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Things To Do In Japan

Things To Do In Japan - Discovering Destinations

Popular Skiing resorts in Japan

Niseko, Japan

Niseko, hailed as the powder capital of the world, stands as the pinnacle of skiing excellence in Japan, and perhaps even the globe. Comprising four interconnected resorts with a unified pass, this Hokkaido gem is a magnet for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, thanks to its diverse groomed and off-piste trails adorned with pristine powder. The entire area is remarkably English-friendly, making it a welcoming haven for international visitors. Hirafu Village, the après-ski hub, not only offers an array of activities and shopping but also boasts a vibrant nightlife scene seldom found in other Japanese ski villages.

Just a two-hour drive southwest of Sapporo, Niseko is easily accessible via shuttle buses or trains from the city or New Chitose International Airport. Dubbed the best ski resort in the world, Niseko experiences the famed ‘Japanuary,’ characterised by abundant snowfall. A unique thrill awaits after sunset, allowing enthusiasts to carve through floodlit powder under a starry sky, revelling in quieter slopes. The resort is celebrated not only for its exceptional skiing but also for its culinary delights, featuring gourmet Japanese and international cuisine. While renowned for its accessibility, stunning terrain, and vibrant atmosphere, Niseko has seen an increase in popularity and prices, a testament to its status as a top-tier destination.

Niseko Japan - Discovering Destinations
Rusutsu Japan Discovering Destinations 370 x 380

Rusutsu, Japan

Amidst the snowy wonderland of Hokkaido, Rusutsu ski resort stands as a fantastic alternative to the bustling slopes of nearby Niseko. Just a short 30-minute drive from Niseko, Rusutsu offers a serene escape with well-groomed ski terrain, catering to both beginners and intermediate riders. What sets Rusutsu apart is its unrivalled powder skiing experience, blessed with an annual snowfall exceeding 1,270 cm. This hidden gem provides a welcome respite from the crowds, allowing skiers and snowboarders to carve through untouched trails and picturesque tree paths adorned with freshly fallen snow.

Accessible within 90 minutes from either New Chitose Airport or Sapporo, Rusutsu beckons with its versatile trails suitable for all skill levels. A unique highlight of Rusutsu lies in its tranquil ambience, offering a perfect retreat for those seeking true indulgence off the slopes. While lacking the vibrant nightlife of some neighbouring resorts, Rusutsu compensates with a luxurious experience, complete with thermal hot spring baths to soothe tired muscles after a thrilling day on the slopes. Whether you’re a seasoned powderhound or a novice looking for a peaceful escape, Rusutsu’s dynamic winter sports, outstanding hospitality, and breathtaking mountain scenery make it a must-visit destination for an unforgettable Japanese ski vacation.

Nozawa Onsen, Japan

Situated in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture, Nozawa Onsen seamlessly blends the charm of a historic hot spring town with the thrill of a world-renowned ski resort. Renowned as one of Japan’s oldest ski destinations and even considered by some as the birthplace of skiing in the country, Nozawa Onsen captivates visitors with its enchanting mix of traditional Japanese village vibes and exceptional winter sports offerings. The single expansive ski area, encompassing 299 hectares of skiable terrain, caters to all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned powder enthusiasts.

After exhilarating days on the slopes, indulge in the town’s renowned hot springs at one of the 13 free public bathhouses—a perfect way to unwind and rejuvenate. The village, adorned with narrow cobbled streets, offers a plethora of Japanese guesthouses, providing a charming and English-friendly atmosphere. Families, in particular, will find Nozawa Onsen welcoming, with English-speaking ski instructors, a dedicated ski school, and a delightful ‘Kids Park’ featuring activities like tubing and sledging on weekends.

Accessible within two hours from Tokyo, Nozawa Onsen beckons travellers with its consistent powder, diverse slopes, and vibrant après-ski scene. While boasting a lively atmosphere, the slopes remain uncrowded, offering an ideal escape for skiing enthusiasts seeking both adventure and cultural experiences. 

Nozawa Onsen Japan - Discovering Destinations
Shiga Kogen Japan - Discovering Destinations

Shiga Kogen, Japan

Embark on an extraordinary skiing journey amidst the stunning landscapes of Shiga Kogen, Japan’s largest and highest-elevation ski area, promising an unforgettable blend of diverse terrain and unparalleled winter wonders. Spanning a colossal 19 interlinked resorts, Shiga Kogen boasts the longest ski season in Japan, welcoming snow enthusiasts from mid-November to late May. Accessible from Tokyo via a scenic shinkansen and bus ride, this expansive resort nestled in Joshinetsu National Park offers an abundance of trails suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.

Shiga Kogen’s prestigious status as the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics is complemented by its reputation as a powder paradise. Despite receiving less annual snowfall than some counterparts, the quality of its snow, characterised by dry, fine crystals, offers a heavenly skiing experience. Amidst the tranquillity of Joshinetsu National Park, where only the rhythmic sound of skis on crystal powder prevails, Shiga Kogen stands as a hidden gem, awaiting international visitors eager to discover the sheer beauty of skiing in a pristine natural setting. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or an adventurer seeking a unique alpine experience, Shiga Kogen beckons with its breathtaking views and unparalleled skiing conditions.

Hakuba Valley, Japan

Discover the captivating allure of Hakuba Valley, a sprawling expanse of ten interconnected snow resorts nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps. Boasting breathtaking scenery and an abundance of snow, this expansive ski haven offers a diverse and enjoyable getaway. Easily shuttle between the resorts to explore the variety of terrains, with the convenience of one lift pass providing access to both Hakuba 47 and Hakuba Goryu. Hakuba is renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere, featuring indoor and outdoor play areas, making it an ideal destination for visitors of all ages.

Accessible within three hours from central Tokyo via a seamless combination of shinkansen and bus rides, Hakuba Valley beckons with its English-friendly environment, catering to international travellers seeking an authentic Japanese ski experience. After exhilarating days on the slopes, unwind in the numerous hot springs scattered throughout the valley, providing a perfect retreat for relaxation. While the nightlife is more limited at the base, the unique charm lies in the ski town experience, offering a true Japanese cultural immersion. Whether you’re drawn to the winter sports park at Hakuba 47 or the beginner-friendly slopes at Goryu, Hakuba Valley promises an unforgettable ski holiday, seamlessly blending adventure, scenic beauty, and cultural richness.

Hakuba Valley Japan - Discovering Destinations

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Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park), Japan

Venture into a captivating journey to Jigokudani Yaen Koen, renowned globally as the Snow Monkey Park, an iconic destination in the heart of the Japanese Alps. Since its establishment in 1964, this unique haven has lured visitors with its scenic trails, inviting hot springs, and a troop of Japanese macaque monkeys that have become celebrities of the natural world. Nestled in a quiet ravine in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture, the park offers an unparalleled opportunity to observe these elusive creatures up close, a privilege unmatched anywhere else in the world.

The magic unfolds during the winter months when the monkeys, living high in the mountains, descend to the Snow Monkey Park to bask in the warmth of geothermal pools, a spectacle you won’t find anywhere else in the primate kingdom. Accessible from popular destinations like Nagano, Nozawa Onsen, Shiga Kogen, Yudanaka, and Shibu Onsen, the journey to Kanbayashi Onsen is complemented by a scenic 25 to 40-minute forest trail walk leading to the park. Delight in a unique primate encounter and gain insights into their behaviour, all while contributing to the park’s mission of conservation and education. This winter wonderland promises an unforgettable experience, where nature and wildlife converge in a symphony of harmony.

Jigokudani Yaen Koen Japan - Discovering Destinations
Hokkaido island Japan - Discovering Destinations

Hokkaido, Japan

Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Sapporo, the vibrant capital, is renowned for its breweries, while the rest of Hokkaido beckons with opportunities for exhilarating activities such as hiking, skiing, and other snowsports, epitomising the perfect escape in all seasons. As the northernmost and least developed of Japan’s main islands, Hokkaido boasts unspoiled nature, national parks, and rural landscapes that captivate outdoor lovers year-round. In winter, it transforms into a skiing and snowboarding paradise with world-class powder snow and acclaimed resorts like Niseko, Rusutsu, and Furano.

Beyond winter wonders, Hokkaido’s mild summers offer relief from Japan’s humidity, providing an ideal backdrop for hiking and exploration in its many National Parks. The island unfolds as a vision of untamed wilderness, inhabited by wild bears, soaring hawks, and the Ainu, Japan’s indigenous population, preserving their way of life amidst globalisation. Discover the allure of Hakodate’s traditional port, relish the cultural richness at Lake Akan, and venture to the Shiretoko Peninsula for encounters with free-roaming brown bears, foxes, and deer. With its delicious seafood, world-class powder snow, and fascinating indigenous culture, Hokkaido invites you to experience the beauty of unspoiled landscapes and unforgettable adventures.

Ashikaga Flower Park, Japan

Discover the enchanting beauty of Ashikaga Flower Park, a floral haven in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, celebrated for its breathtaking displays of wisteria blossoms. A prominent attraction throughout the year, the park is renowned for its mystical hanging wisteria that creates an awe-inspiring spectacle. As you stroll through the delicately hanging blossoms, the air is filled with the sweet fragrance of these beloved flowers. Recognized globally, CNN has nominated Ashikaga Flower Park as one of the world’s top ten dream destinations.

April and May unveil the park’s most spectacular showcase, with 350 wisteria trees bursting into a riot of colors, including blue, pink, white, violet, and yellow. Among the highlights is a century-old wisteria tree, its branches supported to form a captivating umbrella of blue wisteria. 

Beyond Wisteria, the park boasts a variety of flowers, delightful restaurants, and a plant and local product shop. Embracing the winter season, the park transforms into a wonderland with a massive winter illumination display, drawing visitors into a world of hundreds of thousands of multi-coloured LED lights. From mid-October to mid-February, the park becomes a captivating canvas of creative LED displays, light tunnels, and music-synchronized shows, ensuring a magical experience for every visitor.

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Gunkanjima Japan Discovering Destinations 370 x 380

Gunkanjima, Japan

Embark on a fascinating journey to Gunkanjima, also known as “Battleship Island,” an abandoned island just a boat ride away from Nagasaki Port. Once a thriving coal mining town, Gunkanjima boasted a bustling community of over 5,000 residents, giving it the highest population density ever recorded globally. The island’s unique history is reflected in its architecture, as every inch of land was utilized to create a cityscape resembling a massive battleship. However, the abrupt closure of the mine in 1974 led to the island’s abandonment, and the elements have since taken their toll on the once-vibrant buildings, creating an eerie and haunting atmosphere.

Gunkanjima’s allure lies in its undisturbed historic ruins, attracting attention from filmmakers, with notable appearances in films like “Skyfall.” Despite its haunting ambience, the island has become a sought-after tourist destination, and guided tours now provide a chance to explore this mysterious place. A boat ride from Nagasaki unveils scenic views of Mitsubishi shipbuilding factories and other islands, adding to the allure of the journey. Experience the air of mystique for yourself as you step onto the island, guided by knowledgeable tour guides who ensure a safe exploration of this remarkable industrial relic.

Mount Kōya, Japan

Escape the hustle and bustle of Japan’s major cities and discover tranquillity at Mount Kōya, just two hours south of Osaka by car or train. As the spiritual centre of Shingon Buddhism, this mountain retreat boasts dozens of Buddhist temples scattered across its serene landscape, inviting respectful visitors to experience its unique ambience. 

The city’s architectural charm alone is worth the visit, offering a picturesque setting for a peaceful getaway. 

If you’re in Osaka, a two-hour detour to Mount Kōya provides an opportunity to find your centre amidst the cultural richness of Japan. At Fora, we’re here to help you plan your day trip from Osaka, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this haven of tranquillity. Immerse yourself in the sacred atmosphere, explore the historic temples, and consider an overnight stay at a temple lodging for a glimpse into the monk’s lifestyle, complete with vegetarian monk’s cuisine and morning prayers. 

Mount Kōya is not just a destination; it’s a journey to inner peace and cultural richness in the heart of Shingon Buddhism.

Mount Kōya, Wakayama Japan - Discovering Destinations

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