Japan – clichés present this country as the ever-smiling nation and as the land of the rising sun. However the island has more to offer than only sushi and cars. Extensive ski areas and snowy glaciers are also to be found here.
The country can surely compete with the superlative winter sports areas: The provincial capitals count up to 700 smaller ski areas – nowhere else are there so many. Of course most of these tend to be rather quaint and manageable, often even a small number of lifts already counts as a full ski area. However, stretching from the island of Hokkaido in the north right down via Honshu to Kyushu in the south, there are many opportunities to enjoy perfectly prepared pistes in modern ski areas. Compared to the ski areas in Austria or Italy, Japan does not show up the steep Alpine mountain faces. On the other hand Japan attracts families, beginners and pros equally.
In the meantime Japan’s piste qualities have made themselves know abroad. Australians and New Zealanders, Korean and Chinese make up the largest part of the international ski tourism. And they seem fascinated: whilst in 2001 less than 70,000 guests came to spend their winter vacation here, by 2010 the number already had risen to 200,000.
Japan’s most popular ski area is Hiseko in Hokkaido. Here you can practise your skills on the powdery snow below the volcano. Nagano, host of the Olympic Winter Games in 1998 follows as No. 2 on the popularity list. There might not be as much snow as in Hiseko, however from Tokyo it is only a couple of hours to travel. Whilst over the weekend the lifts are crowded with long queues, during the week Nagano equals a ghost town – perfect if you are looking for a quiet day to explore the ski area. The top-3 list is completed with the area Niigata, close to Nagano, which is easily reached from Tokyo within in 90 minutes.
The widely feared high pricing in Japan is not so noticeable in the ski areas. A day-pass therefore costs approx. €20, a one-week pass costs approx. €100. Food and drink can compare with European standards. Therefore: if you don’t fear the long flight you will surely find yourself smiling soon, as well… in the ever-smiling nation.