Honshu is the main island of Japan
Honshu is the main island of Japan
There is a large concentration of resorts around Nagano
There is a large concentration of resorts around Nagano
However there are literally dozens of resorts that stretch to the top of the island
However there are literally dozens of resorts that stretch to the top of the island
Nagano is a vibrant Japanese city NW of Tokyo
Nagano is a vibrant Japanese city NW of Tokyo
Hakuba Valley is a very popular Nagano ski area with 9 resorts
Hakuba Valley is a very popular Nagano ski area with 9 resorts
Nearby Myoko Kogen has various ski areas
Nearby Myoko Kogen has various ski areas
Shiga Kogen is a huge ski area with 19 resorts off one pass
Shiga Kogen is a huge ski area with 19 resorts off one pass
Zao Onsen is a traditional onsen town north of Nagano
Zao Onsen is a traditional onsen town north of Nagano
Nozawa Onsen is a Nagano resort rich in Japanese culture
Nozawa Onsen is a Nagano resort rich in Japanese culture
Madarao is connected with Tangram & a short day trip from Nozawa Onsen
Madarao is connected with Tangram & a short day trip from Nozawa Onsen
Tenjindaira has amazing sidecountry and backcountry
Tenjindaira has amazing sidecountry and backcountry
Honshu is rich in Japanese history & culture
Honshu is rich in Japanese history & culture
The monkey onsen near Nagano is a must see
The monkey onsen near Nagano is a must see
There is no competition for freshies at Tazawako and other Tohoku ski resorts
There is no competition for freshies at Tazawako and other Tohoku ski resorts
And virtually everywhere you go you will find natural hot springs
And virtually everywhere you go you will find natural hot springs
Gala Yuzawa is great for a day trip from Tokyo
Gala Yuzawa is great for a day trip from Tokyo
The town of Yuzawa has lots of ski resorts (and quick to get to from Tokyo)
The town of Yuzawa has lots of ski resorts (and quick to get to from Tokyo)
Yudanaka town can be used as a base to visit Nagano ski resorts
Yudanaka town can be used as a base to visit Nagano ski resorts
Geto Kogen: powder skiing destination
Geto Kogen: powder skiing destination
Minowa, a Bandai ski resort
Minowa, a Bandai ski resort

Honshu

Honshu, the main island of Japan, has more than 500 ski resorts so you’ll be spoiled for choice with Honshu skiing.

Honshu Ski Resorts Japan Nagano Ski Resorts
Many of the Honshu ski resorts are within the Japanese Alps in the prefectures of Nagano and Niigata, with quite a few situated near Nagano city (northwest of Tokyo) which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and put some of these areas on the map. Nagano ski areas include:
  • The Hakuba Valley ski area consists of various resorts that are interlinked via buses. Hakuba is a 90 minute bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, and then a one hour bus from Nagano to Hakuba.
  • Shiga Kogen is a group of ski areas that are largely interconnected via the slopes. Access is via a 90 minute bullet train from Tokyo, and then a 70 minute bus ride from Nagano to Shiga Kogen.
  • Nozawa Onsen is the Kyoto of ski resorts, a historic hot springs and ski resort town in northern Nagano. Nozawa Onsen is a 1:20 hour bus ride from Nagano train station.
  • Myoko Kogen is a group of ski resorts located one hour north of Nagano in the Niigata prefecture.
  • Madarao Mountain Resort is located between Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen.
Yuzawa Ski Resorts
The Yuzawa ski resorts are also in the Niigata Prefecture and only 70-90 minutes from Tokyo on the Joetsu Shinkansen. The area is a treasure chest of ski areas with more than a dozen places to play near Yuzawa. A juggernaut with all the bells and whistles is the Naeba ski resort. Next door is Kagura ski resort which is quieter and more laidback.

Tohoku Ski Resorts
Tohoku, the north eastern region of Honshu, includes the prefectures of Yamagata, Iwate, and Aomori. Tohoku skiing is renowned for negligible competition for the fresh powder because most foreigners haven't heard of many of the ski areas.

Zao Onsen is an onsen (hot springs) and ski resort town near Yamagata that is famous for its snow ghosts (ice rain covered trees). Zao is accessible via a 2.5 hour Shinkansen ride from Tokyo to Yamagata and then a 40 minute bus to the resort.

Appi Kogen is a classy ski resort that keeps discerning skiers and boarders very ‘appi! Appi Kogen is located near Morioka in the Iwate Prefecture, a 2 to 2.5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo.

Geto Kogen is also near Morioka and is renowned for the huge volumes of snow that descend upon it.

Even Hakkoda in the Aomori Prefecture 710km north of Tokyo is easily accessed from Tokyo. The bullet train (Shinkansen) only takes 3 to 3.5 hours. Hakkoda isn’t so much a ski resort, but rather a cable car accessed backcountry experience where there’s so much powder you won’t know what to do with it.

Honshu Skiing versus Hokkaido How does skiing in Honshu compare to Hokkaido skiing? For detail on how Powderhounds.com rates the Honshu and Hokkaido ski resorts on factors such as powder, terrain, lift infrastructure, nightlife, family friendliness and cost, see our ski resort ratings.

Honshu Snow
As a general rule, it doesn’t snow as much in Honshu compared to Hokkaido (especially the coastal resorts). The ski resorts near Nagano come close to the amazing snowfalls of Hokkaido. The main Nagano ski resorts have an average annual snowfall of 10 to 13 metres which is nearly the 14 to 15 metres of Rusutsu and Niseko in Hokkaido. One exception is Tenjindaira where it snows about 16 metres per season. Another exception is Hakkoda where there’s so much snow no one can really measure it. If it snows 8.1 metres per season at sea level in Aomori, you can start to imagine how much it snows up at 1,600 metres!

The Honshu snow is usually not as dry and fluffy as in Hokkaido, and this includes the Hokkaido ski resorts that are in close proximity to the coast.

Deep and Steep?
Most skiing in Japan is rather mellow when compared to many ski resorts in North America, Europe and New Zealand. There are of course some exceptions in Japan. When comparing Honshu and Hokkaido, as a general rule, Honshu ski resorts are steeper but there is a wide variation between the ski resorts.

Cultural Activities
One of the benefits of a Honshu ski holiday is that you don’t just have to ski or snowboard. The Nagano area in particular offers lots of culturally interesting activities such as visiting historical onsen towns with traditional Japanese architecture, temple hopping, and other fascinating sightseeing.

Once in Honshu it’s also easy to do side trips or stopovers in Tokyo or Kyoto, a real cultural eye opener.

Honshu Skiing with the Family Most of the high profile Honshu ski resorts have well developed facilities and a couple have an abundance of activities to keep the little folks entertained (e.g. Naeba, Appi Kogen). However they don’t necessary cater well to English speaking families. Many of the child care facilities don’t have English speaking staff (which may be a concern for some infants), and whilst it’s possible to get private ski or snowboard lessons, it’s atypical to have group lessons with an English speaking instructor. It’s also rare for a ski resort to have self-contained accommodation such as apartments or houses.

Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen are the only Honshu ski resort that ticks all these boxes. Check out the where to ski in Japan page that outlines which Japan ski resorts have self-contained accommodation, child care, child care with English speaking staff, and kids’ ski school with English speaking instructors.

Travel to Honshu The other benefit of skiing in Honshu is that for many international visitors, it’s much easier to fly into Tokyo than to travel to Hokkaido. The Japan railways are very sophisticated, so once in Honshu, the many bullet trains make travel fast and convenient.

There are lots of options for flights into Tokyo. Airlines include Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Korean Air, Air New Zealand, Air China, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines (you might want to consider a Singapore stopover).

For those travelling from Australia there are many options for direct flights from various cities. Many airlines fly to Tokyo (Narita International Airport) and Jetstar has flights from Queensland to Japan at rock bottom prices.

Use one of the recommended flight search engines to find a great flight to Honshu.

If you need to stay overnight near Narita Airport (Tokyo International Airport), here are some listings for hotels near Narita Airport.

Tours That Include Honshu

Safari (Road Trip) Tours
Frontier Explorer DETAILS
GUIDED SAFARI - NORTHERN HONSHU
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Areas + Cat Skiing
From price based on twin-share room occupancy.
Base/invoice currency is in yen not including consumption tax.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,610
Book and pay deposit prior to COB August 30 2016 and get 10% off the advertised price.
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
If you are looking for an adventure away from the masses where you will experience Japanese culture, food & unlimited powder then this tour could be the one you are looking for. Chase the best snow on the day in the far northern parts of Honshu.
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Chicks Japan Progression Tour DETAILS
Chick's Snow Boarding Powder Progression Tour
8 Nights - 7 Days Coaching/Riding
From price based on twin/double-share room occupancy.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 1,899
Ability: Beginner to Advanced
Take your snowboarding to the next level and learn to ride powder whilst meeting some great new female snowboarding buddies! Experience Myoko's rich cultural ambiance and deep dry powder.
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Powder Odyssey DETAILS
GUIDED SAFARI - TOHOKU
7 Nights | 6 Days Guided Skiing
From price based on twin/double-share option.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 1,816
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
If you are looking to go off-the-beaten track in Tohoku (northeastern Honshu) where there are abundant lines of fresh powder and no foreigners, this tour is perfect! Visit Tohoku ski areas you've probably never heard of before and immerse yourself in the Japanese culture.
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Honshu here
Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours
Nagano Ski Buffet DETAILS
GUIDED SKI ADVENTURE (SKIERS ONLY)
10 Days | 9 Nights | 8 Skiing | Up to 8 Ski Areas
From price based on quad-share room at Hostel Aibiya with shared bathroom.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,241 USD 2,241
Book before June 30 and get 5% off displayed prices
Book by June 30 & get 5% off displayed prices
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Combine deep untracked powder skiing where few foreigners go, with a rich Japanese cultural experience, traditional Japanese accommodation and authentic Japanese food, and you have the perfect Japanese ski adventure!
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Nagano Ski & Snowboard Progression DETAILS
SKI / SNOWBOARD GUIDED INSTRUCTION
10 Days | 9 Nights | 8 Skiing | Up to 8 Ski Areas
From price based on quad-share dorm room with shared bathroom.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,241 USD 2,241
Book & pay deposit by June 30 & get 5% off advertised prices
Book by June 30 & get 5% off advertised prices
Ability: Intermediate to Strong Intermediate
Learn to ski and ride deep powder with more confidence or improve your on-piste technique whilst checking out some of Nagano's fabulous ski areas away from the masses of foreigners. In addition to the skiing and snowboarding, experience an area rich in culture and history.
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Nagano Beginner Packages DETAILS
BEGINNER HOSTED INSTRUCTION PACKAGES
3, 4, 5 or 6 Nights
From price based on 3-night twin/double-share package staying at Hostel Aibiya.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 675 USD 675
Book & pay deposit by June 30, 2017 and get 5% off advertised prices
Book by June 30 and get 5% off advertised prices
Ability: Beginner
This package is ideal for beginners (families, groups, couples and solos) who are looking to experience the great Japanese snow and culture, and have some support to learn to ski or snowboard. Packages include ski/snowboard rentals and lessons, and the opportunity to visit the snow monkeys.
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Honshu here
Backcountry Skiing Tours
Alps to Coast Tour DETAILS
HAKUBA & MYOKO BC ADVENTURE
9 Nights | 8 Days Guided Skiing / Riding
From price based on a twin share room (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,691
Ability: Advanced to Expert
The HAKUBA ALPS are the ultimate when it comes to steep alpine terrain in Japan and the MYOKO KOGEN area receives some of the highest snow falls in Japan. This backcountry tour takes in the steep & deep alpine terrain of the Hakuba Valley and the deep POW around Myoko.
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Hakuba Powder Tour DETAILS
HAKUBA BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURE
9 Nights | 8 Days Guided Skiing / Riding
From price based on a twin share room (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,691
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Most people who visit Hakuba only ever drool at the possible backcountry endless lines from a distance. This sidecountry and backcountry tour is your chance to explore the steep & deep backcountry terrain of the Hakuba Valley.
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Hakuba Guided Day Tours DETAILS
GUIDED DAY TOURS from HAKUBA
For PRIVATE GROUPS of up to 5 people
From price based on Hakuba day tour, group of 5 (price displayed is per person however full tour price is 5 X that price).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 124
10% discount for tours Feb 12-18 & during March
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
If you are in the HAKUBA area, you can't go past a day or more of a guided ski or snowboarding adventure. The area (and also other nearby resorts) is huge and the best skiing is actually outside of the resort boundaries which should only be accesses with a guide. Tours are for PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY of up to 5 guests.
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See all Backcountry Skiing tours that visit Honshu here