If you've heard just one thing about skiing in Japan it'll probably be the snow. The northern island of Hokkaido gets bucket loads of the stuff. Weather systems sweeping over the Sea of Japan from Siberia bring up to 18 metres of snow annually for some of the snowiest ski conditions on Earth. And with the quality of the snow being incredibly dry and light, it gives a firm footing to the claim that Niseko is the powder capital of the world.
The terrain tends to be more mellow than other major international resorts, but this just means that more people can enjoy the great snow. You don't have to be an expert to ski or board in Japan. Unbeatable powder coupled with fantastic tree skiing means you'll be entertained for a lifetime skiing the resorts of Hokkaido.
Three-quarters of Japan is mountainous so it's no surprise that there are around 600 ski resorts in the country. Niseko being the ski capital if you like, internationally renowned for its skiing and nightlife. However skiing in Japan isn't just about the snow, with fantastic hot springs (onsen) to relax in after a day on the slopes and delicious food to sample, the friendly locals and rich culture play a big part of a trip here.
Tokyo and Kyoto are easy to get between on the bullet train and well worth a visit. The Sky Tree is a must if only to see just how huge Tokyo really is with spectacular views in every direction. From ramen to sushi to katsu curry the food is varied and delightful coupled with Hokkaido's volcanic scenery carpeted in primeval forest, Japan won't fail to amaze.
Why we love Japan
- Incredible amounts of snow, up to 18m annually and it's light, dry and fluffy. It'll snow almost every day in January.
- Experience the culture and some fantastically tasty food along the way.
- Onsens, hot thermal baths, are the perfect end to a days skiing.
- Fantastic tree skiing.
- The vending machines dispense hot soup and cold beers.
- To be polite, you should slurp your ramen noodles as noisily as possible - it doesn't come naturally.
- Make sure to get naked and wash thoroughly before entering the Onsens. Men and women will have separate hot pools.
- As a British citizen, you can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa.
- Due to the long and often expensive flight, cheap short breaks don't exist from the UK.
Our favourite resorts
Best for lively après ski - Niseko is by far the liveliest resort, there's even a bar where you can sip delightful cocktails from behind a fridge door.
Best for cultural experience - Rusutsu is alarmingly kitsch complete with Neverland replica merry-go-round. And a city stopover in Tokyo or Kyoto is a cultural must.
Best for beginners - Rusutsu's full of friendly slopes and you can progress onto the entire resort, just leave the off-piste till you've had a little more practice.
Best for intermediates - Resorts are small and beautiful, for intermediates, you can learn to ski powder and/or tour some of the best spots on Hokkaido.
Best for the adventurous - Whilst no Japanese resort offers extremely steep terrain, it's abundant in waist deep powder to explore through backcountry gates. You can even ski down into the crater of Mt. Yotei (though you'll have to hike back out).
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