Looking for a far more exotic snowboarding experience? How about…Japan?! It may not be the first thing that you think of when you think of Japan, but the country has over 500 ski resorts to its name. Yes, 500. Most of the terrain in Japan is mountainous to begin with so there is almost always fresh powder to be found. There is a lot to take into account with international travel and even more to think about when you are looking for a great snowboarding experience so a thorough search is necessary to find where the best places to snowboard in Japan are for you, personally, but we’ve assembled a list here to start (and, hopefully, end) your search.
What to Consider
As we mentioned, there is a lot to consider with an international snowboarding trip. But if you manage to cover everything you need to, you will have the time of your life. Here are a few of the most important things to consider before you embark on your trip to some of the best places to snowboard in Japan.
- Here’s something that you may not expect. Many of the 500+ ski resorts in Japan have just one lift and one trail. This is a product of the penchant for “smallifying” that is necessary to make Japan and Japanese culture. Americans are more used to the word “ski resort” referring to a sprawling, gigantic mountainside with tons of lifts and trails but this may not be what you find at a Japanese ski resort. So, be careful when you go to book your trip to make sure that your destination is large enough to keep you entertained.
Snow Season in Japan
- The winter in Japan runs from late November to early April with a ton of snowfall due to the geography of the area. Snows come down from Siberia and hit the top of the island chain first, resulting in the best snowfalls occurring on the northern island of Hokkaido and the main island of Honshu. So, when you go to find your desired resort, you’re going to want to use a resort in the northern half of Japan between late November and early April. Snowboarding hokkaido is renowned for some of the best powder on the planet!
Off the Slopes Culture
- Once you pull yourself off the slopes for the day, you may find that Japanese ski resorts don’t provide as extensive entertainment as their American counterparts. There will certainly be a few bars in walking distance of your resort but not the expansive nightlife that is found at most ski resorts in the US. There are certainly ways of finding more to do if you find a resort with easy access to a larger area but expecting to find the American style of night life at the resort itself isn’t exactly a fair expectation for all ski resorts in Japan.
Best Places to Snowboard in Japan
Niseko is probably at the top of the list of the best places to snowboard in Japan both by reputation and legitimate quality. This reputation has now spread and allowed Niseko United to become a far more Americanized destination with tons of restaurants, bars, and lodges that are full of westerners. Because of this, the resort has started to look more like Colorado than Japan and visitors probably don’t need to know how to speak a lick of Japanese. So, if immersing yourself in Japanese culture is something you want out of your trip, Niseko might not be the place to do it. But for those who want to feel the comfort of home in a different country, this resort is a good pick.
The mountain is made up of three different areas that can all be accessed using the same lift pass. The resort features some of the most legendary powder in Japan and has its trails split up into approximate thirds as far as easy, intermediate, and advanced riding go. There are very few roped off areas on the mountain so there is plenty of space to ride in. Additionally, the trickier riders among us will enjoy the two halfpipes and four terrain parks around the resort.
Niseko United makes for a modern, Americanized visit of Japanese snowboarding and is one of the best places to snowboard in Japan overall.
Here’s a resort that prides itself on being applicable for practically every type of boarder. The terrain is great for those just learning to take on the slopes to the powder seeking veterans. There resort has ten different lifts to take you to any of its 19 pistes and services for Cat and Heli boarding for the backcountry enthusiasts. It even features a terrain park and half pipe for the park rats.
The resort is right in the middle of Hokkaido giving you plenty of options once you turn in for the night off the slopes. There are literally thousands of hotels and hostels to choose from to access Tomamu, all with their different strengths and weaknesses. Tomamu is the least westernized of the options we have here so if you are looking to fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture during your trip, Tomamu may offer this while others may not. The nightlife varies depending on where you choose to stay so this should be something you investigate for yourself. But one thing we can say to you is certain: Mt. Tomamu is one of the best places to snowboard in Japan.
This resort is a beautiful option with dramatic landscapes and some steeper terrain, although the resort has gone out of its way to create some simpler slopes for beginners. Most of the areas around the park are for intermediate and advanced riders and have been revered as some of the best in Japan. Happo One is somewhat lax with their policies around venturing off-piste, making it possible for you to go for an adventure through the trees. The descent from top to bottom is one of the taller ones in Japan, making it a strong candidate for one of the best places to snowboard in Japan, despite not having a park on the premises.
As for the culture around the resort, things are generally considered more westernized. Happo One is a little less westernized than Niseko United but you could probably get through your vacation without needing to know Japanese still. There are some places to visit around the resort that make for a good time but not so many that you will feel like you are back in an American ski resort. Certainly, the more adventurous ski resort visitor can find what they are looking for, if they so desire.
Considering the slew of characteristics that should be thought of with taking a trip to Japan for snowboarding, it will take a little bit of research to find the right resort for you. We like to think we have taken some of the legwork out of finding the best places to snowboard in Japan by creating this list and hope that we have helped you in your search.
Your international snowboarding trip is sure to be the kind of thing that you and your friends talk about for the rest of your life so your resort selection is key. The best places to snowboard in Japan are out there, though, and their reputations do not disappoint.