issue 2 │ 2018 │ FREE
Ski Slopes in the Surrounds of Sapporo and Otaru LOTTE ARAI RESORT
The Birth of a Luxury Resort with Total Mountain Runs
n e v a e H g n i n i k a S p a J
Shiga Kogen: The Grandest Ski Resort on the Peak of Japan Two-Day Photo Shoot in Aizu Echigo Yuzawa: A Skier’s Paradise
Daily Direct flight from Sydney to Tokyo (Haneda)
with smooth connection to
Ski fields in Japan
5 Star Airline
Worldâ€™s Best Airport Services
Best Airline Staff in Asia
1800 081 765
Lotte Arai Resort
issue 2 │ 2018 │ FREE EDITORIAL
The Birth of a Luxury Resort with Total Mountain Runs 18
EDITOR IN CHIEF Kazuya Baba EDITOR Ida Van
The Envy of the World: Ski Areas within Metropolitan Suburbs in Abundance
TRANSLATORS Ida Van, Andrew Dahm DESIGN
Special Feature Ski Slopes in the Surrounds of Sapporo and Otaru 12
ART DIRECTOR & DESIGNER Kosaku Makino DESIGNERS Anyu Tsushima, Junko Wakimura
Gateway to the Highest Powder Snow Heaven on Earth
A Skier’s Paradise 80 Minutes from The Big City 51
Reliving the Beauty through Still Photography Back and Sidecountry Skiing in Myoko
The Rise of Japan's International Resorts
A 5 Star Airline and the Winner of Airline of the Year 2018 All Nippon Airways
Two-Day Photo Shoot in Aizu Making the most of the best powder snows on mainland Japan
SHIGA KOGEN The Grandest Ski Resort on the Peak of Japan
Set Up Base in Asahikawa For Fun in the Snow
MADARAO KOGEN 13 Endorsed Glade-run Courses to Get the Heart Pumping
HAKUBA A Popular Japanese Ski Spot
NOZAWA A Charming Onsen Town and Giant Ski Resort
YUDANAKA SHIBU ONSEN Get Up Close and Personal With Snow Monkeys in a Historical Onsen Town
ADVERTISING GENERAL MANAGER Kazuya Baba SYDNEY SALES MANAGER Naoto Ijichi SYDNEY SALES REPRESENTATIVE Kanako Sugiya, Kanako Hirokawa, Kumiko Tokita, Yuki Shiina, Ryo Shidara NICHIGO PRESS PUBLICATIONS PUBLISHER Ike Ikeguchi GENERAL MANAGER Kazuya Baba EDITORIAL email@example.com DESIGN firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING email@example.com jSnow is published by NICHIGO PRESS AUSTRALIA PTY. LTD. Level 3, 724-728 George St., Sydney NSW Australia General Enquiries Tel: (02) 9211-1155 Fax: (02) 9211-1722 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Websites: j-style.com.au / nichigopress.jp / www.nichigo.com.au Southpaw Font: AWP, Allison Usavage, Tyler Finck
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jSnow issue 2 │ 3
dvances in technology have brought about incredible change in our daily lives. Of these advances, the spread of sophisticated mobile devices such as smartphones over the past ten years has been particularly influential. Barely a generation ago, it was almost impossible to conceive of a world where people might walk about with powerful computers in their pockets. Nowadays, the number of people who would find it almost impossible to conceive of a world without them is no doubt greater. If youâ€™re wondering why I have chosen to begin a magazine about skiing with a discussion of technology, look no further than the immeasurable value these devices provide to travellers from abroad come to visit the ski resorts of Japan. While they are of course good for finding information, what stood out the most to me is their ability to allow travellers to use apps such as Apple Maps and Google Maps to navigate in a language with which they are familiar. As a country that spent a period of its history with its borders closed to all outsiders, and where the notion of a homogenous people is still close in mind, Japan has been a relatively secluded nation
4 â”‚ jSnow issue 2
until comparatively recent times. This is why the number of offerings and efforts targeting travellers from overseas remains quite low, and many street signs are still written only in Japanese. Few Japanese people are fluent in English despite studying it for many years at school, and some shy away from speaking it entirely out of fear for their abilities. Such a national character and environmental factors once made the prospect of getting around Japan freely one that was not without its challenges for travellers from abroad. If you were to lose your way or run into some form of trouble, not being able to read the signs or find someone nearby who speaks the same language as you could be quite the barrier to being more adventurous. These days, a big change is underway. The number of people who visit Japan and travel about the country using rental cars is on the rise each year, and the main reason the barrier for such travel has lowered is the advent of navigation apps on advanced mobile devices. The ability to use these gadgets, which play such a large role in our daily lives, to easily navigate new areas has brought down the psychological barrier to moving about. I myself actually ran into a number of
travellers from Australia who were travelling in a group from one resort to another using a large rental car while I was researching ski resorts in Japan. This, I believe, is a new wave. For those of you who have already travelled to the ski resorts of Japan or might be interested in going, this yearâ€™s issue of jSnow focuses on new areas and new ways to enjoy your trip. With that in mind, our first special feature is about the ski fields of Sapporo in Hokkaido and surrounds where you can travel around to many new places by car while staying in the city. We have a range of other content as well, from an introduction to the bold new Lotte Arai Resort, which opened in December 2017 to the Aizu area, which is gaining recognition as a new spot for skiing. As someone who not only has experience working on the production of skiing magazines in Japan, but is also the most knowledgeable Japanese person living in Australia when it comes to the ski resorts there, it is my hope that I can continue to provide a fresh look at ways to enjoy your trip to skiing fans both near and far. Kazuya Baba
Teine Bankei Jozankei New Chitose Kokusai Airport
Myoko Hakuba Madarao
Arai Nozawa Echigo Yuzawa Shiga Kogen Yudanaka Shibu
jSnow issue 2 â”‚ 5
Preface Special Feature
THE BIRTH OF A LUXURY RESORT WITH TOTAL MOUNTAIN RUNS Lotte Arai Resort Words and photography: Kazuya Baba
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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.
otte 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!
THE BIGGEST NON-COMPACTED SKI SLOPE IN JAPAN
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.
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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. 8 │ jSnow issue 2
A WONDROUS STROLL IN THE SKY – JAPAN’S LONGEST ZIP-LINE
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. THE HOTEL DEFINING THE EPITOME OF DECADENCE
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.
jSnow issue 2 │ 9
SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
SAPPORO & OTARU
THE ENVY OF THE SKI AREAS WITHIN METROPOLITAN SUBUR Ski Slopes in the Surrounds of Sapporo an Words and photography: Kazuya Baba
10 â”‚ jSnow issue 2
WORLD: BS IN ABUNDANCE
The majority of overseas ski tourists visiting Niseko and other ski resorts in Hokkaido tend to travel straight to their destination from the gateway to Hokkaido, New Chitose Airport. The same visitors then make a beeline straight back to the airport without any side trips or diversions. This type of visit is such an unfortunate waste of potential opportunities for exciting experiences. At just a short 40 minute train ride away from the airport is a large city of approximately 2 million people and one of the most fascinating cities in all of Japan – Sapporo. This city of charm and wonder also happens to have a variety of different local ski resorts around it at just a stone’s throw away. This special feature will focus on travels centred on the metropolis of Sapporo and the charming fishing-port town of Otaru. Keep reading to gain some inspiration on a new way to enjoy a ski trip around Hokkaido by visiting ski slopes around its major cities.
jSnow issue 2 │ 11
SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
SAPPORO 札 幌
FROM FOOD TO ENTERTAINMENT Putting Japan’s Best Foot Forward with a City of 2 Million People
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apporo, Hokkaido is the northern-most ordinance-designated and fifth mostpopulated city in Japan (including the special wards of Tokyo). It was the first Asian city to host the Winter Olympics in 1972 (the Sapporo Olympics) and later went on to host a range of other international sporting events, including the FIFA World Cup. Sapporo is also currently considering a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. As can probably be gauged from its history, the greatest advantage of Sapporo is that it is surrounded by a number of easily accessible ski areas nearby, despite being a large, urban city. The renowned ski resorts in the area will be covered in more detail later as this section will focus mainly on the city of Sapporo itself. Before diving into the wonders of Sapporo, it is worth
mentioning that the ski-jump ramps used in the Winter Olympics can be visited in a flash from the city. It is a highly popular tourist destination and is definitely worth a gander. The first cab off the rank in this introduction of all things Sapporo is none other than Sapporo Beer. Many of our readers will have, no doubt, seen and perhaps even tasted this beer at various Japanese restaurants in Australia. Sapporo Beer is a widely known Japanese brand and is consumed all around the world, however, what is little known is that its history dates back long ago to 1876. The prefecture of Hokkaido has a comparatively short history compared to the rest of Japan, having only been officially developed in the late 19th century. This means that the history of Sapporo Beer and the development of Hokkaido walked hand in hand.
There is a place in Sapporo where all things Sapporo Beer can be experienced such as: a museum displaying the history of Sapporo beer, tours explaining the beer brewing process, tastings, and even a restaurant to taste the delicious local fare of the northern country. This wondrous place is a 15 - 20 minute walk from Sapporo Station – The Sapporo Beer Garden. The local Hokkaido dish of “Genghis Khan” (lamb barbeque) can also be feasted upon here, making this a must on your stays in Sapporo. Hokkaido is also known as the biggest food-lover’s paradise in all of Japan. Sapporo is the heart of this prefecture and is home to a huge variety of local Hokkaido cuisine. While scallops and other seafood is in deliciously rich abundance in Hokkaido, there is one highly accessible local dish that absolutely everyone knows about – Sapporo Ramen.
Sapporo Ramen Yokocho is a well-known little alley in the city. This popular little spot is filled with famous ramen restaurants, left and right, up and down. Ramen lovers should definitely check out this street and even make return trips to taste all of the different types of ramen on offer. Hokkaido has a deep food culture history and is known for various food booms such as soup curries, and chocolates like Shiroi Koibito and Royce. Doing some research into the different delectable foods to fill your belly prior to jetting off to Hokkaido will make for a particularly satisfying trip. Next on the list of all things Sapporo is the biggest winter event in all of Japan, the Sapporo Snow Festival. This snow and ice festival is held annually in early February around Odori Park and other various locations around Sapporo.
Odori Park is located in the heart of Sapporo and hosts seasonal festivals all year round to provide relaxation and entertainment to locals, such as the Sapporo Lilac Festival in spring and the YOSAKOI Soran Festival in summer. The grounds stretch 1.5 kilometres across from east to west and are filled with snow statues, big and small, during the Snow Festival. Come nighttime, projection mapping exhibits are switched on to create beautifully dazzling sights that see tourists from all around the world flock to the city. Over at the Susukino site, a snow playground will keep the kids happy while the adults admire the beautiful ice sculptures on display. Planning a trip to Hokkaido to coincide with this event is highly recommended. Hotels are in high demand during this period, so make sure you book well in advance to lock down a spot! jSnow issue 2 │ 13
SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
PLENTIFUL SIDECOUNTRY AREAS FILLED WITH TOP QUALITY POWDER SNOW
The Main Event Location for the Sapporo Winter Olympics
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apporo Teine Ski Resort is a short 30 - 40 minute drive away from the Sapporo business district and captured the attention of ski fans worldwide during the 1972 Winter Olympics as the main event location for events such as alpine skiing. Despite its convenient location near Sapporo proper, it boasts the longest ski slope in Hokkaido at a massive 6 kilometres in length and accessible sidecountry areas for exciting powder snow mountain runs. It also features a snow park, as well as tubing and sledding courses for safe family fun, making this resort a truly versatile location. Sapporo Teine Ski Resort is actually two ski areas rolled into one – Teine Highland and Teine Olympia. Highland is situated at the top of the mountain and is aimed at experienced skiers, whilst Olympia takes up the bottom half of the slope for family fun snow sports. The combination of the two areas gives birth to the 6 kilometre long course, welcoming skiers of all levels from different walks of life. There are
also different attractions, such as the snow park for freestyle skiers and snowboarders to keep everyone happy. The Highland area features courses that were used in the Winter Olympics and requires an adequate level of skill to conquer. The KITAKABE (North Face) course is particularly challenging with areas as steep as 36 degrees; it will take a lot of deft weaving and ducking to get through the sidecountry-like trees unscathed. Although this course might seem like a goliath to even the most-advanced skiers, the forest run is too difficult to groom, which turns it into a powder snow heaven the morning after a night of heavy snowfall. Definitely give this run a shot, if you dare. The 4 Nature Zones are sidecountry trails accessible from the main courses and are sure to bring smiles to the faces of avid skiers. Exciting tree runs and powder snow runs (after heavy snowfall) can be found in these spots. More happy news for hardcore skiers – the
backcountry areas at Teine are not prohibited from access. Skiers can access the backcountry areas through the Teine Gate at the peak of the Highland area provided that they take full responsibility for their own actions. Access to these areas is purely for those who want the opportunity to shred some backcountry and it is important to note that it may not be possible to return to the main ski area after passing through the Teine Gate. Make sure you come fully equipped and research the layout of the land carefully before taking the leap. The Highland area is also known for its magnificent views. There are not very many courses around that give you a view of the big sprawling city below as your ski down the slopes in the great outdoors. I have heard stories of skiers hesitant to move from their position and ski down the slope because they have been captivated by the stunning view. This ski resort is a must visit – where else can you find a similarly impressive ski slope so close to a major city? There is nothing quite like the luxury of enjoying the sights of the big city after a satisfying off-piste run. Sapporo Teine Ski Resort offers 2 handy packages for visitors. The Big Runs Bus Pack includes return bus fare from 7 major hotels in Sapporo and lift access, whilst the Taxi Pack includes return taxi fare and lift access. These packages must be purchased in advance so hop onto their website for more information.
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SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
バ ン ケ イ
DROP BY THIS SKI RESORT ON A WHIM 20 Minutes Away from the City Lights
ust 20 minutes away from the city, you say? That’s right, Bankei’s biggest draw point is its short distance from the heart of Sapporo. The resort is easily accessible by car, subway and bus, and keeps its nighttime courses lit up until 10pm at night, so you can drop by the resort in the evening after a day of enjoying the Sapporo Snow Festival if you plan your trip to coincide with it. Bankei Ski Resort also stocks a variety of skis, snowboards and snow gear, making a quick ski trip without any gear a cinch. There is also the Snow Kids Park on site for kids to try their hand at snow tubing, and a snow escalator for novice snow enthusiasts to find their winter feet. The child-minding services at the resort also helps parents to take a breather on the ski slopes while their kids are looked after. Most of the 17 courses available at Bankei have fairly gentle slopes and are targeted towards families. Whilst the resort may have a reputation as a family ski area, there are definitely offerings for advanced skiers. Snow sport enthusiasts looking for more of a challenge can try out the Half Pipe and Moguls Course, both of which meet International Ski Federation standards. The Half Pipe is the largest of its kind in Japan at 180 metres long, 20 metres
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BAN.K wide and 5 - 6 metres high. It was also selected as a course in the 2016 FIS Snowboard World Cup. The Moguls Course sees frequent visits from top athletes to practice their skills on the high quality run. The Half Pipe and Moguls Course were both used for events in the 2017 Asian Winter Games held in Sapporo and Obihiro. Freestyler
skiers and snowboarders alike should definitely drop by Bankei and try out the world class courses on offer. Before you leave, stop by BANKEIEN on the western-side of the slope to feast on the local Hokkaido dish of Genghis Khan, lamb grilled on hot charcoals, for a tasty way to end your day.
THE BEST POWDER SNOW PARADISE NEAR SAPPORO
n hour’s drive away from both Sapporo and Otaru on a snow-covered mountain pass is a ski resort located at the base of Mount Asaridake – Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort. Sapporo Kokusai and the nearby Kiroro Snow World are the coldest and receive the most snowfall in the area. The conditions are so harsh in this region that driving around at certain hours of the night is prohibited and extreme care must be taken when driving at other times during the day. Fortunately, the bitter cold and heavy snowfall provide the perfect conditions for a great ski resort. Professional skiers and snowboarders from Sapporo, Otaru, and the surrounds flock to this ski resort for its consistently high quality powder snow. The 2.2 kilometre long Downhill Trail, which spans from the peak of the mountain to the base, is particularly thrilling with its non-compacted fluffy powder snow, making for a satisfying shred. With only 5 total lifts and gondolas, the ski area may not appear to be particularly large, however, the Fairy Tale Trail through the forest, aimed at novice skiers, is a satisfying run at 3.6 kilometres long. The plentiful snow combined with low temperatures also creates excellent powder snow to be carved up in the sidecountry areas. While this ski resort may be a little further from Sapporo compared to other resorts in the area, there a number of bus packages that offer return fares at affordable prices for those who have concerns about driving to and from Sapporo Kokusai. Some packages include lunch courses and even access to nearby hot springs, so make sure to have a quick browse to find the package which best suits you. An itinerary plan I would like to suggest when visiting Sapporo Kokusai is a stay at the nearby Jozankei Onsen. This hot spring town is only 20 minutes away from the ski resort and is the perfect place for tired snow fanatics to seek refuge. jSnow issue 2 │ 17
SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
定 山 渓
TAKE A DIP IN NATURAL HOT SPRING WATERS IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS OF HOKKAIDO
o enjoy the beautiful Hokkaido scenery on offer throughout every season of the year in the relaxing thermal waters of a natural hot spring, take a trip an hour out of Sapporo to Jozankei Onsen. The long history of Jozankei Onsen began in 1866. The Buddhist monk, Miizumi Jozan, was said to have founded the town through many hardships after first discovering a hot spring source during his missionary work. The area was given the name “Jozankei” in recognition of Jozan’s endeavours. There are 56 different hot spring sources in Jozankei Onsen. The thermal waters bubble up from the banks and river bed of Toyohira River, which runs through the town, in approximately 8,600 litre bursts. The sodium chloride-rich hot spring waters (neutral hypotonic thermal waters) are clear and have a characteristically smooth saltiness – a quality popular amongst hot spring fans in Japan. Salt sticks to your skin as you soak in the waters and prevents sweat from evaporating so as to warm you to the core. Of the numerous longestablished Japanese inns to
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line the streets of this hot spring town, HANAMOMIJI is particularly proactive in attracting tourists from around the world. Onsen lovers will be delighted by the facilities on offer at HANAMOMIJI, including: an open-air hot spring bath with a view of the Jozankei valley; 3 private baths; and even the opportunity to soak in the springs of surrounding inns. The dishes filled with local Hokkaido seafood is also a big crowd-pleaser. Check out the HANA-MOMIJI website (offered in English) for more information. Iwato Kannondo Temple is one site that absolutely cannot be missed on a visit to Jozankei. On the right-hand side of the altar inside the temple is a cave filled with 33 statues of the deity, Kannon. Iwato Kannondo Temple is a popular spiritual location, I highly recommend a quick peek into the cave to feel the power emanating from the area. Jozankei is also known for its “Kappa Folklore”, which tells of a kappa (a Japanese water spirit) that once lurked in the town. As such, the kappa has become the town mascot and statues of it can be found scattered around town. Anyone fancy a kappa search on their next visit to Jozankei Onsen?
OTARU 小 樽
THE WALL STREET OF THE NORTH: A HISTORICAL PORT CITY IN HOKKAIDO jSnow issue 2 │ 19
SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
OTARU 20 â”‚ jSnow issue 2
taru is a history-rich port city approximately 30 - 40 minutes away from Sapporo by train. It is a popular tourist destination and has a number of ski areas in close vicinity to hop on over to. For those looking for a more relaxed city with easily accessible ski resorts to base their snow adventures, then Otaru might be the place to stay. Otaru Canal is the most popular tourist spot in all of Otaru. Visitors are often captivated by the nostalgic sight of stone-built warehouses lining the canal. At night, the stone footpath adjacent to the canal is lit up by gas lamps, reminiscent of the Meiji era during the westernisation movement in Japan. The stone warehouses capture the light of the lamps and cast a reflection across the mirror-like canal at night. The magical night view of Otaru harks back to the city’s past as a thriving place of trade. Until the Edo period, Otaru was a small fishing town. The development of Hokkaido in the Meiji period saw the small town grow into a city with a significant presence. Along with the official development of Hokkaido, towns such as Sapporo needed access to Honshu, the main island of Japan, for commodities and resources – this is where Otaru Port played a vital role. Sea routes
connected Otaru to places such as Europe and Sakhalin, whilst the establishment of a rail route to Sapporo made freight services by land possible. With trade routes on both sea and land, Otaru became the main port of Hokkaido and, in turn, saw banks and businesses flock to the town to set up offices and raise capital. Otaru was thriving with so much business at the time that it earned the nickname, “The Wall Street of the North”. The merchants of Otaru held significant power at the time and influenced not only the markets in Hokkaido, but overseas as well. During the glory days of Otaru in the late Taisho period, the Otaru Canal was constructed. Part of the coast was reclaimed as land to create the 40 metre wide, 1,140 metre long canal, before close to 120 warehouses made of stone were built alongside it. Nowadays, many multi-storey buildings, such as the Otaru branch of the Bank of Japan, still fill the city like they did during more prosperous times. A trip around Otaru to soak in the sights of buildings and railways that were constructed in days gone by will set you on a nostalgic adventure to remember. Together with the shift towards modernisation, cars became the norm and the population of Sapporo exploded, forcing Otaru to lose its crown as the central business district. Sapporo took over the economic throne and Otaru now sees visitors flock to it for its charms as a tourist town.
The warehouses lining Otaru Canal are now used as tourist facilities and house establishments such as restaurants and glass-making workshops. Lights illuminate historical buildings at night, whilst rickshaws and retro-styled buses roam around the streets as the city works hard to preserve and maintain the historical buildings that help to boost tourism. As a port city, Otaru is well-known for being blessed with delicious seafood. Otaru Beer, on the other hand, is a popular local brew worth a taste or two. If you are a gourmand looking for good food and drink, then make sure to put Otaru on your list. The city is also known as a town of glass and music boxes, making it the perfect place for souvenir shopping on days away from the ski slopes. February marks the arrival of the Otaru Snow Light Path, an annual event which sees the snowy streets of Otaru majestically lit up. Otaru Canal is also spectacularly illuminated during the event, so make sure you book your tickets to see this magnificent sight in all its glory.
Various types of Breakfast
Large Hot Springs
Welcoming you in style with traditional and genuine service
in the nostalgic and romantic city of Otaru.
AUTHENT HOTEL OTARU (www.authent.co.jp/english/)
Dormy Inn PREMIUM OTARU 3-9-1 Inaho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0032 JAPAN www.hotespa.net/hotels/otaru/ 8403KYOR
jSnow issue 2 │ 21
SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
KIRORO A MAJOR SKI RESORT JUST A STONE’S THROW AWAY FROM OTARU キ ロ ロ
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iroro Snow World is known for receiving the most snowfall in Hokkaido. The constant snowfall in the area means that the snow is always fresh, prompting skiers and snowboarders from all around the world to flock to this ski resort in search of the world’s best powder snow. The cat has been let out of the bag and Kiroro Snow World is the talk of the town. At the base of the mountain is the Mountain Centre Facility and the Sheraton Hotel, which is connected directly to the ski area. Approximately 2 kilometres away from the ski slope is the Tribute Portfolio Hotel, the closest fully-serviced resort hotel to Sapporo and bigger than the Sheraton in scale. Both hotels are excellent and
offer a wide range of facilities. There are also a number of great hot springs in the area, so you really cannot go wrong with either choice when choosing accommodation in Kiroro. Visitors staying in Otaru or Sapporo will find Kiroro Snow World a welcome ski resort at a convenient 40 minutes away from Otaru and 1 hour away from Sapporo. Whilst many skiers travel directly to Kiroro from New Chitose Airport, I believe it is a complete waste not to stay in Sapporo or Otaru if you have already made the journey over to Hokkaido. Another suggestion would be to spend a few days at one of the hotels in Kiroro during a long stay in Hokkaido to take advantage of everything the resort has to offer.
Of the 21 courses available at Kiroro, the longest stretches 4 kilometres in length. While the courses are the main draw point, the Kiroro Gondola is a handy mode of transport that allows visitors to efficiently move around the ski area and is a selling point in itself. The Asari Dynamic Course is the ski resortâ€™s pride and joy. It starts on the peak of Mount Asari at 1,180 metres above sea level and takes you down 600 metres to the base on the 4 kilometre long run. The moderate gradient and highly-varied terrain make for a fun course to keep you on your toes. This powder snow heaven is also filled with a variety of non-compacted snow courses. Furthermore, snow fanatics will be pleased to know that there are Powder Zones â€“ the name given to the the accessible sidecountry areas of Kiroro. The ability to access off-piste trails via ski lifts is sure to put smiles on a lot of faces. These areas are still relatively unknown to the majority of skiers, so now is the chance to have them all to yourself. For skiers looking to visit authentic backcountry areas, make sure you familiarise yourself with the members-only Kiroro Mountain Club. Members can advise each other of Kiroro mountain rules and share information, as well as have access to priority parking, wax and tune-up coupons, and coupons for high-grade ski and snowboard rentals amongst a wide range of other perks. Make sure to drop by the website for more information.
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SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
天 狗 山
A TRICKY SKI AREA MADE FOR AND LOVED BY OTARU LOCALS
ount Tengu (Tenguyama) is a ski area located behind Otaru and can be seen from the town. There are a number of attractions in the area for those who have no interest in skiing including: the observation deck on the top of the mountain that has earned a 1 star listing on the Michelin Green Guide Japan; the Hananade Tengu-san, which is a large statue of a Japanese demon with a long nose, said to grant the wishes of those who rub its nose; the Tengu Museum, which houses a collection of different tengu masks from all over Japan; and the Otaru Ski Museum. This ski area is a typical local slope and can be easily missed due to its small scale. Many visitors are unaware of the fact that Mount Tengu was the first place in Hokkaido to introduce ski lifts to the area. It is also where Otaru locals go to earn their stripes – skiers who are able to conquer the slope in one run are considered bonafide skiing experts. The courses at this resort run down steep slopes and can be challenging even for the most experienced of skiers. Of the various courses, the Dynamic Course, nicknamed “the Tengu Wall”, is the most unforgiving of them all at at heart-stopping 42 degrees steep. This course for experts is a joy to master after a night of
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heavy snowfall. Otaru is known for producing a number of Olympic athletes and Mount Tengu is often used as the training grounds for these elite skiers and snowboarders. With a reputation for producing world-class athletes, the Tengu Wall is sure to capture the hearts of advanced skiers and snowboarders alike. A visit to Mount Tengu at night is also recommended in order to see the beautiful night scenery in the area. Whilst the tengu is a Japanese demon known for its long nose, the jury is still out as to why Mount Tengu was named as such.
SNOW CRUISE ONZE A RARE EXPERIENCE – SKIING WITH AN OCEAN VIEW オ ー ン ズ
now Cruise Onze is a ski resort located 20 minutes from Otaru and 30 minutes from Sapporo by car, placing it approximately mid-way between the two cities. This ski resort is unique in that it gets particularly busy at night due to its nighttime courses staying open until 11:00 pm. The biggest drawcard of this resort is its location. With the ocean right next to the ski slope, skiers racing down the slope feel almost as if they are diving into the sea beyond the mountain. Onze is easy to access and has a variety of courses on offer, such as: groomed runs with compacted snow, non-compacted snow courses both standard and with moguls, and even relaxing forest runs. Skiers and snowboarders of
all different levels are bound to find a suitable course to shred to their heart’s content This ski resort is popular amongst locals for the ability to enjoy the beautiful night views with nighttime access available on all of the courses. Whilst the ski resort might be a little too small for you to enjoy a full day of skiing, it is a great place to drop by after a day of sightseeing in Otaru or Sapporo. The “Handsfree 4 Hour Ticket” is one of the various packages on offer that bundle equipment rental and resort admission all in one. Snow Cruise Onze is a great resort for a casual ski trip and is worth adding to your list of ski slopes to visit in Hokkaido.
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SAPPORO & OTARU Hokkaido
HOME OF THE FATHER OF JAPANESE WHISKY AND NIKKA WHISKY
f you happen to find yourself in Otaru, then I highly recommended you take the 30 minute train ride over to the little town of Yoichi. Despite being a small town of only 20,000 people, there are a number of old ruins and other spots to make for a relaxing sightseeing trip. The most famous of all of the tourist attractions in Yoichi is none other than the origins of Japanese Whisky itself – the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery. Japanese whisky has gained recognition and high praise around the world in recent times, with the Nikka Taketsuru 17 Year Old Pure Malt taking out the World’s Best Blended Malt Award at the 2018 World Whiskies Awards (WWA). The Taketsuru brand has now racked up a total of 8 international awards. The Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery was founded by the father of Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru in 1934, with the goal of producing authentic whisky in Japan.
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Taketsuru travelled to Scotland on his own to learn the intricacies of producing whisky, fuelled by his unwavering desire to find his own whisky utopia. He finally settled on a small town similar to Scotland with cool, humid weather and fresh water with clean air – Yoichi. The heavy stone walls of the distillery capped off with a red roof makes it look almost as though it was taken directly out of a Scottish town. The distillery continues to produce authentic whisky to this day and offers highly popular free tours to give visitors some insight into how their whisky is produced. Whilst guided tours are only offered in Japanese, the historical distillery area is free for visitors to walk around with English descriptions on exhibits providing fascinating tidbits of trivia. There is also an English app available for download, so language should not pose any issues. Along with free whisky tastings, the distillery also offers visitors access to the museum and the residence where Masataka Taketsuru once lived. Make sure you travel over to the distillery by train since drinking and driving is strictly prohibited.
GATEWAY TO THE HIGHEST POWDER SNOW HEAVEN ON EARTH Set Up Base in Asahikawa For Fun in the Snow Words and photography: Kazuya Baba
The belly of central Hokkaido, also known as the “powder belt”, is thus named because of the exceptionally light powder snow which falls in the region. Asahikawa, the second largest city in Hokkaido, is a mere stone’s throw away from Asahikawa Airport – the gateway to this region. jSnow issue 2 │ 27
entral Hokkaido is home to a number of large-scale ski resorts including Furano and Tomamu, however, the aim of this article is introduce the joys of staying in the major city of Asahikawa whilst hopping around the local ski slopes. Major resorts such as Niseko, Rusutsu, Furano and Tomamu tend to spring to mind when the topic of Hokkaido is brought up. Their high exposure has unfortunate, but inevitable consequences – crowded ski slopes. Just imagine the sheer chaos that ensues for a taste of powder snow the morning following a good night of snowfall. Ski areas that haven’t quite caught the attention of international visitors require far less elbowing and shoving to catch a good run. In fact, sometimes lucky visitors can have a ski slope all to themselves. Setting up base in Asahikawa to discover the surrounds of Central Hokkaido allows for an exciting snow experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, let alone the rest of Hokkaido. This is because of its location in northern Japan, right in the heart of Hokkaido, away from coastlines. All of these conditions combine to create the perfect environment for dry powder snow to fall.
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Let’s start with the city of Asahikawa itself. Asahikawa is proud to call itself a “food-lover’s town” for the plethora of gourmet offerings to be had. The entertainment district of Sanrokumachi is an epicurean’s dream with over 1,000 different bars and restaurants lining the streets. Izakayas (Japanese pubs), ramen, BBQ lamb and sushi restaurants are just a few of the countless local Hokkaido fare to be feasted upon for, above all, a price that won’t break the bank. Ski resorts which see international visitors flock to their slopes tend to bump up their prices, as many tourist destinations do. Asahikawa is different in that restaurants are priced reasonably due to the number of locals who live and work there. The worldwide ramen boom in recent times will no doubt bring attention to Asahikawa due to its status as a city of delicious ramen. The global ramen chain restaurant – Hokkaido Ramen Santouka – had its humble beginnings in Asahikawa. Visitors with a particular interest in ramen should head over to the Ramen Village, 20 minutes away from the city centre, to see and try all the different types of delicious ramen to be had. The popularity of this area has increased so
much that 3 hotels have opened up their doors in the last 3 years, with another scheduled to start trading later this year. Another place of interest is Asahiyama Zoo, which is located approximately 30 minutes from the city boundaries by bus. The zoo has been the backdrop and subject of various Japanese movies and TV shows due to its sheer popularity. Fans of the zoo find themselves visiting again and again to see the animals comfortable to actively roam around in the unique environments created to suit each different species. The arrival of winter signals the start of the Penguin Walks at Asahiyama Zoo, which take place every year from December through to March. This is one of very few places to witness penguins happily strolling through the snow. A QUICK 30 MINUTES AWAY – KAMUI SKI LINKS Kamui Ski Links is the most prominent of all ski resorts in the local vicinity of Asahikawa. While it certainly feels like a local ski resort, it is a fairly large-scale establishment with 7 ski lifts in jSnow issue 2 │ 29
operation. The ski slopes at Kamui are spacious and wide-spreading. There are few ski resorts nowadays which offer runs wide enough for skiers and snowboarders to carve up huge arcs in the freshly groomed snow. The resort also actively opens up its sidecountry trails for thrill-seekers to shred through the wild tree runs. While the publicly open 5 sidecountry trails are hours of fun in themselves, the Bumps (Moguls) Course and Treerun Course are where the extreme fun is to be had. These courses can be accessed through the main area and are not recommended for inexperienced skiers or snowboarders. If word gets out about the
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sidecountry offerings at Kamui, then it may fall victim to swarming crowds in the future, like other major resorts. Visitors to Kamui should also check out NOBu, a ramen restaurant at the base of the mountain. The recipe for Asahikawa ramen has been passed down through many a generation at NOBu and it is well-known for its superb flavours. BACKCOUNTRY BONANZA AT ASAHIDAKE AND KURODAKE Asahidake is a small scale ski slope with only 2 ropeways in operation. This little ski slope makes up for its size through its sidecountry and off-piste trails. Unlike Kamui Ski Links, which has a cult international skier and snowboarder following, Asahidake still remains comparatively untouched by international visitors. To get the most out of the backcountry trails may, however, require the assistance of an experienced guide. The ropeway has a maximum capacity of 101 people. Upon reaching the peak of the mountain, a sea of white snow beyond the trees fills the area as far as the eye can see. The sight of almost
smoke-like snow filling the air is quite a rare sight to behold. While many skiers will hike up to the peak to shred the backcountry trails, there are plenty of sidecountry trails full of powder snow around that do not require any hiking at all. Along with Asahidake, is Kurodake, which is also known for its backcountry trails. Much like Asahidake, a ropeway trip is required to get to the top, however, there is also a lift in operation from the end of the ropeway to make skiing all the runs an easier affair. Backcountry fanatics will need to head further towards the peak to satisfy their urges. The course down from the ropeway is restricted to advanced skiers and snowboarders only as it is an intense run. Both Asahidake and Kurodake are prime locations for backcountry fans and an added advantage of these locations is that they are both renowned for their hot springs. A good, long soak in the thermal waters to warm up a chilled body after a day of carving up ski runs is sure to hit the spot. The convenience of being able to enjoy backcountry skiing and hot springs whilst staying in the major city of Asahikawa is winter travelling in style at its best.
POWDER SNOW HEAVEN ON EARTH Asahikawa Higashikawa Kamikawa-Sounkyo Pippu Aibetsu Takasu Higashikagura Tohma
TAISETSU AREA PIPPU SKI RESORT
Asahikawa, located in the center of Hokkaido is the island's second largest city after Sapporo with a lot of popular and famous tourist attractions. Local Hokkaido cuisine can be enjoyed for reasonable price at Asahikawa. It also boasts over 30 accommodation establishments, allowing for guests, from families to small groups alike, to choose a place to suit their specific needs. With a variety of ski resorts nearby for skiers to enjoy the best snow the area has to offer, Asahikawa's convenient location makes for the perfect locale to set up base and enjoy the ski trip of a lifetime in Central Hokkaido
SANTA SKI RESORT Mt.KURODAKE KAMUI SKI RESORT
CANMORE SKI RESORT
Recommended Ski Resorts Near Asahikawa
An excellent ski resort located a short 30 minute drive from the heart of Asahikawa. Kamui Ski Resort has 30 courses on offer including 5 glade-runs; 30 degree steep, 150 metre wide packed-snow runs; and wide, gentle slopes for beginners and families. The courses span across 100 hectares of mountain to keep skiers and snowboarders of all levels happy. The sight of frost-kissed trees lining the mountain peak on a clear, early morning is also a treat that cannot be missed!
Located 50 minutes away from the heart of Asahikawa is this ski resort with a magnificent view of the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group. A jam-packed day of fun is guaranteed with 9 courses at a maximum length of 2,200 metres to shred. The large spa area in Pippu Ski Resort makes it the perfect place to wind down after full day of skiing.
he 1998 Nagano Olympics was the world's introduction to skiing in Japan, and since then the interest in Japanese snow has grown from a cult following to an international obsession. These days, some of the most well known ski areas are Hakuba valley in Nagano, and Niseko in Hokkaido. Hakuba, of course, became widely known due to the Olympics, however, the Niseko area has unexpectedly become one of the most popular ski destinations for international skiers. Over 20 years ago Niseko was hardly known to anyone other than locals and skiers from the city of Sapporo. After the success of the 1998 Winter Olympics, skiing in Japan was finally on the map and travel pioneers looked to share Japanese resorts with the world. Just over 20 years ago, powder-hound Peter
Murphy visited Niseko and realised he’d discovered a powder paradise. He then founded SkiJapan.com and started bringing skiers and snowboarders over to Japan. At that time just about everything at ski resorts was in Japanese only, and it was almost a necessity to have a guide or Japanese speaker with you. Since then, most resorts have greatly improved their facilities and services due to the rising number of riders from around the world. As such, travel companies like, SkiJapan.com, are sharing the powder with everyone, not just in Niseko, but all across Japan. Niseko rose to popularity for a few main reasons; it gets some of the most consistent snowfall in all of Japan, and the quality of that snow is said to be the best in the world. On average the resort receives about 14 to 15 metres of light, dry snow, and for the 2017/18 season it
THE RISE OF JAPAN'S INTERNATIONAL RESORTS Hakuba's Renaissance Era and Developing Japanese Resorts Seeking Inspiration from the Facilities of Niseko Words: Alister Buckingham
Alister Buckingham riding Niseko’s legendary powder. Photo: SkiJapan.com
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received over 17 metres. Furthermore, the resort has long allowed riders to access off-piste areas and backcountry, where the best and deepest snow can be found. The Niseko rules were very innovative when they were introduced, and other resorts around Japan have looked to Niseko for guidance for their own rules and access. The region is now known as the powder capital of the world, and for good reason. The Nagano area still has all the facilities that it did back in 1998 and has enjoyed steady success as an international resort since then. The main resorts, mostly located in the Hakuba Valley, host some of the best terrain in Japan with great lift access to on and off-piste areas. While Hakuba doesn’t get the same quantity of snow as Niseko, it does make up for it with steep runs and a huge selection of resorts. The resorts are spread throughout the Hakuba Valley, so are a few village areas, rather than one main area. The largest of these areas is at the base of the HappoOne ski resort, and hosts a number of hotels, restaurants and shops. The popular Square Hotel is located here, and will be refurbished and reopened for next season under the new name, "Hakuba Gateway". It will be managed by the experienced team at SkiJapan.com who seek to improve hotel and transport services in the area. With bookings now open for the upcoming 2018/19 season, and SkiJapan’s in-resort services expanding in the two regions, Niseko and Hakuba show no signs of slowing down as they lead the way as Japan’s top ski destinations.
All Nippon Airways
THE FINEST VOYAGES IN THE SKY TO SKI RESORTS OF JAPAN 34 │ jSnow issue 2
A 5 STAR AIRLINE AND THE WINNER OF AIRLINE OF THE YEAR 2018 Are you familiar with the Japanese term, “omotenashi”? It can simply be defined as, “hospitality”, however, it means so much more than that in Japan. The term encompasses the idea of providing service of the utmost quality from the bottom of one’s heart. There is a strong importance surrounding omotenashi in Japan – how genuinely welcoming and how conscientious can one be when serving a customer? The emphasis on omotenashi is much the same in the Japanese airline industry; airlines with excellent service are highly regarded. While many trips start from the moment you step onto an
aircraft, perhaps it would be a welcome change to start your next trip to Japan for a unique cultural experience on a Japanese airline renowned for their omotenashi. The finest experience to be had can be found aboard the only 5 star Japanese airline to fly from Sydney to Tokyo – All Nippon Airways (ANA). In December 2015, ANA started flying direct routes from Sydney to Tokyo (Haneda Airport) for the first time in 16 years to meet the rising demand of travellers flying between Australia and Japan. ANA has captured the attention of the public in recent years through
special campaigns such as their Star Wars-themed aircraft. However, it is far more worth noting that the airline has been given a 5 star rating by UK airline service research company, SKYTRAX, for the past 6 years running – a testament to their superb convenience and service. The airline was also the winner of the prestigious “Airline of the Year” award at the Airline Industry Achievement Awards, which recognises airlines and industry individuals for their outstanding achievements. The award acknowledged ANA’s exceedingly high service throughout a passenger’s journey as well as its endeavours to expand flight routes. This is the third time ANA has received this award with the first in 2007 and second in 2013. A prime example of the convenience to be had when flying with ANA is the welcome ability for snow-bound travellers to arrive early to their ski slope destinations. The Sydney to Haneda route offered by ANA departs at night and arrives in Haneda Airport (Tokyo) early the next morning. This allows passengers to hop onto a connecting domestic flight and be at their destination at an earlier time. Skiers and snowboarders alike can be in Sapporo (Chitose Airport) for a trip to Niseko at 8:30am, or on their way to Central Hokkaido through Asahikawa (Asahikawa Airport) at
8:15am. There’s nothing like standing on the snow the next morning after a good sleep on the plane. Another perk of flying ANA is that ski gear can be checked-in at no extra charge. Passengers flying Economy Class have a baggage allowance of up to 2 pieces with a maximum weight of 23 kilograms per piece. One of the pieces of luggage to be checked-in can be ski gear of up to 292 centimetres in length. Business Class passengers have a maximum weight allowance of 32 kilograms per bag. Economy Class offers a wide range extras onboard, such as adjustable leg-rests, in-seat power supply and even USB ports. There is also Premium Economy Class and Business Class for those who after an even more comfortable experience. Premium Economy passengers can experience the comfort of a wider seat pitch, larger monitors, as well as lounge access and priority check-in. The ANA Lounge at Haneda Airport is renowned for its high quality cuisine. Business Class seats are positioned in a staggered layout, providing all passengers with aisle access. The aisle access combined with fully flat reclining seats allows for a relaxing, undisturbed flight. While Narita Airport (located in neighbouring Chiba Prefecture) is also another
point of access to Tokyo, Haneda Airport offers more convenient access to the capital city. Haneda Airport owes its convenient location and seamless flight transfer routes to its relatively new beginnings, having only opened for flights in 2010. Perhaps this is also another one of many reasons to fly ANA? For your next trip to Japan, choose an adventure with ANA.
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s w n no pa ba r s Ja a Ba de d zuy w lan y: Ka po in graph st a h o t o m be in s and p d
AY O-D IZU TW IN A OT HO OS
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2DAY AIZU Fukushima
n February 2018, I went from the middle of summer in Sydney, to the middle of winter in Japan. My destination was the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture. Situated in the Tohoku region at the northernmost reaches of Japan’s main island, Aizu might conjure up images of being far away from the gateway to Japan that is the metropolis of Tokyo, but Fukushima Prefecture itself is the gateway to the Tohoku region as seen from Tokyo, and in a location that is both close and easy to access. The flight from Sydney to Haneda Airport arrives early in the morning, and you can get to Aizu itself by as early as 9:00 am that day via the bullet train. Not only easy to access, the inland position of Aizu means the humidity there is low, making for fluffy, excellent powder snows
that have earned the area a reputation as a hidden powder snow heaven among Japanese skiers. Something I should mention up front is the matter of radiation that might come to mind when the name Fukushima is mentioned. It is because of this concern that the number of people visiting Fukushima Prefecture has greatly declined in the time since the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the level of radiation is being closely monitored, and your safety is assured. Fukushima is also the third largest prefecture in Japan, and while Aizu might be in the same prefecture where the incident occurred, it is far away from the affected areas, so there is no need for concern. Since overseas skiers have yet to realise this, now is the perfect chance to have this powder snow heaven all to yourself. I decided to take a taxi from Haneda Airport to Tokyo Station, instead of braving the potential difficulties of the standard railway lines, because of all the photographic gear and other luggage we had in addition to our skiing gear. The cost came to around 5,000 yen, but it’s a reasonable price if you’re travelling in a group. Changing over to the bullet train from Tokyo Station, we arrived in Koriyama City, the largest city
in Fukushima Prefecture, in an hour and forty minutes. Changing back to the standard railway lines once again from there, we then travelled on to Inawashiro Station, the gateway to Aizu itself, and arrived at around 9:00 am. It was a strange sensation to leave Sydney not only the night before to find myself in a world of snow by 9:00 am the next morning, but this only served to reinforce the idea of how easy it is to get there. Aizu is home to 22 skiing areas all up, but with only two days to see the sights, we would need to
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head on to our next spot the following evening, this time by rental car. With a goal of visiting as many skiing spots across the country as possible in a few short weeks, such a tight schedule was impossible to avoid. At Inawashiro, we met up with snowboarder and guide Kei, an expert on the local area and one of the subjects for our photo shoot. With the help of Kei’s advice, we put together a plan that would allow us to make the most of our limited two-day schedule while getting the best possible shots. On the first day, it was Nekoma we decided upon as the place to enjoy some of the best and lightest powder in the area. NEKOMA, HIDDEN SKI RESORT WITH FIRST-RATE POWDER It was a trip of thirty minutes from Inawashiro Station to Nekoma in Kei’s car. Here, we met up with another skier who would be a subject for us, and took the lifts right away to the tops of the mountains. Since Nekoma is situated deep in the very heart of the Aizu area, it takes a little longer 38 │ jSnow issue 2
to access, and the skiing area itself is not so large at 6 lifts in total, so it sees fewer skiers coming to visit. It would be no exaggeration to say the area is almost completely unknown overseas. The only visitors that come to this spot are locals who know it well already, and hardcore skiers from overseas who simply happened to hear something about it. Nekoma is said to have some of the highest quality snow in Aizu. The reason for this is because of the thick and frequent snowfalls it experiences, the northern-facing aspect that keeps the snow out of direct sunlight and makes it hard to melt, and the long period that fresh snows remain. While the quality of snow in other areas might gradually deteriorate, it is quite often that Nekoma alone remains fresh. The weather when we went was, again, snowy. Not the best conditions for taking photos, but the best possible conditions for fresh snow to continue building up while you’re hitting the slopes. The easy nature of the land makes Nekoma home to many readily enjoyable sidecountry areas, and it is for this
reason that it has earned the position of a much-loved spot among hardcore skiers. This was no exception, we took the best advantage of the sidecountry areas as possible, coming across natural jumps and tunnels created by the forms of fallen trees and taking shots of skiing and snowboarding side by side. The snows only grew heavier as the afternoon arrived, putting an end to our photographic endeavours in a matter of hours, but we were still able to get a number of good shots. THE MASSIVE SKIING AREA OF ALTS BANDAI Still fresh from the excitement of Nekoma the day before, the next morning, Kei came to pick us up at the hotel where we were staying. That day, Kei was dressed in a bright yellow, newly acquired getup given the previous day’s difficulty in showing up on camera. Our destination for the day was the largest skiing area in all of Aizu, Alts Bandai, whose main attraction is the cat ski tour held only on
weekends. Inaccessible via the lifts on weekdays, this tour allows a small number of people to access an area via snowmobile (cat) on the weekends. Getting to ski down this course where you can enjoy snows built up all through the week is quite the experience. While our schedule didn’t fall on a weekend this time, we were able to get some shots out in the sidecountry areas and skiing fields thanks to recommendations from our local expert, Kei. The sheer size of this resort offers a great many places to enjoy. We were able to get some great shots in addition to the ones we captured at Nekoma the day before, and I hope they convey a sense of the sheer potential of the snows that Aizu has on offer. Finishing up our two short, but full days of shooting, I took the wheel as we drove onwards. There are a great many wonderful skiing areas in Japan, but those that match the quality of Aizu are few and far between. In addition to the skiing resorts of Hokkaido and Nagano that are already popular among overseas skiers, why not add Aizu to the list of areas to visit this coming season? jSnow issue 2 │ 39
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Urabandai Grandeco Tokyu Hotel There are many points of interest near Urabandai Grandeco Tokyu Hotel: from the sightseeing to relaxing in the nature.
Urabandai Lake Resort There is Lake Hibara behind our lobby. This is the only place in Japan that you can see the lobby with its luxurious chandeliers and lavishly used marble.
Active Resorts Urabandai
Welcome to the Snow Heaven
Rich in natural beauty with different magnificent colors-Goshiki Lake is only 7minutes walk away from the hotel. Only 20-minute drive to Grand Deco Ski Resort and Nekoma Ski Resort.
Recommendations for the best hotels in the area.
HOTEL LISTEL INAWASHIRO LISTEL INWASHIRO is located at the gateway to AIZU AREA. You can enjoy spending “a slow living” at the hotel Listel Inawashiro.
Hoshino Resorts Bandaisan Onsen Hotel Hoshino Resorts Bandaisan Onsen Hotel is connected to the Hoshino Resorts Alts Bandai ski resort directly which is one of the largest ski resorts of northeast Japan with 29 courses and famous for its new parks.
ECHIGO YUZAWA A SKIER’S PARADISE 80 MINUTES FROM THE BIG CITY Choose Your Own Adventure from Echigo Yuzawa Words and Photography: Kazuya Baba
Echigo Yuzawa has continued to grow in popularity over the past few years. Its biggest selling point is as an easily accessible region of heavy snowfall at a short 1 hour and 20 minutes away by bullet train from the gateway to Japan – Tokyo. There have been countless features to date that only glance upon the region’s ease of access and convenience of having 14 different ski resorts in the surrounding areas, whilst only superficially throwing in the odd sentence or two about the most important aspect – the quality of the snow. In February 2018, I set off on a mission to dig deeper into the treasure trove that is Echigo Yuzawa and was reminded, once again, of the area's simmering potential. Ishiuchi Maruyama
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A decadent lunch box on the bullet train
Echigo Yuzawa from Gala
MAKING A SECOND MAMMOTH SKI AREA THROUGH COLLABORATION
Of the 14 total ski resorts in Yuzawa, Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is known for being the most convenient of them all as the only ski resort in the world where you can head straight onto the ski slope station from the bullet train platform. Writers tend to lean towards expanding on the convenience of the facilities at Gala, such as the fully-stocked rental shops to allow for skiing without any personal gear on hand, and the decked-out powder room. I, on the other hand, want to draw attention to the ability to roam back and forth between Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort and Ishiuchimaruyama Ski Area. We here at jSnow have briefly touched on this aspect in previous features about this area,
The drunken salaryman at Ponshukan
but have never gone into detail about how great this really is. My personal view has changed recently and I realised the true significance behind the connected resorts when I visited Ishiuchimaruyama Ski Area earlier this year. When you purchase a combined lift pass, you get access to Gala, Yuzawa Kogen and Ishiuchimaruyama for a total of 48 courses to shred to your heart’s content. Anywhere you go, ski resorts in the area will bombard you with different marketing jargon to bring you to their slopes. Amongst all of this marketing, there is bound to be a slight hidden agenda to dissuade you from visiting rival resorts. These are all merely business ploys and have nothing to do with visitors having a good time at each of the various establishments. Ski tourists will find this huge ski resort
Ponshukan in Echigo Yuzawa
to rival a well-known, gigantic resort in the area – Naeba and Kagura Ski Resort. The combination of 3 ski resorts with their own different selling points and charms makes for a fun experience. Of the 3 resorts, Gala is known for its high quality snow owing to its particularly lofty location compared to the other 2. It is also situated between Yuzawa Kogen and Ishiuchimaruyama, giving it the added advantage of easy access between all 3 resorts. Yuzawa Kogen is known for having the longest history as the first ski resort opened in the Yuzawa region. Despite being a familyfriendly ski resort, it also has very challenging courses at the top of the slope to add to its wide variety of runs on offer. The biggest advantage of setting up base at this resort is, without a doubt, its location. While Gala
Stylish and relaxing, with 4 rooms. Western atmosphere coupled with Japanese warm hospitality. Enjoy your stay with the natural hot springs and high class space.
Web:http://www.quattro-yuzawa.jp/ Mail:email@example.com TEL:(+81)25-788-0444
Private Onsen(hot spring) and Meal served in your room.
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Hanging air at Ishiuchimaruyama
The slopes of Ishiuchimaruyama
Filling up the belly at Ishiuchimaruyama
Kicking up snow at NASPA New Otani
A furry NASPA New Otani visitor
Yuzawa is extremely convenient with its impressive base station, it is generally viewed as a day-trip resort. Those looking to stay a little longer in the area will most likely find themselves around the hot spring town of Echigo Yuzawa, which is filled with places of accommodation and shops to explore. Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort is only a few minutes away, by foot, from Echigo Yuzawa Station. It is by all means possible to set up base in one of the many hotels and inns around Echigo Yuzawa Station to travel over to Gala and Ishiuchimaruyama Ski Resorts. In the same vein, it might be a more interesting option to stay in one of the various accommodative options available in Ishiuchimaruyama to cut out the necessity for extra trips. Furthermore, there is a huge shopping district within Echigo Yuzawa station filled with various local delicacies and souvenirs, so I highly recommend a quick visit there, at the very least. This location is also home to Ponshukan, a unique place with vending machines that allow you to taste various different sake (Japanese rice wine). Look out for the statue of a drunken salaryman (whitecollar worker) when you head out of the station gates and further within the shopping district to lead you in the right direction towards Ponshukan.
WONDERS STILL UNKNOWN TO OVERSEAS SKIERS – ISHIUCHIMARUYAMA
Ishiuchimaruyama Ski Area has a long history. It was opened for business in 1949 and has the biggest ski slope in the area. In fact, it was historically known as the grounds for a large Japanese skiing competition. As an old ski area, it does not come under any national forest pruning restrictions, making for incredibly freeing runs down its massive slope. Ishiuchimaruyama is also said to have the best views in the whole area from its mountain top. Facility-wise, Ishiuchimaruyama is a superb ski resort, however, its typically-local businessstyle means that it is still relatively unknown to overseas ski tourists. While there are many inns and hotels around the area, the chances of them having much experience with foreign visitors is fairly slim. In saying that, for those looking for an authentic Japanese cultural experience – this might be the perfect place to stay. If you do not find the possibility of having to deal with a language barrier daunting, then this could present you with an opportunity for a unique experience. Another unique aspect of this ski area is the variety of restaurants to choose from with 23 establishments for you to whet your appetite with. I have not come across any other ski resort with such a selection in my experiences
travelling around Japan. Farmers and farmhands in this thriving agricultural region put away their farming gear to work in these restaurants over the winter when tending to their fields is not much of an option. A lot of the restaurant owners incorporate their own crops into their menus and I can guarantee the quality of their dishes. Many gourmands with a penchant for skiing often come all the way to this resort purely to feast on the food. Although many ski resorts in the area offer nighttime skiing courses, Ishiuchimaruyama is particularly renowned for their spacious nighttime course which stretches from close to the top of the mountain itself. Now might be the perfect chance to hit up the slopes here while international exposure is still fairly low. There are also shuttle buses in operation from Echigo Yuzawa Station, for those who are staying in that area, to make a quick trip over to the resort first thing in the morning a cinch. If you are looking for a more luxurious stay in a Western-style hotel, then NASPA New Otani might be a place worth looking into. The ski area adjacent to the hotel is rather small, as it is targeted towards family skiers, but with all of the shuttle buses operating from the station, it should not be a problem to hop on over to one of the numerous other ski resorts nearby.
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NAEBA AND KAGURA – BACK AND SIDECOUNTRY FUN AT ITS BEST
Naeba and Kagura Ski Resort, a 40-50 minute bus ride from Echigo Yuzawa Station, is widely known for its huge course at 4 kilometres in length. This mammoth-sized ski resort is also known as one of the venues for the 2015-2016 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Tour. At the base of the slope is the Naeba Prince Hotel which is a huge establishment boasting a total of 1,224 guest rooms, a variety of restaurants and stores, and even hot springs to provide a one-stop spot for all of your accommodative needs. While Naeba is already a huge resort in its own right, the world’s largest gondola in the world – the Dragondola (a portmanteau of the words “dragon” and “gondola”) connects it to Kagura to turn the two resorts into a bonafide behemoth of a ski area. The two resorts combined have a whopping 35 gondolas and lifts in operation with a total of 44 courses to shred, making it and the Yuzawa area the 2 largest ski areas in all of Japan. If you are a ski fanatic looking for backcountry and sidecountry trails to conquer then I highly recommend this area as it is also renowned in Japan as a great off-piste spot. If there’s only thing you take away from this section about Kagura, then it should be the No. 5 Romance Lift. It is a lift accessible from another lift at the peak of Kagura and has fantastic lift-side offerings. While the normal runs already provide endless hours of fun, the side and backcountry areas should not be missed, especially considering how easy to access they are (prior research, such as tours, should always be undertaken before venturing off course). The off-piste areas can also be accessed upon alighting from the lift itself. The entrances to these areas are highly guarded and access will not be permitted unless you are equipped properly with items such as beacons and shovels. As long as you come completely prepared and submit all of the required paperwork then you should have no problems getting in. Make sure to do some further research into the requirements
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and drop on by if this happens to pique your interest. The sidecountry courses available at Naeba Ski Resort are also worth mentioning. Up until my trip earlier this year, I was under the impression that off-course access was prohibited. On my research trip, I went through the necessary steps to gain entry and realised the wonders of this off-piste area. At the end of the No. 1 Gondola lift station is a small guard hut. If you arrive well equipped and submit the required paperwork then you will be able to access the off-course trails without any issues. The slopes in this area are rather steep, so I highly recommend wellexperienced skiers to take on the challenge of this area.
Shredding through Naeba
The beginnings of a kimono
Hard at work making a kimono
The Yukimouro Cellar in Uonuma
LIVING THE SNOW-COUNTRY LIFESTYLE IN MINAMIUONUMA CITY
I received welcome assistance from Niigata Prefecture officials on my trip earlier this year to cover the Yuzawa and Naeba areas. After seeing what the ski areas had to offer, I was given the opportunity to experience the local lifestyle and culture of these snowy towns. While this information may not be of much use for the casual tourist, it is still an experience worth sharing. Perhaps learning about the cultural background of this region and the driving force behind these towns will help to bring about a new perspective upon your travels here. I visited Uonuma, a short distance away from Yuzawa. Uonuma is a city in the snow country where the residents are said to embrace the joys of each passing season as they live in harmony with their natural surroundings. The first place I decided to visit in the area was a kimono fabric shop. Kimonos have a long history in Japan and occupy an important place in traditional Japanese culture. The traditional garment is still worn nowadays for celebrations and special occasions and this region of Japan is particularly well known for producing them. Now, if I were to delve into the particulars of the history of kimonos and how to wear them,
Snow trails in Kagura
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Uonuma no Sato
Clear Uonuma water
An old craftsman in Uonuma
I would start to enter into niche territory, so I will save those details for another day. Instead, I invite you to have a gander at the included photos so that you can imagine just how much work goes into making a kimono. Traditional kimonos are all made by hand and it often takes months to complete all of the intricate steps necessary from start to finish – this, in turn, leads to an expensive price tag. It is fair to say that the effort involved well and truly justifies this worthy investment. The reason why fine arts and textiles are so deep-rooted in this area can all be traced back to its location on the belt of heavy snowfall. People who live in regions of heavy snowfall find themselves stuck indoors during winter. This forces locals to hone their fine motor skills, as not much else can be done indoors, and thus makes for the ideal conditions for kimono-making. The harsh winters gave birth to a region of master kimono-makers. The next place I visited was a facility which features the world-renowned Japanese rice wine, Hakkaisan, brewery – Uonuma no Sato. The facility is located in the corner of
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Minamiuonuma City amongst the tranquil garden scenery, and features an array of establishments that aim to promote nostalgia and calm, including: Hakkaisan Yukimuro Cellar, which includes a café, store and kitchen-goods shop all in one; Nagamori, a soba restaurant; SATO-YA, a sweets shop; and Tsutsumiya Hachikura a gift shop. The Hakkaisan Yukimuro Cellar is a natural refrigerated cellar made with snow, and stocks a variety of different Japanese rice wines or sake. The snow cellar is made of 1,000 tonnes of snow. Ageing sake for up to 5 years in the snow cellar allows for a smoother flavour profile to develop. After taking a train from Echigo Yuzawa to Itsukamachi Station, the facility is approximately 15 minutes away by taxi. I highly recommend a tour of the facility for those who are interested in a cultural experience in the snow country. My last stop was a pickle store located approximately 10 minutes away by foot from Muikamachi Station. The harsh winters of the snow country helped to foster the fermented
and preserved food culture of this region. Uonuma is filled with a number of pickle and preserved food stores. Of the various stores, I visited Imanari Tsukemonoten, which is a long-established store still making pickles in wooden tubs to this day. Various vegetables and edible wild plants harvested from Minamiuonuma are left to ferment in Hakkaisan junmai ginjo lees to make their famous Yamagazuke pickles. Imanari Tsukemonoten pickles have been made the same way for as long as they have been in business and do not contain any additives. All the pickles in store are made entirely by hand. While not many Australians will have tried pickles made from sake lees, I would recommend those who appreciate subtle vegetable flavours combined with the fragrance of rice wine lees to give it a shot, because I guarantee you will keep coming back for more! The Japanese snow wonderland of Niigata. If you are after both a ski trip of a lifetime and a cultural journey in the snow country, then how about a trip to this region for a chance to discover a new experience?
MYOKO RELIVING THE BEAUTY THROUGH STILL PHOTOGRAPHY BACK AND SIDECOUNTRY SKIING IN MYOKO Words and photography: Kazuya Baba
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anking highly with Niseko, Hakuba and Nozawa is another ski resort popular amongst Australian snowsport lovers – Myoko Kogen. This ski resort is located at the base of Mount Myoko, a mountain featured in Kyuya Fukuda’s bestselling One Hundred Mountains of Japan. Myoko Kogen is comprised of 4 main ski areas within the national park – Suginohara, Ikenotaira Hot Springs, Akakura Hot Springs and Seki Hot Springs. Each of the 4 ski areas has its own distinctive features. Suginohara prides itself on its spacious slopes perfect for long-stretching runs; Ikenotaira is targeted towards families or skiers and snowboarders looking for a terrain park experience; Akakura has its bustling onsen town and a variety of courses to suit people from all walks of life; and Seki Hot Springs is located deep in the mountains with courses for more advanced skiers. We here at jSnow have visited Myoko many times incidentally through trips to Niigata Prefecture every year for research to write articles for our sister publication, jStyle. Yet Australians are already starting to tap into the beauty of the Myoko region despite our lack of active coverage of the area. We figured it would be a waste not to show off all of the pictures we have taken on our side and backcountry adventures in Myoko, which is the reason for this very feature! Myoko is an extremely safe and hasslefree region to experience off-piste skiing. This is why we will be introducing snaps of the region, focused mainly on backcountry areas, with captions to help bring you along on the trip. We hope these photos will help to ignite the passion within you for backcountry skiing in Myoko! It goes without saying that visitors should not casually ski in unfamiliar offpiste areas. A tour around the area with an experienced tour guide should be the first step taken towards backcountry skiing alone. We have engaged the services of tour companies such as Itadaki Tours and Dancing Snow for our trips, and highly recommended readers to do the same. 52 │ jSnow issue 2
Easily accessible sidecountry areas adjacent to the main ski course
The view up towards Mount Myoko from the Akakura ski slopes
Enter sidecountry areas at your own risk
Returning to the ski area through a tight tunnel (photo by Australian ski magazine editor, Owen)
Easy access to the back country areas via the ski lift, where Seki Hot Springs can be seen in the distance
Looking back at the ski-trails upon exiting the sidecountry area
An old sign in Seki Hot Springs oozing with a strange charm
This mountain valley behind Seki Hot Springs is said to be the largest in all of Myoko
Nothing beats carving up a pristine slope
Magnificent powder snow just a short distance away from the lift
A rare shot of me in front of the camera
Akakura Hot Springs at night
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池 の 平
IKENOTAIRA Smiles all around whilst skiing through the great outdoors
The view to expect on a clear day
Double-checking the route before setting off
Finishing off with a picnic on a makeshift snow table and chair
Heading further up from the top of Ikenotaira Hot Spring Ski Area
The satisfaction of hiking up a mountain on your own two feet
An off-kilter tree, unable to withstand the weight of the snow
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An Itadaki Tours staff member enjoying the naturally-formed half pipe
Easy to access powder snow ready to be skied upon straight off the lift to the top of the slope
A picturesque shot of larch trees reaching up to the sky on a run down the gentle base area slopes
SUGINOHARA A little fun in the snow turned into a huge smiley face
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SHIGA KOGEN THE GRANDEST SKI RESORT ON THE PEAK OF JAPAN Words and photography: Kazuya Baba
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higa Kogen, one of the most renowned ski resorts in Nagano Prefecture, boasts a total of 52 gondola lifts and is the largest ski resort in all of Japan. It originally comprised of 18 independent ski slopes until they decided to unify, creating one giant ski resort to improve visitor access and allow skiers to ski from place to place. Areas that cannot be skied to can be reached via interconnecting shuttle buses, which means only a single lift pass is required for access to all areas. Most of the ski resort is located deep in the mountains, over 1,500 metres above sea level,
guaranteeing that top quality powder snow is fresh and plentiful. It is highly recommended that avid skiers and snowboarders plan extended stays in the area as it will take days to conquer all of the runs on offer. While almost all of the ski areas can be reached with boots attached to skis, the Yokoteyama Ski Resort, located outside of the connected areas, is one spot that cannot be missed. This is because it holds the crown as the highest ski resort in Japan at a height of 2,307 metres above sea level. Although visitors tend
to stay in the giant, main area of Shiga Kogen and plan their trips to explore the slopes there (a highly recommended travel option), it would be a huge pity to forego the chance to experience the top quality snow and breathtaking sights on offer at Yokoteyama. The Manza Onsen Ski Resort (famous for its hot springs) and Kusatsu International Ski Resort can be accessed via off-piste courses from the top of Yokoteyama â€“ another one of its big selling points. It is definitely worth hiring a guide familiar with the area to enjoy all of the runs on offer.
For more information and booking http://www.alpico.co.jp/traffic/en/express/hakuba/shigakogen/
K E Y I N H OT
HAKUBA Y PARK E K N O M W VIA SNO N E G O K A G -SHI
PR E S S B U S DIRECT EX
2018 -19 WINTER SEASON
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The main area of Shiga Kogen is comprised of 15 inter-connected ski areas, each with its own unique charms to keep even the most adventurous skier satisfied. The Giant Ski Area of Shiga Kogen, renowned for its steep slopes, is just one of the many areas asking to be explored. Slopes such as Ichinose and Takamagahara in the central area have well balanced layouts with steep runs in the upper regions for advanced skiers and flatter runs in the lower regions. This central area of Shiga Kogen is also home to a number of large hotels. Another location accessible from the central area is Terakoya. This area is known amongst locals for its particularly high quality powder snow. It is a gem hidden within the more mainstream resorts. Conversely, Higashidate is well known for having the best course in the area. Skiers shredding a line down the mountain will be met with a variety of slopes, from flat areas turning into steep runs, to bumpy and exciting spots. The Higashidate area is highly recommended for visitors looking to enjoy lengthier ski runs. Venturing further down from the central area leads to the very depths of Shiga Kogen – Okushiga Kogen. Okushiga is a ski resort frequented by the Japanese Imperial Family and is known for its gentle atmosphere. Both the Okushiga Kogen Hotel and Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga are located at the base of the mountain and welcome their guests with utmost excellence.
The St. Bernard mascots at Okushiga Kogen Hotel are adored by all who come across them. Guests can even don a pair of snow shoes and take them out for walks if they so please. The hotel even offers barbeques outdoors, making stays at the hotel a pure treat. The Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga takes luxury to the next level. It is the accommodation of choice for the Japanese Imperial Family and world-renowned conductors such as Seiji Ozawa. Due to its location in the depths of Shiga Kogen, it is not uncommon for visitors to never step foot in the Okushiga Area during their time in the huge resort. Okushiga Kogen is definitely worth a visit; the uniquely calm atmosphere of the area is sure to bring a welcome change of pace to all. Shiga Kogen owes its slow-melting snow and comparatively long snow season to its high altitude. It is still popular amongst skiers during spring from March through to May, making it the perfect place to hit the slopes outside of the peak season. In fact, spring is when the “Snow Monkey Beer Live” event is held every year. The event combines over 100 different types of craft beer with live music performances and is a hit amongst international visitors. It is generally held in mid-March, so it might be worth planning a trip over there to experience the fun the event has in store. Another joy worth experiencing is the hot springs in the area. The mineral make-up of hot springs differ from
Hotel Villa Ichinose, Shigakogen ★We locate at center of “Ichinose Village”, and “Ichinose Tanne-NoMori ski area” is just behind us. ★We have Chinese & Japanese restaurant and convenience shop “Yamazaki Shop”. ★There is fire place and sofa at our lobby. Free Wi-Fi access. ★Japanese tatami room, spa shared public bathroom. 7149 HIRAO, YAMANOUCHI-MACHI, SHIMOTAKAI-GUN, NAGANO, 381-0401 JAPAN Tel:81-269-34-2704 e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org URL:http://www.villa101.biz
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to wa l k u t es r d A r ea n i m 1- 3 boa S n ow Ski / 7966VILL
place to place which makes for a relaxing jaunt to compare the different spas around. Those who have visited Shiga Kogen may already be aware that there was only ever one ATM in the entire area, which only operated on weekdays. Many places in Japan still do not accept credit cards, making cash a necessity. Visitors from overseas have, no doubt, been highly inconvenienced by this on their travels to Shiga Kogen. Fortunately, this has been rectified by introduction of a new foreign exchange machine which accepts notes from 12 different countries. The foreign exchange machine can be found inside Ichinose Diamond Snowcan rental shop in Ichinose. The store is conveniently located in the central area and should be noted for future reference. Large hotels can be found all over Shiga Kogen and some hotels house various different establishments within them. There are no streets lined with shops or restaurants to be found in the area. While visitors looking for a calm and quiet stay may enjoy this aspect of the resort, those who want to stroll around town on foot might be left wanting. For visitors seeking a more bustling experience, a stay at the hot spring town of Yudanaka, which is situated at the base of the mountain, 30 minutes by car from Shiga Kogen, might be the way to go. Buses operate from Yudanaka to the ski slopes to open up another possible suggestion for would-be travellers.
e e a sea of
joy the Hit the slopes andmenthe top fro w vie g in stunn of the mountain! www.shigakogen.co.jp 7149 Shiga Kogen, Hirano, Yamanouchi City, NAGANO, 381-0401
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jSnow issue 2 â”‚ 59
idden amongst huge, glitzy and glamorous Nagano-based ski resorts such as Shiga, Hakuba and Nozawa is a unique little gem sparkling with all its might – Madarao Kogen Ski Resort. Every year, Madarao Kogen makes the effort to distance itself from the crowd at Australian expos by setting up a booth independently from the general Nagano Prefecture stand. Its hard work has clearly paid off with a growing following of hardcore skiers and snowboarders, as well as heightened recognition in recent years. Skiers who have visited ski areas in Japan have most likely come across signs prohibiting access outside of designated courses. Off-piste or sidecountry trails are generally located off the
MADARAO KOGEN 13 ENDORSED GLADERUN COURSES TO GET THE HEART PUMPING Words: Kazuya Baba
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maintained and patrolled areas of most ski slopes, which is why access is restricted for the most part. Some places are so strict about the safety of their guests that skiers found in these areas are liable to have their lift passes cancelled or revoked. In many cases, skiers hesitate to take on gladeruns on sidecountry trails because of the risks posed to themselves. Madarao Kogen, however, is one of the few ski resorts to openly recommend skiers to enjoy the thrill of sidecountry skiing. Avid fans of Madarao often refer to the resort as a “sidecountry
mecca” because the resort markets itself as “powder snow and glade-run lover-friendly”. Most ski resorts in Japan would prefer their guests to avoid heading into the off-trail forests, so skiers must make a conscious decision to do so if they wish. At Madarao, trees are pruned at backcountry entrances to improve access to these areas, and snow compactors groom the exits to actively help glade-run and powder-trail lovers get the most out of their experience. Weeding and tree-pruning takes place over summer to ensure that skiers visiting early in the ski season have smooth runs, even when the snow is relatively sparse in the forest. With the amount of care and effort the resort takes, and the wide variety of sidecountry and glade-run trails, fans of the resort are quick to head straight to Madarao following heavy snowfall. Many of Japan’s renowned ski resorts are situated within national parks. These ski resorts have their hands tied when it comes to maintaining or even going near areas outside of the ski slope. Madarao takes advantage of its location outside of national park grounds by doing whatever they please to their ski slopes and the surrounds. Wood retrieved from regular pruning is used to create makeshift log jumps and other obstacles to bump up the fun factor. Madarao is highly recommended for its wide variety of courses for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, as well as its great location. It is situated a short 40 minutes away from popular areas such as Yuzawa, Myoko and Snow Monkey Park. Language is also not an issue, with lessons and rental advice available in English. Be sure to put this relatively unknown sidecountry paradise on your list for your next winter adventure!
Madarao.jp email@example.com @madaraoski @the-madarao
4 reasons why you should visit
Madarao Mountain Resort 1
Top quality powder snow and gladeskiing runs.
Easy access - 1 hour and 50 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen and 20 minutes from the Shinkansen station by bus or car.
MADARAO IIYAMA KANAZAWA TOKYO
･1 hour and 20 minutes by Shinkansen from Kanazawa ･1 hour and 50 minutes by Shinkansen from Tokyo
Close to neighbouring ski slopes (40 minutes to both Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen). Madarao is a great place to set up base and take day trips to surrounding resorts.
Enjoy the ease of the Ski In Ski Out access at the main hotels - Madarao Kogen Hotel, Monaile Madarao and Hotel Tangram.
Experience powder tree riding
HAKUBA A POPULAR JAPANESE SKI SPOT
Words and photography: Kazuya Baba
akuba and Niseko lead the pack on the ski scene in Japan. While many skiers and snowboarders may have visited Hakuba before, it is actually home to a number of different ski areas rather than just simply one. There are a fair few difficult courses in the area with Hakuba Happo-One Winter Resort drawing in the most skilled of skiers in Japan as the largest of them all. Other ski resorts in Hakuba have their own unique selling points, such as Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort and Hakuba47 Winter Sports Park
for their glade-runs, non-compacted snow courses and ski parks; and Hakuba Iwatake Ski Field for its 360 degree panoramic view of the Northern Alps and Hakuba Basin, just to name a few. It is also worth noting the recent introduction of the Hakuba Valley Lift Pass which allows holders access to 9 ski resorts in Hakuba. The sheer number of off-piste areas found in most of the ski resorts in Hakuba surpasses that of any other place in Japan. Hakuba is often referred to as “the most beautiful village in Japan” thanks to the breath-taking views and nature-filled surroundings of its location in the Northern Alps of central Honshu. The various establishments dotted around this village enveloped in the
beauty of Mother Nature ensures there is always something to do in Hakuba. Quite a number of interesting stores and restaurants have opened up in Hakuba in the past few years. Those travelling to Hakuba by bus will surely notice various big name snow brands, such as Patagonia and North Face, with shop fronts near the bus terminal. The stylish café attached to the branch of North Face here is particularly popular amongst Australian visitors during the afternoon. The Australian ski shop, Rhythm Snowsports, also has its own branch in Hakuba. Inside of Rhythm Snowsports is Evergreen, a company which offers off-piste tours for keen skiers. Rhythm Snowsports is the perfect place to drop by to pick up some gear and book a tour for a backcountry run. Over in the Hakuba Iwatake area is a new brewery that has become the place to be every night. The locally brewed Hakuba craft beer is a one-a-kind drop that cannot be beat. There is fun to be found both on and off the slopes at Hakuba; the booming area is only going to continue growing from here on out.
DIRECT BUS CONNECTION TO HAKUBA FROM NARITA & HANEDA AIRPORT!
LUXURIOUS S E AT S wide 3 -row seats
NARITA HAKUBA NAGANO
For details, please check the website
S PAC I O U S
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or a change of pace from the average ski trip, look no further than Nozawa Onsen. Nozawa is up there with Niseko and Hakuba in terms of popularity amongst skiers for the unique experience it offers as a ski resort and onsen (hot spring) town rolled into one. During the peak season, the bars and restaurants in this town are filled with Australians and other visitors from overseas. While the grandeur of the ski resort is an obvious attraction, the onsen town sprawling at the base of the mountain is a treat in itself. All of the restaurants and shops are gathered conveniently within walking distance of one another and the nostalgic feel of the town creates a wonderful atmosphere to stroll around in. Nozawa Onsen is widely known for its high quality hot spring waters, however, the root of its popularity stems from the ability to meander around town dressed in a yukata to try out the different baths scattered all around the place. Over in the ski resort, the Yamabiko Course up in the mountain-top area is what grabs the attention of skiers. There are 3 large courses running down the mountain top, with sidecountry areas in between each of the courses for skiers to enjoy
NOZAWA A CHARMING ONSEN TOWN AND GIANT SKI RESORT Words: Kazuya Baba
(at their own risk). The sidecountry areas are opened up for skiers to hop into, provided they take full responsibility for their actions, and are highly popular for the fun powder snow glade-runs on offer. Nozawa Onsen is in a state of constant change with a new brewery, stylish cafĂŠs and other various restaurants popping up around the place to cater for the sudden influx of international skiers and snowboarders. Hotel Haus St Anton, in the heart of the town, brews coffee with beans popular in Australia and New Zealand using a similarly popular coffee machine to please their international guests. Right next door is a longestablished soba restaurant of many generations past that continues to enjoy thriving business.
The combination of old and new, Japanese and Western culture, is what makes this onsen town so charming. Another draw of Nozawa is the number of former world cup and Olympic athletes in the area due to the prolific fostering of Japanese representatives skiers in the town. The importance of Nozawa in the world of Japanese skiing is marked by the museum in town that exhibits the history of skiing in Japan within its walls. A stop by the museum is highly recommended for a quick cultural and historical fix.
CRAFT JAM FACTORY CAFE / RESTAURANT / HOTEL
Hotel & Jam Haus St. Anton
A Greatest Local Craft Food Experience in centre of town Nozawa Onsen.
jSnow issue 2 â”‚ 65
YUDANAKA, SHIBU Nagano
YUDANAKA SHIBU ONSEN GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH SNOW MONKEYS IN A HISTORICAL ONSEN TOWN Words and photography: Kazuya Baba
n the onsen paradise of Nagano Prefecture, Yudanaka Shibu Onsen, a 30 minute drive from Shiga Kogen, stands above the rest for its plentiful and mineral-rich thermal waters. Yudanaka Shibu Onsen-kyo (Yudanaka Shibu Onsen Village) is the name given to the 9 different hot springs in the area. Shibu Onsen is the most famous of the hot springs opened approximately 1,350 years ago. This town is a wonderland for onsen lovers as the stone pavement streets are lined with inns that draw 100% of their thermal waters directly from the hot spring source.
Many skiers can be found relaxing In Yudanaka Shibu Onsen at night, having chosen to spend their nights in the town whilst they travel to nearby Shiga Kogen by car or bus. While there are a number of large hotels in Shiga Kogen itself, this onsen town has the added perk of having a nightlife and streets to explore. Travellers looking for relaxing dips in hot springs or a chance to explore a nostalgic town need look no further than Yudanaka Shibu Onsen. There is one place in this area that international travellers make sure to visit during their stay – Jigokudani Onsen. The main reason for their visits is to see the Japanese monkeys, affectionately known as “snow monkeys”, relaxing in the hot springs here. Located at 850 metres above sea level, Jigokudani is a harsh place with blisteringly cold weather and snow covering the area a third of the year. The name Jigokudani or “Valley of Hell” was bestowed by ancient locals after seeing the peculiar sight of snow monkeys
at Jigokudani Monkey Park perched upon a steep cliff enveloped by steam constantly rising from the hot springs. Contrary to its namesake, Jigokudani is a paradise for the monkeys here. This spot is popular all around the world for the opportunity to see the snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs to escape the bitter cold of winter. The Monkey Park is approximately 10 minutes away from Yudanaka with many major hotels in the area offering a shuttle bus service to and from the attraction. Make sure to do a quick check before jetting off to see which hotels also offer shuttle bus services to surrounding ski resorts as well.
We offer Free bus service to Snow Monkeys!
Biyunoyado www.yudanakaview.co.jp We proudly house 100% natural hot springs at Biyunoyado. Our inn provides guests with easy access to Shiga Kogen, Okushiga Kogen, Ryuoo Ski Park and other surrounding ski areas. Guests staying at Biyunoyado have access to complimentary shuttle services operating daily to Snow Monkey Park and Yudanaka Station.
66 │ jSnow issue 2
Photography by Thomas Seear-Budd
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Published by NichigoPress, Japanese newspaper in Australia since 1977. In this magazine, You will find out a lot of tips that shows where to...
Published on May 24, 2018
Published by NichigoPress, Japanese newspaper in Australia since 1977. In this magazine, You will find out a lot of tips that shows where to...