattress, it may be very firm. Pillows may also be rather hard, small or feel like a beanbag.

Double beds (or queen or king beds) are not that common, except at westernised ski resorts (e.g. Niseko).

Japanese Style Accommodation

Japanese style rooms have tatami flooring (straw matting) and you sleep on a futon on the floor. Japanese rooms often have a seating area with a low table and chairs without legs, and typically feature traditional Japanese décor such as shoji screens.

Some futons may feel rather thin and hard, particularly if your body is a little battered from skiing or snowboarding, so you may like to have two futons (or use a duvet for extra padding). There may be spare futons in the cupboard or ask your host.

Some Japanese tatami rooms may cater for a certain number of futons or guests, but keep in mind that big burly westerners with lots of luggage may find the room rather tight if you pack the maximum number of guests in. And often the pricing structure is such that they charge a lot to put more people in the room, so you might as well book two rooms.

If you didn’t need to take your shoes off at the entrance to the hotel or pension, then you definitely need to remove your shoes before stepping onto the tatami floor.

Western/Japanese Combo Rooms

Combination rooms generally have two single western beds as well as a tatami seating area, where you have the option to put futons on the floor for additional guests.

Bathrooms

Don’t automatically assume that your hotel room has a full ensuite bathroom. In olden days the tradition was to bathe in the onsen or shared bathhouse, and the custom continues at some hotels whereby the bathroom facilities are shared. Or some hotels have rooms with a private toilet (squat toilets are very very rare), with only the bathing facilities being communal.

Or at some hotels you’ll see a very small pre-fabricated bathroom tacked onto the corner of the room. As a general rule, it’s only the westernised ski resorts where you might find accommodation with a luxuriously large bathroom.

And yes if your hotel has shared bathrooms and the onsen is the only place to bathe, you’ll need to take your clothes off in front of others of the same gender (see the Japanese onsen etiquette page for more information - for example if you have tattoos you may not be permitted in the bath house). This is a fabulous way to embrace the Japanese culture!

Japanese Ski Resort Hotels

Many Japanese ski resorts were purpose built during the bubble era and rather than having a village or town at the base of the ski area, they just consist of a huge ski-in ski-out resort hotel or two (and perhaps a small collection of pensions).

Examples of Japanese ski resorts with this form of accommodation include Kiroro Ski Resort, Rusutsu, Tomamu, Sahoro and Yubari Resort in Hokkaido, and Tangram Ski Resort, Shizukuishi, Appi Kogen, and Joetsu Kokusai in Honshu.

Typically the big resort hotels have western style rooms with ensuite bathroom, and may also have Japanese and combo rooms available. Buffet meals for breakfast and dinner also seem to be the norm, and if you’re lucky the hotel may also have an à la carte restaurant.

Smaller Hotels

Many of the Japanese ski resorts have a range of small to medium sized hotels. Room types vary and hotels could have western and/or Japanese style rooms, they may have ensuite bathrooms, and may or may not have western fare for breakfast.

Even though a yukata (cotton robe) may be provided, it is not considered appropriate to wear your yukata to breakfast or dinner.

Luxury 5 star hotels are not that common at ski resorts in Japan. Japanese ski resorts with luxury accommodation include Niseko and Hakuba.

Pensions

Japanese pensions are simple inns that offer less amenities and services than a hotel, and are an inexpensive to moderately priced form of accommodation. The rooms may have a private ensuite or utilise shared bathrooms. Rooms may be western style with single beds, or the inn may offer Japanese style tatami rooms and then it is referred to as a minshuku. At minshuku you generally have to get the futon out of the cupboard and make the bed yourself.

It is reasonably common that inns/pensions only accept cash as a form of payment. Check the payment policy when booking online.

Ryokan

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel that provides a fabulous opportunity to experience Japanese culture. They are common in hot spring (onsen) towns (e.g. Nozawa Onsen, Shibu Onsen, Zao Onsen) and will often have beautiful indoor and outdoor onsen baths. Typically you need to take your shoes off at the entrance and swap these for slippers.

Ryokans have tatami rooms where you sleep on futons on the floor. The staff will typically make your bed during dinner and pack it away the next day during breakfast.

Half board is common whereby breakfast and dinner are included in the accommodation package, and dinner is kaiseki, a delicate multi-course meal. In a ryokan, it is common for guests to wear the yukata to meals. Costs for ryokan accommodation varies, but some are very expensive and pride themselves on incredibly high levels of service.

Self-Contained Accommodation

Self-contained accommodation such as apartments (condos) or houses/chalets are not that common at Japanese ski resorts because self-cater lodging is more of a western concept. A notable exception is the rather westernised Niseko where there are apartments and houses galore. Other Japan ski resorts (that are somewhat westernised) where there is some self-catering accommodation include Hakuba, Furano, and Nozawa Onsen. And a very small amount of house or apartment accommodation is available at Rusutsu and Myoko Kogen.

Backpackers and Hostels

Backpackers and hostels are also not that common and more typically exist in westernised resorts such as Niseko and Hakuba. Myoko Kogen, Asahidake and Rusutsu also have hostel style accommodation.

Capsule hotels are another form of budget Japanese accommodation, but these are typically isolated to the cities. One exception is the lodging at Geto Kogen.

Meals

Breakfast is included or can be provided at most Japanese ski resort accommodations, except for apartments and houses. If you are not adventurous with your food and don’t want to eat fish and unidentifiable items for breakfast, you may want to check if the hotel or pension offers some western items.

Evening meals are available at some properties and can sometimes be incorporated into the accommodation package as half board.

Buffets for breakfast and dinner are very common at many hotels.