Skiing in Honshu Japan

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Honshu is the main island of Japan...most Honshu ski resorts are west & north of Tokyo
The Shinkansen (bullet train) is a fast, efficient & fun way to access the Honshu ski resorts
Nagano is the most famous region for ski resorts in Honshu (and Japan)
Nagano is home to the "must-see" snow monkey onsen
There are also many historic temples in and around Nagano
Hakuba is one of the largest Nagano ski resorts with 11 ski area in the one valley
Shiga Kogen in Nagano has 19 interconnected ski areas making it the largest in Japan
Niigata is renowned for huge snowfalls & many great hot springs
The biggest Niigata ski resorts are Myoko Kogen which is made up of multiple ski areas
Yuzawa is also part of Niigata with 9 great ski areas & just over an hour by Shinkansen from Tokyo
Gunma is a lesser known area with amazing historic onsens & a rich Japanese cultural experience
Tenjindaira is the most famous Gunma ski area for foreigners but there are many gems in this region
Aizu area is becoming a popular destination for foreigners due to its affordability & low crowds
Aizu ski resorts include Inawashiro, Alts Bandai, Gran Deco, Nekoma & Minowa
Yamagata is one of Japan's most famous sake regions along with incredible hot springs
The most famous Yamagata ski resort is Zao Onsen which is large & has many historic ryokans with hot springs
Iwate is less frequented by foreigners but watch this space. This area has some epic skiing/riding.
Appi Kogen is the largest Iwate ski resort followed by Shizukuishi. Other resorts include Geto Kogen & Amihari.
Aomori is located at the northern tip of Honshu where the Shinkansen dives under the sea to connect to Hokkaido
The main Aomori ski areas; Aomori Spring & Hakkoda are famous for huge volumes of snow

Skiing in Honshu Japan

Honshu, the main island of Japan, has hundreds of ski resorts so you’ll be spoiled for choice with Honshu skiing.

Honshu Skiing versus Hokkaido

How does skiing in Honshu compare to Hokkaido skiing?

Honshu Snow
As a general rule, it doesn’t snow as much in Honshu compared to Hokkaido (especially the coastal resorts). The ski resorts near Nagano come close to the amazing snowfalls of Hokkaido. The main Nagano ski resorts have an average annual snowfall of 10 to 13 metres which is nearly the 14 to 15 metres of Rusutsu and Niseko in Hokkaido. One exception is Tenjindaira where it snows about 16 metres per season. Another exception is Hakkoda where there’s so much snow no one can really measure it. If it snows 8 metres per season at sea level in Aomori, you can start to imagine how much it snows up at 1,600 metres!

The Honshu snow is usually not as dry and fluffy as in Hokkaido, and this includes the Hokkaido ski resorts that are in close proximity to the coast.

Deep and Steep?
Most skiing in Japan is rather mellow when compared to many ski resorts in North America, Europe and New Zealand. There are of course some exceptions in Japan. When comparing Honshu and Hokkaido, as a general rule, Honshu ski resorts are steeper but there is a wide variation between the ski resorts. If you're looking for steep, head to Tenjindaira.

Cultural Activities
One of the benefits of a Honshu ski holiday is that you don’t just have to ski or snowboard. The Nagano area in particular offers lots of culturally interesting activities such as visiting historical onsen towns with traditional Japanese architecture, temple hopping, and other fascinating sightseeing.

Once in Honshu it’s also easy to do side trips or stopovers in Tokyo or Kyoto, a real cultural eye opener.

Honshu Ski Resorts Japan

Nagano Ski Resorts
Many of the Honshu ski resorts are within the Japanese Alps in the prefectures of Nagano and Niigata, with quite a few situated near Nagano city (northwest of Tokyo) which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and put some of these areas on the map. Nagano ski areas include:
  • The Hakuba area consists of various resorts that are interlinked via buses.
  • Shiga Kogen is a group of ski areas that are largely interconnected via the slopes.
  • Nozawa Onsen is the Kyoto of ski resorts, a historic hot springs and ski resort town in northern Nagano.
  • Myoko Kogen is a group of ski resorts located one hour north of Nagano in the Niigata prefecture.
  • Madarao Mountain Resort is located between Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen.
Yuzawa Ski Resorts
The Yuzawa ski resorts are also in the Niigata Prefecture and only 70-90 minutes from Tokyo on the Joetsu Shinkansen. The area is a treasure chest of ski areas with more than a dozen places to play near Yuzawa. A juggernaut with all the bells and whistles is the Naeba ski resort. Next door is Kagura ski resort which is quieter and it offers some nice backcountry.

Other Niigata ski resorts include Arai and Charmant Hiuchi.

Tohoku Ski Resorts
Tohoku, the north eastern region of Honshu, includes the prefectures of Yamagata, Fukushima, Iwate, and Aomori. Tohoku skiing is renowned for negligible competition for the fresh powder because most foreigners haven't heard of many of the ski areas.

The Aizu Ski Resorts are ideal for road tripping around.

Zao Onsen is an onsen (hot springs) and ski resort town near Yamagata that is famous for its snow ghosts (ice rain covered trees).

Appi Kogen is a classy ski resort that keeps discerning skiers and boarders very ‘appi! Appi Kogen is located near Morioka in the Iwate Prefecture. Geto Kogen is also near Morioka and is renowned for the huge volumes of snow that descend upon it. Other Iwate ski resorts are also great for powder hounds.

Even Hakkoda in the Aomori Prefecture 710km north of Tokyo is easily accessed from Tokyo. The bullet train (Shinkansen) only takes 3 hours. Hakkoda isn’t so much a ski resort, but rather a cable car accessed backcountry experience where there’s so much powder you won’t know what to do with it.

Aomori Spring is also located in the very northern tip of Honshu, and is ideal for beginners, terrain park junkies, and tree skiing fiends.

Gunma Ski Resorts
The Gunma Prefecture is very mountainous and it lies to the east of Nagano Prefecture and south of the Niigata Prefecture. Most of the Gunma ski resorts sit in the northeast corner of the prefecture, and being a little further from the coast, the snow tends to be dryer and less voluminous compared to the Nagano ski resorts.

Tenjindaira is for backcountry powder hounds, and nearby Minakami Houdaigi is a good back-up for weather days. Oze Iwakura is a little gem for powder hounds, whilst Manza Onsen is superb for onsen hounds.

Honshu Skiing with the Family

Most of the high profile Honshu ski resorts have well developed facilities and a couple have an abundance of activities to keep the little folks entertained (e.g. Naeba, Appi Kogen). However they don’t necessary cater well to English speaking families. Many of the child care facilities don’t have English speaking staff (which may be a concern for some infants), and whilst it’s possible to get private ski or snowboard lessons, it’s atypical to have group lessons with an English speaking instructor. It’s also rare for a ski resort to have self-contained accommodation such as apartments or houses.

Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen are the only Honshu ski resort that ticks all these boxes. Check out the ski Japan with kids page for more information.

Travel to Honshu

Another benefit of skiing in Honshu is that for many international visitors, it’s much easier to fly into Tokyo than to travel to Hokkaido. The Japan railways are very sophisticated, so once in Honshu, the many bullet trains make travel fast and convenient.

There are lots of options for flights into Tokyo. Airlines include Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Korean Air, Air New Zealand, Air China, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines (you might want to consider a Singapore stopover).

For those travelling from Australia there are many options for direct flights from various cities. Many airlines fly to Tokyo (Narita International Airport) and Jetstar has flights from Queensland to Japan at rock bottom prices.

Use one of the recommended flight search engines to find a great flight to Honshu.

If you need to stay overnight near Narita Airport (Tokyo International Airport), here are some listings for hotels near Narita Airport.
Honshu Ski & Snowboard Tours

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

Frontier Explorer
GUIDED SAFARI - NORTHERN HONSHU
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Areas + Cat Skiing
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Get away from the crowds & the tracked out snow, and also experience Japanese culture, food & unlimited powder on this Tohoku tour. Chase the best snow on the day in the far northern parts of Honshu. Share
Price p/p From price based on twin-share room occupancy for 2021 season.
Base/invoice currency is in yen not including consumption tax.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 4,300
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 Early bird special: 10% discount off listed price until Aug 31. Plus cancel any time for any reason up to Aug 31 for 100% refund.
Alps to Coast Tour
HAKUBA & MYOKO BC TOUR
9 Nights | Option of 1 Day Cat Skiing | Deluxe Option
Ability: Advanced to Expert
This backcountry tour includes the HAKUBA region with its steep alpine terrain and the MYOKO area which receives big snow falls. Choose from either a side country tour (lift accessed backcountry) or ski touring/skinning backcountry. Option to include a day of cat skiing & option for deluxe accommodation.
Price p/p From price based on a twin share room for group tour for 2020 (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 4,246
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The Legendary Roadie
HOSTED & GUIDED ROAD TRIP
11 Days | 10 Nights | 8 Days Skiing
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Experience Japan powder like no other on this legendary road trip where you will visit up to 8 resorts in 3 prefectures; Nagano, Gunma & Niigata! Join a tour as a solo traveler, couple or small group. Max 6 spots per tour so get in quickly!
Price p/p From price based on twin-share, standard package at Lodge Aibiya.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 4,704
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Honshu here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Nagano Ski/Board Progression
SKI / SNOWBOARD GUIDED INSTRUCTION
10 Days | 9 Nights | 8 Skiing | Up to 8 Ski Areas
Ability: Intermediate to Strong Intermediate
Learn to ski and ride deep powder with more confidence or improve your on-piste technique whilst checking out some of Nagano's fabulous ski areas away from the masses of foreigners. In addition to the skiing and snowboarding, experience an area rich in culture and history.
Price p/p From price based on twin-share dorm room with shared bathroom.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 4,030
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Nagano Ski Buffet
GUIDED SKI ADVENTURE (SKIERS ONLY)
10 Days | 9 Nights | 8 Skiing | Up to 8 Ski Areas
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Combine deep untracked powder skiing where few foreigners go, with a rich Japanese cultural experience, traditional Japanese accommodation and authentic Japanese food, and you have the perfect Japanese ski adventure!
Price p/p From price based on twin-share room at Lodge Aibiya with shared bathroom.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 4,030
View Details
 
Myoko Progression Tours
GUIDED PROGRESSION TOUR
8 Days | 7 Nights | 5 Days Skiing | Up to 7 Ski Areas
Ability: Beginner to Advanced
Want to improve your riding to tackle bigger and better terrain? Well this tour could be for you! Get ski or snowboard instruction and learn to ride & ski deep powder whilst immersing yourself in Japanese culture.
Price p/p From price based on twin/triple/quad-share room occupancy.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 4,043
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Honshu here

Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area Tours

Nagano Beginner Lessons
PRIVATE BEGINNER LESSONS
Pick up at Yudanaka for Shiga Kogen
Ability: Beginner
Learn to ski or snowboard at Shiga Kogen with fully qualified English speaking instructors. Private lessons for the day or multiple days. Includes pick-up from your accommodation in Yudanaka (near the snow monkeys) or Shiga Kogen.
Price p/p From price based on 6 people in a private group.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 112
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See all Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area tours that visit Honshu here

Backcountry Skiing Tours

Hakuba Steep
HAKUBA BACKCOUNTRY TOUR
7 Nights | 5 Days Guided Skiing / Riding
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Most people who visit Hakuba only ever drool at the possible backcountry endless lines from a distance. Explore the steep & deep backcountry terrain of Hakuba with either a lift accessed side country tour or go deep in the backcountry via skinning/split board.
Price p/p From price based on a twin share room for group tour for 2020 (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 3,100
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Myoko Deep Tour
MYOKO BC ADVENTURE
7 Nights | 5 Days Guided Skiing / Riding
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
The MYOKO KOGEN area receives some of the highest snow falls in Japan. On this Myoko tour you can head deep into the backcountry or just score the powder in the sidecountry (lift accessed) terrain of Myoko and surrounding ski areas.
Price p/p From price based on a twin share room for fixed date group tour 2020 (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 3,100
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Gunma Niigata Explorer
LEGENDARY JAPANESE BACKCOUNTRY
6 Nights | 5 Guided Days | Private Groups
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Chase the powder around the Nagano and Niigata Prefectures where there are sooooo many ski resorts and backcountry areas to choose from. This tour has the flexibility to pick the best area on any given day & from there you'll explore the backcountry with a lead and tail guide.
Price p/p From price based on a twin/triple share room (price displayed is per person) for sample itinerary with 5 people in group.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 2,898
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See all Backcountry Skiing tours that visit Honshu here

Cat Skiing Tours

Hachimantai Cat Ski Trips
2 DAYS CAT SKIING, 2 NIGHTS LODGING
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Advanced
Score yourself some Hachipow with 2 days of Hachimantai cat skiing. Share the cat skiing slopes with only 7 others! Add a couple of days of Hachimantai cat skiing to your Iwate itinerary or make it your main reason to head to the region. Share
Price p/p Price per person for 2 days cat skiing & 2 nights at Mountain Hotel twin-share accommodation. Base currency in Japanese yen.
AUD 2,022
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 10% discount on listed prices if you book before Aug 30
APPI Kogen Cat & BC Tour
APPI RESORT PLUS CAT SKIING
4 Nights | 2 Days Resort | 1 Day BC | 1 Day CAT
Ability: Beginner to Advanced
Get away from the crowds and enjoy back country & CAT skiing tours in some of the best powder snow Northern Japan has to offer. This sample package that can be customised from 2 nights or more to suit your desires and number from early January though to to early March.
Price p/p Sample price based on twin-share accommodation
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen
Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 1,779
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IWATE Powder Experience
APPI & SHIZUKUISHI + CAT & BC
5 Nights | 2 Resort | 1 Day BC | 1 Day CAT
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Experience some of the best powder in Tohoku at Shizukuishi & Appi Kogen plus a day of cat skiing & backcountry skiing. This sample package can be customised from 2 nights or more to suit you/your group, from early January though to early March.
Price p/p Sample price based on twin-share accommodation
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen & may vary depending on dates
Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
AUD 1,873
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See all Cat Skiing tours that visit Honshu here