Romantic, Adventurous or Traditional? Five snow towns of Nagano.

ski field

Text: Cecilia Macaulay
Photo: Kazuya Baba
Co-operation: Ogasaka Ski, Goldwin, Ski Journal


In the centre of the main island, Japan’s four greatest mountain ranges rose up and joined forces, creating the outline of Nagano prefecture. The inland geography blessed Nagano with record-breaking amounts of snow and sunny days, plus a distance to Tokyo that makes day-tripping almost possible. Almost, but not quite, as Nagano is not the kind of place to lets you leave that easily. Visitors to the ‘98 Winter Olympics found this out firsthand. The Olympic Games put Nagano on the world stage, planting the idea that if you travel for world-class skiing, go the whole way and make the trip exotic. Choose Japan, and the basics of eating, bathing and sleeping might become highlights. There you can enjoy elaborately prepared dishes, hypnotic hot springs, and tatami-scented nights. Even when things don’t go so well – say, Japanese attempts at Western breakfasts – it’s done so earnestly it’s amusing.

Which town is for you?

The town of Myoko is like something from the past, but the vast resort of Shiga Kogen, with over 70 interconnected ski lifts, is situated in the highlands. The traditional towns of Yudanaka and Shibu- Onsen contrast with romantic Hakuba, a faux-European town with a surprising amount of European visitors. The village of Nozawa-Onsen could be the star of its own movie, with its winding streets, festivals that thrill and convivial night life.

Ogasaka and Goldwin gear I amused my instructor by turning up for a beginners lesson in racy Ogasaka skis, akin to a teenager in a Ferrari.

These skis are often seen in high-level international competitions, but are difficult to buy outside of Japan.

My high tech suit was by Goldwin and made in Japan.

Cecilia Macaulay is an expert in user-friendly daily life design, based in Sydney and Tokyo. Blending design ideas from clever Aussie Permaculture and Japanese culture, she runs unique training courses to get people re-designing their surroundings and communication for force-free living.
–Cecilia Macaulay