Tengendai

The upper zone of Tengendai Kogen
Tengendai Kogen Ropeway
The cable car services some steep tree skiing
Tengendai Kogen has nice snow in the upper zone
Mid-mountain Tengendai Kogen Ski Resort
Amazing backcountry in the background
A little bit of tree skiing near the top
Views of the Yamagata Mountains
Views of the Yamagata Mountains
This was potentially another restaurant in its heyday
Tengendai Kogen Yamagata
A little bit of skinning at Tengendai Kogen
Nishiya Ryokan with its thatched roof under the snow
Nishiya Ryokan in Shirabu Onsen
Nishiya Ryokan is very traditional
Tatami rooms in Shirabu Onsen
On the way to the onsen at Nishiya Ryokan
Simple facilities at the onsen
Private onsen bath at Nishiya Ryokan
Snow monkeys in Shirabu Onsen village

Tengendai

Readers Ratings

Tengendai

Tengendai3/51
Tengendai3 out of 5 based on 1 reviews
  • Recommend
    100%
  • Would Revisit
    100%
Hokkaido & Honshu Tour
World Nomads Travel Insurance
Tengendai Kogen along with the nearby village of Shirabu Onsen, is the place to go to absolutely and completely get away from it all and fully absorb yourself in the genuine Japan. You know that not many gaijin make it to these parts when the school kids at the Tengendai Kogen Ski Resort stare at you and giggle nervously!

Tengendai Kogen is worth including on a road trip of the Yamagata and Fukushima Prefectures, but only if temperatures are cold.

Summary of Pros and Cons of Tengendai Kogen

Pros
  • Tengendai Kogen has high altitude, a favourable aspect and great snow in the upper zone, and a long season from early December to mid May.
  • The gorgeous little Shirabu Onsen village offers a historic and traditional Japanese experience.
  • The Tengendai Kogen ski area offers some pretty views across the Yamagata mountains.
  • You can often see snow monkeys in and near Shirabu Onsen in their natural habitat, unlike the very touristy Jigokudani snow monkey park in Nagano.
  • Tengendai Kogen is not near any major cities, so not many Japanese people visit let alone gaijin.
Cons
  • Other than some very short-lived mellow tree skiing, the main part of the ski area is pretty lame.
  • The lifts are slow and the layout rather naff.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective 
  • The ropeway services some phenomenal slackcountry terrain with trees, gullies, and gnarly spines, but the snow quality down low may not always be optimal.
  • Ryokan accommodation can be very expensive, especially if you have meals included, but the experience of staying in Shirabu Onsen is pretty special.

Tengendai Kogen Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Not to be confused with the famed powder hound destination of Tenjindaira, the main part of Tengendai Kogen is a small and narrow ski area that sits on a ridge. It has 3 slow consecutive pair lifts and a handful of courses that run between 1,350m and 1,820m (470m vertical). Below this is a cable car that is primarily used for access, but there is also a gruelling hair-pin bend trail that runs down to the car park at 920m elevation.

The upper half of Tengendai Kogen is very mellow, with only 2 short advanced trails that hit a maximum gradient of 32 degrees for a moment. Near the top is a tiny bit of tree skiing, but the pitch is only adequate for about 10 turns.

Conversely, the cable car zone has some super steep terrain along with advanced tree skiing, much of which feeds back easily to the ropeway station. Many of the lines are south facing, so temperatures need to be cold and snow stability good to revel in this great terrain.

See the Tengendai skiing page for more information on the terrain and snow.

Where is Tengendai Kogen?

Tengendai Ski Resort is located on Mt Nishi-Asuma in the SW part of the Yamagata Prefecture of Honshu, close to the border with Fukushima Prefecture. The base of the Tengendai Kogen Ropeway is 1km southeast of the little village of Shirabu Onsen (not to be confused with Shibu Onsen in Nagano) and 20km south of Yonezawa City.

It is possible to get there via public transport with a train to Yonezawa on the Yamagata Shinkansen line and then there are occasional buses to Shirabu Onsen and Tengendai Kogen, but you’d really want to have a car because Tengendai is a road trip ski area, not a destination resort. A 4WD vehicle with snow tyres is recommended because even though the last part of the road is heated with onsen water, it’s hilly and windy. The telephone number for GPS navigation is 0238-55-2236.

Ski Areas Nearby

Grandeco Resort in the Fukushima Prefecture is just over the other side of the mountain. You can readily ski tour there, but it’s a decent distance by road, especially in winter (113km) because Route 2 between Inawashiro and Tengendai is closed due to the colossal amounts of snow.

There are a couple of other ski hills near Yonezawa that you could gladly skip, whilst Zao Onsen, also in Yamagata Prefecture is 71km northeast (1.5 hour drive).

Accommodation

The tiny Shirabu Onsen village is just a kilometre down the road from the ropeway. It is a 700 year old traditional onsen village and once upon a time, the three ryokan all had thatched roofs, but due to fire two ryokan now have a tiled roof. The village is sometimes aptly called "Shirabu Takayu Onsen", as “takayu” means “hot spring in high place”.

We highly recommend staying at Nishiya Ryokan (Shirabu Onsen Yutaki no Yado Nishiya – the West Inn) which is a 200 year old ryokan with its original thatched roof intact. The owner speaks English and can provide insights into the fabulously historic nature of the building. As is typical of traditional ryokan, most of the rooms don’t have a private toilet and bathing is in one of the onsen baths (public or private bath) which are olden style. Don’t expect fancy showers or the like, but the onsen experience is superb. Breakfast and dinner can be included, or you can prepare a simple meal in your room with hot water, as there are no other dining options in the village.

Or you can stay at the upscale Takamiya Ryokan Yamanoki. The ryokan has tatami rooms and western/Japanese combo rooms, all with private ensuite, or of course you can bathe in the onsen.

Ryokans can be pricy, so if you’re on a budget you could stay at the dodgy looking pension up on the hill or stay in a Yonezawa hotel.

Yonezawa Hotel Listings

Facilities & Activities

The Tengendai Kogen ski resort facilities are simple. There is a cafeteria mid-mountain as well as a rest house further up the hill. The ropeway station sells a few souvenirs and there is a gift shop in the village, but this is not the sort of place that you’d find a Lawson or 7-Eleven store.

Snowshoeing up above the ski resort to check out the snow ghosts is a common pastime, although there are no organised tours. Similarly, there’s nothing touristy about the snow monkeys that hang around the village and you can just DIY.
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