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
Yuzawa Ski Resorts
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
is also near Morioka and is renowned for the huge volumes of snow that descend upon it.
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
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
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.
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.
, 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