The Best Places for Winter Sports in Japan

Winter sports in Japan | © Jun Kaneko/Flickr
Winter sports in Japan | © Jun Kaneko/Flickr
Photo of Alicia Joy
Tokyo Writer14 January 2017

With nearly three quarters of the country’s landmass covered in mountainous terrain, it’s no wonder Japan is home to some of the finest winter getaways in the world. From Gunma to Hokkaido, the Japan Alps to Nagano, Culture Trip takes a look at some of the best places for winter activities in the country.

Shiga Plateau

Map View
Macaques enjoying a bath in Yamanouchi, Japan
Macaques enjoying a bath in Yamanouchi, Japan | © Brian Jeffery Beggerly
The area known as the Shiga Plateau in Nagano Prefecture has nearly two dozen winter resorts on offer. One of these, Yamanouchi (located close to Nagano City), is a town known as an onsen hot spot. As an alternative to skiing, shoeing and boarding, it is also home to a snow monkey park inhabited by the famed red-faced macaques.


Bridge, Ski Resort
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Minakami Hodaigi ski resort | © 自分/WikiCommons
Located in Gunma Prefecture, Minakami is anything but a sleepy onsen town. With a reputation for outdoor adventure sport like white-water rafting; it’s also home to the Tanigawadake Ropeway and the only bungee jump from a bridge in the country. Snow sports are concentrated in the areas surrounding Tanigawa, Tenjin and Ichinokura mountains.


Ski Resort, Architectural Landmark
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Ski resort, Japan
Ski resort, Japan | © Tetyana Dotsenko/Shutterstock
The town of Furano is located in Northern Hokkaido, and is one of the nation’s top destinations for winter fun. The slopes cater mainly to beginner and intermediate skiers, so it’s a good place to go if you’re just starting out.

Naeba & Kagura

Located side by side in Tohoku Region (Northern Honshu), the ski resorts of Naeba in Yuzawa and neighboring Kagura are connected by the longest gondola in the world, the Dragondola. Find a sledding hill for youngsters, a full freestyle snowboard course and nearly 50 runs for all skill levels staked out over the mountains.

Skiing in Naeba | © bryan.../Flickr

Mount Bandai

Mount Bandai is located in Northern Honshu, in an area known as the Bandai Plateau. The region sees a decent annual snowfall and attracts thousands of skiers and boarders each year. Snow Paradise Inawashiro is area’s largest winter resort. Its 16 runs are located above Inawashiro, and their black diamond slope is frequently the host of national competitions.


Located at the base of the Northern Japan Alps, Hakuba alone is host to seven ski resorts. Happo-One Ski Resort on Mount Karamatsu was the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics downhill skiing competition and has a variety of runs to suit every skill level.

A ski resort in Hakuba | © Chi Tranter/Flickr

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