When and where to plan your next ski trip in Japan?
Looking forward to a ski holiday is almost as good as enjoying a ski holiday so the best time to plan and book is just as the snow season you intend to visit comes to an end.
So if you are considering a Japanese ski trip that time is now.
2017 was a dumper of a year in the land of the rising sun and for the second year in a row we took a short ski break to what is arguably the best of the bunch- Nozawa Onsen.
And here’s why.
Once you arrive in Tokyo you can head straight to the ski fields or overnight in the city.
From the airport take the Narita Express train to Tokyo station.
Whether you are overnighting or not, take the bullet train Shinkansen to Iiyama. It leaves Tokyo station regularly but check times to ensure they coordinate with your arrival into the city.
Buy a designated seat and enjoy a relaxing of couple of hours flashing past the suburbs, scenery and sights. It’s comfy and a trolley lady rambles by with food if you’re hungry.
Cost: One way approx 8,000JPY or $A92.00.
This time we stayed in Address Nagasaka. We shared a two bedroom unit with friends and while small the location is first class. Absolute ski-in, ski-out at the base of the Gondola that transports you to all the ski fields of the resort. All the ski hire outlets are here too so it’s an easy fit out for those hiring gear for the trip. You leave all your equipment here overnight as well so no lugging heavy boots, skis and poles to your apartment.
Cost: For six nights we paid 312,000 JPY or $A3620.00. But split two ways keeps it in the mid range of accom.
We have stayed in both more expensive and cheaper accommodation styles so there are plenty of options.
This is probably why Nozawa Onsen is the hidden gem of the Japanese ski fields. It hasn’t been overly tourism-ised. Yet! Although I must say in just one year there have been some additions to appeal to the modern traveller.
What remains unchanged are the hot springs. There are 13 public onsens in the village and they are free, although coin donations are welcome.
Make sure you understand the etiquette involved, leave your modesty and inhibitions at home and enjoy the cultural experience.
Where to eat:
There are many authentic sushi, sashimi and ramen restaurants in the village so take your pick. We enjoyed a traditional feast at Seisenso where owner and chef Kikuo travels two hours every day to buy fresh seafood. Even if you don’t like raw fish it’s worth it just for the real taste of Japan. (Although two hours of sitting on the floor may not appeal to those with sore ski knees).
Cost: 3500 JPY per person
New western additIons include Genki burger and Juntos Mexican: both perfect for families or those looking for a meal to fill you up for the next day’s skiing.
Where to drink:
Fresh from the slopes grab a Chu Hai or Sapporo at the Craft Bar if you end your day near the Gondola or relax at the Schneider Bar if you pull up poles at the Hikage chairlift close to where kids club is located.
Enjoy after dinner drinks and live music at the Stay Bar. It’s intimate and inviting.
But keep in mind if you are looking for wild nightlife, Nozawa Onsen is not the place to visit.
On the other hand if you are looking for wild, it is close to the world famous snow monkeys.
Just an hour in a bus to spend the same amount of time marvelling at these self-pampering primates grooming themselves and each other and enjoying their own private hot baths.
Well worth a visit especially on a down ski day.
There are so many ski fields in Japan to explore so no matter where you choose you can’t really go wrong but for culture, convenience and cost Nozawa Onsen ticks every box.
And for expert travel advise I recommend Tracy-Anne at MTA Travel. (firstname.lastname@example.org)