Snowboarding in Japan
Shred the Gnar, Bro! Hitting the slopes in Nagano, Japan totally blew Washington State boarding out of the water. Shiga Kogen Snowpark is HUGE. It just so happens to be the largest ski resort in Japan, with 66 ski lifts and 21 different parks! You can seriously board for 4 days and not experience the whole resort.
The views took my breath away. I took a few panoramic shots of the landscapes, but I really don’t feel like they do the mountains justice. I was in awe of the sights, and couldn’t wait to get to the top.
I was in such a hurry, in fact…..I turned into a bit of a jerk on the mountain. Lemme Explain:
I have been snowboarding for the better part of a decade, but this trip was the first time my boyfriend has ever touched a board. As soon as we rented our gear, we headed out to (what I initially thought was….) the bunny slopes. Well, it wasn’t….. so the first time Brandon strapped in, the only way down was, well, down.
My father taught me how to swim by throwing me into a lake. I was just returning the favor, right?
Shiga Kogen Resort
Surprisingly enough, Shiga Kogen tickets are relatively inexpensive,(compared to other widely-known ski resorts like Whistler, Canada) and include passes to the shuttles between parks, if you so choose. A full day lift pass will set you back 5000yen, and the resort also sells them by 1.5, 2 and 3 day increments for marginally cheaper prices.
The park itself is really easy to navigate, with 4 different gondolas running between peaks. (Except at night. Although some sites do say that you can night ski in this area, I was dissuaded from going by a few locals.) I skiied Okushiga-kogen, as recommended by my AirBnB host, Toro-san & Suzie-san.
***I highly recommend checking out this AirBnB host. Suzie and Toru are extremely sweet. They picked my boyfriend and I up from the station, drove us around to dinner and other sight seeing areas, and provided us with handmade personalized maps of Yudanaka. I truly felt treated like family.
I don’t think they actually use AirBnB for the money. In my opinion, they provide housing because they generally like to meet people from all over the world. They are wonderful people. Their house is a great option for anyone wanting to experience true Japanese hospitality!!*****
And did I mention the onsens?
This area is packed with onsens and hotels. On the bus ride up, I counted 5 different hot spring areas at different stops in between the resorts. If you are lucky, you might even get a peek at a Macaque monkey at one of the hot springs!
The best part about snowboarding in Japan has to be the relaxing onsens afterward. If you aren’t shy about being butt-naked in front of strangers, make sure you slide your toosh into a natural-spring sauna. The ones in Yudanaka are even tattoo-friendly!!! (This is very uncommon for Japan.)
- Do purchase snacks at a convinience store (convini) before taking a bus to the resort. The food there is expensive and you will appreciate a bag full of onegiri in between runs
- Do be very careful if you choose to drive!! The roads are icy and lack deicer as you travel up the mountain
- Okushiga-kogen (located on the far left in the resort maps) was recommended to me by locals to board. It’s easy to navigate and is accessible to many resorts surrounding it.
- If you didn’t pack snow gear, you can rent everything (except gloves or goggles) for 4000yen at the rental shops.
- There are buses running express from Nagano Station, as well as buses from Yudanaka Station
- The buses cost 770yen one way from Yudanaka station, no matter which resort you choose to go to
- You might encounter Japanese Macaques around the area, especially if you visit a local onsen!
- There is a botanical garden on top of Mt. Higashitate, called Higashitateyama, and it has falls!
- Onuma Pond has a beautiful floating Torii
- Expect the mountains to be packed during Chinese national holidays (it’s extremely popular to visit Japan for the holidays) as well as Golden Week (April/May), Silver Week (September/October), and New Years Holidays (Dec 30th- January 4/5th) as most people in Japan take holidays!
- There is a tattoo friendly onsen located directly next to Yudanaka station. It costs 300 yen for a natural hotspring bath. Don’t forget a towel.