▶︎ SHIGA KOGEN
￼￼￼Japan’s Largest and Grandest Skiing Area
A range of skiing areas of various sizes stretching out from 1,340m to 2,307m above sea level, connected by 52 lifts, gondolas, and shuttle buses, combine to form a single
functional resort – Shiga Kogen. It is so big that you could spend all day out on the slopes from sunrise to sunset and still not see everything that the area has to offer. And while some of the skiing areas are managed independently, most visitors see it as a single immense skiing area, effectively making it the largest in Japan. The courses of Shiga Kogen spread out over the slopes, covering a unique variety of geographic features, with its appearance changing greatly depending on the angle of the sun. These elements come together to bring about a surprising degree of change in the features of each course. With areas that are perfect for families and challenging courses for the more advanced, as well as areas with powder snow, Shiga Kogen offers a variety unlike any other
skiing area. Being able to offer such a wide range of different views is something that only Shiga Kogen can provide, making it a must-see for all lovers of skiing.
That’s not all, however. As the area’s designation as a national park suggests, the natural surroundings here are breathtakingly beautiful and abounds in natural wildlife. The area is frequented by many cute ermines of the weasel family, and antelope also make an occasional appearance. Monkeys are frequent visitors to the area as well, but take care with your hotel windows. The monkeys have grown quite accustomed to human contact and sometimes find their way into hotel rooms, taking snacks and drinks. Be on the lookout for these mischievous locals.
￼￼￼A Picturesque Ski Resort Amongst the Japanese Alps
Set amidst the grand Japanese Alps and home to numerous skiing areas is Hakuba, one of the greatest ski resorts in the country. Hakuba is an area well known to Australians, and offers many options for accommodation catering to overseas visitors. Both the largest skiing area in Hakuba and one of the most popular areas is the Hakuba Happo-one Winter Resort. There are 23 lifts, and the skiing slopes up to 8,000m in length are an impressive sight. Skiing down the course from start to finish is an amazing experience than only Hakuba can offer. Moreover, the skiing slopes boast some of the most advanced courses in the country, making them popular amongst more experienced skiers. It is this reason that made the area a main location for a variety of competitions during the Nagano Winter Olympics, and near the slopes is a jump site where Olympic jumping competitions were held, and you can venture right up to the starting line.
There are many other attractive skiing areas to be found in Hakuba as well, such as the Iwatake Snow Field, unrivaled in its spectacular views. While one of the big draws to Hakuba is the beautiful view over the Japanese Alps that it commands, another scenic highlight is the unique landscape of Iwatake, the sole lone peak in the Hakuba area. Skiing along these wonderful courses, accompanied by a breathtaking view, is an unforgettable experience. Another skiing area popular amongst freestyle skiers and snowboarders who favor slope-style and park skiing is Hakuba47. Courses with a variety of
trick spots await, and the non-compacted snow zones are a must-see. The Hakuba47 skiing area is also connected with the Hakuba Goryu Ski Resort, allowing you to enjoy two areas at once.
￼￼￼￼The Most Popular Skiing Destination on Mainland Japan
▶︎ NOZAWA ONSEN
A Skier’s Heaven with the Perfect Match of Skiing and Hot Spring Bathing
Nozawa Onsen is a name known to many as one of Japan’s greatest ski resorts. The large size of the grounds with over 20 ski lifts, including 2 gondolas, and the off-course, non-compacted snow skiing areas are some of its greatest attractions, drawing immense popularity amongst skiers on the lookout for wilder climes. Nozawa Onsen Village has a long history as a popular skiing destination, and is frequently visited by skiers who have taken part in the Winter Olympics and world-class competitions. The secret to its popularity lies not just in the amazing skiing areas themselves, but in the story of skiing culture woven into the very history of the area.
Ski shops and rental services for beginners dot the village and the mountainside, letting you change your gear to suit your needs for the day and offering an added variety of choice for longer stays. Because the village is spread out across the skiing area, visitors have the option to stay in areas at varying distances from the slopes. But regardless of your choice of accommodation, it is easy to get about, thanks to the local “belt conveyor system”, which transports visitors throughout the village to any of the skiing areas.
Another reason for the popularity that Nozawa Onsen enjoys over other skiing areas is the old- fashioned hot spring village that winds its way across the slopes. As its name suggests, the amazing hot springs of Nozawa Onsen are one of the area’s greatest drawcards. The village itself has its origins as an ancient hot spring town — at
the start of the Edo Era, during the days of the samurai, it was already home to 24 hot spring accommodation areas. Nozawa Onsen is dotted with numerous places to grab a bite to eat or sample local goods, and is the very picture of a traditional Japanese village. On offer are many goods local to the area such as hot springs sweet cakes, a pancake-like Japanese sweet special to hot spring towns with a variety of fillings, and more, making even a simple walk about town enjoyable. The rise in Australian skiers in recent years has also brought about an increase in casual bars and other stores, but the traditional face of the village is still very much intact.
One of the great attractions of a trip to a hot spring town is a visit to the public bathing areas. There are 13 such areas throughout the village that allow you to enjoy the natural hot springs, each with its own special name and bathing experiences. Many visitors make it a point to try a variety of public baths during their stay. For those on a tighter schedule, it would be hard to go past Ohyu, one of the area’s greatest and most famous hot springs known for its spectacular appearance. Run by the local village people, the public bathing areas are free to enter.
The beauty of the natural surroundings has led to the area being designated the Joshin’etsu Kogen National Park, with numerous superb viewing spots on offer. For those enjoying longer stays in the area, a trip away from Nozawa Onsen Village into the surrounds makes for an attractive trip.