Lotte Arai Resort

Lotte Arai Resort



Lotte Arai Resort

Words and photography: Kazuya Baba

One of few resorts in Japan with large non-compacted snow zones, a legendary ski area that makes backcountry lovers and powder-snow junkies tremble with excitement the day after heavy snowfall – Arai has returned. This was the biggest news on the Japanese ski scene last season.


Lotte Arai Resort is a fully-serviced resort that was originally opened in 1993, trading under the name ARAI Mountain Spa. Located at the base of Mount Okenashi (next to Mount Myoko), it was known for allowing snow-sport lovers access to its huge powder-snow areas through lifts and gondolas – unprecedented at the time.

Unfortunately, the waning popularity of skiing and deteriorating economic environment saw a number of ski areas and hotels close, rendering the resort to a fate of fodder for nostalgic tales of the past. As previously mentioned, ARAI’s greatest selling point was its huge, non-compacted snow courses, however, this also served to be its weakness as it offered few compacted-snow courses.


The trend amongst Japanese skiers, at the time, was towards hard, compacted snow as they enjoyed carving turns. In other words, there were few skiers who enjoyed backcountry skiing, unlike now. I personally believe that ARAI was trying to hit a market that didn’t exist in Japan during that era. The resort was too ahead of its time.

Nowadays, skiers from overseas, namely European, American and Australian skiers, flock to Japan for a taste of powder snow in quantities unmatched by any other country in the world. Similarly, the number of Japanese skiers looking to try out areas away from compacted snow continues to rise.

In May 2017, ARAI was reborn under the major Korean-owned hotel brand Lotte as Lotte Arai Resort. As the trend continues to evolve, I have no doubt that Arai will now grow to become a renowned Japanese ski resort of luxury. Keep reading to find out more about the new and improved ski areas, activities and facilities on offer at Lotte Arai Resort!




Arai is located next to Mount Myoko at the base of Mount Okenashi in one of the most prominent snow-rich regions in the world. There are many ways to access Lotte Arai Resort, for example: it is 8 kilometres or a 10 minute drive away from the Joshin-etsu Expressway Arai Interchange (Smart IC); a 30 minute free shuttle bus ride from Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) Joetsumyoko Station; or from internationally renowned Myoko Kogen, it is a 30 minute trip away as well. The ski area’s convenient location on the eastern slope of Mount Okenashi also happens to contribute to the slow-melting quality of the snow.

To speed things up, take a quick look at the map to aid in familiarising yourself with the main features of the courses on offer. Pay particularly close attention to the purple areas. On a normal skip slope, these areas would be classified as off-piste, but at Arai they are free to be carved up. These areas are, of course, non-compacted so you will be able to enjoy top quality powder snow. One look at the map should give you an idea of how open and freeing the courses are.


That’s not all. The map featured here was released when the resort reopened in December 2017. Since then, even more areas have been opened up for access. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to label this the largest non-compacted snow area in Japan. The 4 courses from the peak of the mountain can be approached by hiking up towards them from the lift station. Resort staff carry out checks on the slopes before they are open for hiking, meaning that opening times differ from day to day. Courses will be closed on days where conditions are too dangerous for access. Your best bet is to ask a member of staff stationed at the starting point about the day’s conditions.


Of the numerous new attractions added to coincide with the reopening of the resort, the zip-line should not be missed. This zip-line of huge proportions sits at the mountain peak, stretching 1,501 metres in length from the mountain-top gondola station with a total elevation difference of approximately 240 metres. As of January 2018, it is the longest of its kind in all of Asia. It is extremely safe and utilises the same emergency escape mechanism found on NASA space shuttle launch pads. The first half of the ride is a thrilling, high-speed experience, followed by a more relaxed second half that allows you to enjoy the sights of Hokushinetsu Mountains around and the Takada Plains below. The included snapshots will give you a taste of how big it really is.

Many visitors are prompted to book a ride on the zip-line during the ski season after catching a startling glimpse of someone flying above them. It is an attraction I highly recommend to anyone who happens to find themselves at the resort. The Zip Tour also includes 1 ride down the 192 metre long tubing slope, another thrilling experience for those with a need for speed.



One other aspect that draws visitors to Arai is the gorgeous hotel. The hotel features a total of 257 rooms, divided into 3 classes: Superior, Deluxe and Suite. It has been designed around the concept of mountain villas or retreats. The hotel is marketed as an upper-class establishment, meaning that even the Superior-class rooms are spacious and pristine. There is an air about this hotel that places it head and shoulders above your average hotel. The specially produced bedding has been particularly well received for its outstanding comfort. If you are after an even more luxurious experience, how about giving the Deluxe or Suite rooms a shot?


Headlines were made over the reopening of the resort for another reason – the drawing of hot spring waters. While the original resort had excellent spa facilities, it used heated water, rather than drawing from natural hot springs. With the revamp, steps were taken to dig up and locate hot spring sources. The efforts of the resort paid off and it now boasts a large public onsen bath. The Myoko region is known for its hot springs, so it would a trip to the area would not be complete without an onsen experience. This is a great coup for would-be visitors.

Inside of the resort is a wide range of other facilities including: a library café filled with a huge range of books, bouldering walls, a pool, gym and even a spa to keep you on your toes. There are also a number of top quality restaurants and cafés scattered around. I was particularly impressed by the Italian restaurant, Arcobaleno. Dinner courses start at 13,000 yen per person and while you may not think this is a bargain, you’ll be reaching for your wallets when you see what dishes are on the menu.

Selections include top quality char-grilled Wagyu beef, unique pasta dishes made with the finest local Niigata-sourced ingredients, and even soup. Every dish is made with the utmost care and is absolutely scrumptious. The restaurant is marketed as a fusion of modern and classic Italian cuisine, but I personally found it to be a fine dining experience of Japaneseinspired Italian fare.

While it is perfectly fine to stay somewhere nearby and visit the ski slopes, I highly recommended you experience everything this first-class resort has to offer on your next trip to Lotte Arai Resort.






All eyes on this café in Harajuku – the birthplace of “kawaii culture”

Photography: Kazuya Baba


Omotesando in Shibuya is one of the most well-renowned shopping streets in all of Japan, famous for being the home of Omotesando Hills – a large shopping complex filled with a plethora of brands from all over the world, including the Australian brands “Ugg” and “Helen Kaminski”. While it is also known for its up-and-coming boutique stores, notable salons as well as its appeal from people of high society to trend-conscious youth of today, it also crosses through Harajuku – the birthplace of kawaii (cute) culture. Harajuku is where the trendy café, “Workingholiday Connection”, who borrows its name from a popular way holidaymakers make their way to the shores of Australia, has set up base.


The first thing which must be ordered at this café is the coffee. The coffee beans procured to brew this coffee are roasted by Japanese barista, Shoji Sasa, who was awarded as the Best Barista in the 2012 Sydney Morning Herald Good Café Guide Awards and later went on to become a Barista Association judge. The coffee beans are hand-picked from different countries depending on the season and the strict brewing methods adhered to at the café to maximise both the flavour and characteristic notes of the coffee, making for a truly Australian cup of coffee. Drop by this café if you’re hankering for a little taste of home in Japan.



The signature menu item at Workingholiday Connection is the pancakes. The “ORIGINAL MANLY PANCAKE” is a fluffy, creamy creation made using ricotta cheese imported from Australia. The Japanese chef who came up with this tasty treat upon returning home was trained in Japanese-style cuisine in Japan before jetting off to Australia on a working holiday and becoming the head chef at the famous pancake café – Bills, in
Sydney. Free-range eggs are generously mixed into these pancakes to add a hint of egginess akin to French toast. The berry bombastic “VERY VERY BERRY PANCAKES” are also a popular choice amongst restaurant-goers.


As the name of the café suggests, it is run by the Japanese Association for Working Holiday Makers and all members of staff have working holiday experience. Staff members are either Japanese people who have returned from overseas experiences in Australia and other various countries, or foreigners who have come to Japan on a working holiday. There are virtually no language barriers at the café thanks to this diverse makeup of staff. The café itself aims to help people realise how going overseas to study abroad or go a working holiday can help to broaden one’s horizons, which is the main purpose for employing youthful staff members with experience from all over the globe. It’s a great place for people to gather firsthand insights about working holidays. For people out there looking for one of the best trendy café experiences in the country, drop by Workingholiday Connection the next time you’re in Tokyo.

Workingholiday Connection
Harajuku/Omotesando, Level 2 YM Square
4-31-10 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Tel: 03-6434-0359
Sun – Thurs: 11am – 8pm (last orders at 7pm)
Fri –Sat: 11am – 9pm (last orders at 8pm)




Green tea is now experiencing a surge in popularity both in Japan and overseas. It is a beverage that is a part of everyday Japanese life as an accompaniment to meals or as a break-time thirst quencher. Recent research has revealed a wide variety of health benefits linked to the consumption of green tea.



The catechin compound found in green tea is said to reduce the risk of cancer.

• Men who drink 5 or more cups of green tea per day are approximately 50% less likely to develop progressive prostate cancer than men who drink less than a cup per day.

• Women who drink 5 or more cups of green tea per day are 21% less likely to develop stomach cancer than women who drink less than a cup per day.

• People who drink 5 or more cups of green tea per day significantly reduce their risk of developing liver cancer.



Together with a range of other benefits, theanine is also said to help relieve stress.



Theanine, an amino acid which gives green tea its umami flavour, is a calmative. Parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is activated during relaxation, also increases for 40
minutes following intake of theanine.



100g of sencha contains approximately 20mg of caffeine – one third of the amount found in coffee. Daily intake of low concentration caffeine can potentially reduce the risk of trauma from epilepsy, and is also believed to be effective against Parkinson’s disease.



Catechin has been shown to possess antibacterial qualities against cavities, which is said to prevent and remedy cavities. It is effective against the bacteria which causes periodontal disease. Catechin can also help to improve bad breath by slowing the oxidisation of fats and oils. The fluoride contained in green tea also helps to strengthen teeth.



Catechin inhibits the absorption of cholesterol and triglycerides in the digestive tract. This reduces blood lipid (cholesterol and triglycerides) levels. Lowered blood lipid levels reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

When traditional Japanese tea meets pure Australian environment, that’s when the story begins

Japanese Green Tea grown in Australia


In Victorian Alpine Region, a 3-hour drive from Melbourne, Australian farmers are growing Japanese style green tea. The pure water supply, that stems from the Alpine National Park along with the unique climate and fertile soil, provides an ideal growing environment for green tea. Just like the craft of a good wine, green tea obtains taste and aroma that is in harmony with the land it is grown on. The domestic market demand for locally crafted tea has been increasing every year, as Australians welcome the green tea growing right in their own backyard. The Australian environment lacks tea related pests and diseases and thus fulfills a health-conscious demand of Australian customers.

Ito En and Oi Ocha


In 2003, Ito En, the No.1 green tea company in Japan, started operating a tea factory in Wangaratta near the Alpine Region. In the past decade, traditional Japanese green tea has been produced from Australian grown tea leaves, with the Australian palate in mind. In 1989, Oi Ocha ITO EN’s agship brand was launched in Japan. The brand name “Oi Ocha!” means “It’s tea time!” or “Tea please!”. For Japanese people, almost every meal is accompanied by green tea; that’s one of their secrets to long healthy life. Even in a hot summer, it never lacks real-deal tea.
A chilled bottle of unsweetened green tea is a godsend: crisp, clean, and refreshing, not too bitter or astringent, but has subtle Umami taste. Oi Ocha iced green tea is now formulated with 100% Australian grown green tea, in doing so delivers a healthier lifestyle, a peace of mind, and also joy through Japanese culture to the local consumers.

What is in one bottle of Oi Ocha?

100% Australian grown green tea leaves
Less calories than 1 medium sized tomato
No added sugar
No added colours or flavours