Activities & Tours
Madarao activities are largely centred round the skiing and snowboarding, with just a few non-skiing things to do. The concierge at the Madarao Kogen Hotel can assist in organizing activities.
Madarao Backcountry Ski Tours
Madarao has a little sidecountry and backcountry on offer and it’s worth taking a tour with Nagano Outdoor Sports to help you explore it. The guides know the area incredibly well, but beyond route finding they provide valuable input to cover the safety aspects of entering the backcountry. And don’t worry if you don’t have any backcountry experience; the guide will be only too happy to show you what to do. The rates for the half or full day backcountry tours are very reasonable and include safety gear. The tour season typically starts in early to mid January, depending on snow cover.
Family and Adventure Activities
There is a kids’ park below the Madarao Kogen Hotel that has magic carpet serviced tubing and sledding. Snow ball fights seem to be a major feature of this area too! The kids will also love the games arcade at the Madarao Kogen Hotel.
For those a little more adventurous, other activities include ziplining or snowmobiling over at Tangram.
One leisurely activity is a visit to the Japanese snow monkeys
at the Jigokudani hot springs which are not too far away via taxi.
Having a soak in an onsen after a hard day on the slopes is very enjoyable, and a great way to partake in a popular Japanese pastime (click here for more information on Japanese onsen).
The Madarao Kogen Hotel
also has an onsen with both indoor baths and a picturesque and relaxing outdoor area (rotenburo). This onsen is open to hotel guests, or non-guests can use the facilities for a small fee (which includes use of a towel).
A 5 minute drive down the road is Madarao no Yu, another option for a therapeutic soak.
Madarao largely feels rather “resorty” so for those who can be prone to resort cabin-fever, the proximity to the town of Iiyama (ee-arma) is a plus for the resort. This is a great spot to head for the afternoon or evening and enjoy a taste of traditional Japan. Wandering along the streets is enjoyable and the town can look particularly pretty when there’s so much snow that it “grows” up either side of the covered walkway. “Buddha Street” has steps up to various little Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines which are fascinating. Some people call Iiyama little Kyoto but that’s probably overstating it remarkably!!
A few of the Iiyama shops are incredibly interesting. There is an old paper shop with a long history of making Japanese washi (paper). They sell little pictures, postcards, and origami type paper souvenirs, and the owner might even make you a cup of tea. Apparently Iiyama is famous for making Buddhist altars, so you might want to check out the super shiny shop to admire the superior craftsmanship (I imagine that you’re highly unlikely to buy one as a souvenir and take it home in your ski bag!).
There is also a small doll museum in Iiyama. Now a doll museum sounds pretty boring, particularly to blokey blokes, but it was actually much more interesting than a “doll museum” sounds and worth a half hour visit. The museum has a few rooms of old people cartoon dolls that provide a nice insight into Japanese history.
Otherwise you might want to head into Iiyama town to go out to dinner if you’ve had one too many buffet meals at the resort. There’s the sushi train restaurant (with food delivered via a mini bullet train), izakayas and other cute restaurants. A trip to Iiyama is also good if you need groceries or an ATM visit.