Skiing or snowboarding in Japan is something every powder seeker has on their bucket list. Everyone has heard the stories of the legendary Japanese powder that is waist deep all season long. Fortunately during our time in Japan, we experienced over 24 inches of this legendary Japanese powder!! Our journey to skiing Japan was daunting at first, but after some research and talking with some locals it was a wonderful trip. Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance. Get a free quote.

Where to go skiing in Japan

There are two main areas to ski in. The Honshu and Hokkaido area.

The Honshu Area (Nagano)

  • The easiest mountain area to access is the Honshu area near Nagano. Nagano is 1.5 hours from Tokyo. From Nagano you can visit up to 20+ mountains within an hour bus ride. Based on suggestions, we went to Happo-one and weren’t disappointed. The mountain was a little smaller than most American mountains but there were plenty of runs and levels to choose from.

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The Hokkaido area (Sapporo)

  • Another area to visit is Hokkaido. This area is more difficult to reach, but this is the mecca of skiing in Japan. Hokkaido tends to get much more snow than Honshu. Honshu gets 550″ where as Hokkaido gets 650″!! Either way, these mountains get tons of fresh powder. Hokkaido also has softer, lighter snow than Honshu does.
  • Getting to Hokkaido can be rather tough. The options are to take a domestic 1.5 hour flight or ride a 12 hour train to Sapporo (two different trains totalling 12 hours).
Skiing in japan and japan ski resorts Nagano

Nagano Olympics!

Skiing in japan and japan ski resorts Happo One

Ski lodge atop Happo One

How to get to Nagano and Sapporo

Skiing in japan and japan ski resorts Shinkansen

Taking the bullet train to the Slopes

Skiing in japan and japan ski resorts for couples

Happy to be on the mountain!

Honshu Ski Area – Nagano

  1. Train/Bus option – After taking a shuttle from Narita or Hanedo to Tokyo, take the Shinkansen bullet train to Nagano station.  From there, is a 1 hr bus shuttle that will take you to Hakuba.  Bus Time Table   From Hakuba, you can take a taxi or the local shuttle bus to your destination. Time 3-4 hours
  2. Direct Shuttle – The two direct options are the Nagano Snow Shuttle or a taxi.  Both of these are more expensive than using the train and bus but it’s nicer than carrying your board on and off several times. Time 5-6 hours

Hokkaido Ski Area – Sapporo

  1. Flight – There are plenty of flight options into Sapporo, New Chitose, from Osaka and Tokyo.  I don’t recommend changing airports from Narita to Haneda in Tokyo as it’s over an hour train ride between the two airports. The entire transfer process will add unneeded stress and take 3-4 hours when you include re-checking your bags. There are other direct flights into Sapporo from Hong Kong, Taipei, and Seoul.
  2. Train – There are train options but they take 8-10 hours and you would have to transfer several times.  See option 1

Mountains in Honshu area:

Nagano Area

  • Hakuba Ski Resorts
  • Madarao Kogen
  • Myoko Kogen Resorts
  • Nozawa Onsen
  • Ryuoo Ski Park
  • Shiga Kogen
  • Tangram Ski Circus
  • Togakushi

Bandai Ski Resorts

  • Alts Bandai
  • Inawashiro
  • Nekoma

Yuzawa Ski Resorts

  • Gala Yuzawa
  • Ishiuchi Maruyama
  • Joetsu Kokusai
  • Kagura
  • Kandatsu Kogen
  • Muikamachi Hakkaisan
  • Naeba

Mountains in Hokkaido area:

Sapporo Area

  • Sapporo Teine
  • Sapporo Kokusai
  • Kiroro
  • Asarigawa Onsen
  • Furano
  • Tomamu
  • Sahoro
  • Mount Racey (Yubari)

West of Sapporo

  • Niseko 
  • Moiwa
  • Rusutsu
  • Kiroro

Central Hokkaido

  • Furano
  • Kamui Ski Links
  • Asahidake
  • Kurodake
  • Tomamu

What to expect in Japan


Skiing in Japan is on every skier and snowboarder’s bucketlist.  The photos of 3 feet of powder with a backdrop of Mt. Fuji are inviting and intoxicating.  The resorts are very accommodating to westerners and many people speak english.  They don’t however, speak english on the PA system.  If there is an emergency or a weather warning, it will only be in Japanese.  If you hear something and you’re worried, I recommend asking a local or one of the workers if you need to take caution.


The food options on the mountain are plentiful.  While they don’t have all the western options like a Mexican burrito atop Vail mountain or chili at Whistler, I found the options satisfactory.  If you’re feeling risky, there are numerous Japanese food options as well.  Nothing says Japan like a belly full of hot Ramen and making fresh tracks on the mountain.

Skiing in japan and japan ski resorts Happo One Snow

Great view on the mountain after 18″ of snow

Skiing in japan and japan ski resorts weird stuff in japan

Some weird pair we saw in Tokyo. I have no idea who are what they are.

If you want to tack on a side trip, we highly recommend Tokyo and Kyoto. When in Kyoto, we recommend these two AirBnB’s:

AirBnB 1

AirBnB 2

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