Japan is an international tourist destination for many reasons. It’s a beautiful, inviting island nation that has unique and diverse natural beauty right alongside a storied history. Whether you are into the nightlife in Tokyo or have romantic visions of cherry trees in bloom, this country has so much to offer. The food is amazing as well.
On top of all that, Japan also happens to be one of the top snowboarding destinations on Earth. Huge storms and deep powder can be found there, and the efficient train lines make the entire country easily accessible. With both resorts and backcountry options, the area is a dream for riders all across the globe. Let’s take a look at the best places to snowboard in Japan in order to help you plan your trip or put some great locations on your wishlist.
The Nagaon region of Japan is probably the top snowboarding region in the country. The area has some of the largest mountains on the island, which means you can expect a lot of snow in the winter months. If you are looking for a legendary powder that will almost bury you alongside a more traditional Japanese experience, this is the region to go to.
Happo One is one of the largest and best-known resorts in the Nagano region. This is a very popular resort with locals and visitors alike. That is because it has some great terrain and shows what snowboarding in Japan is all about. At the top of the highest lift, you can see three different mountain ranges and several active volcanoes. Plus, it gets pounded with snow.
Happo One has a great village area where you can get all the food you need to fuel up or enjoy a nice happy hour after a hard day on the snow. There are also plenty of places to stay nearby the resort, which makes it a great winter vacation spot. The resort can get busy on the weekends, so be prepared for crowds if you’re riding then.
If you are looking for an authentic feeling Japanese snowboarding experience, you are going to want to visit Nozawa Onsen. This resort is awesome and has the rugged appeal you would expect from a location that has been running lifts for over 70 years. There’s a lot of terrain to explore, including three main peaks that offer nearly 300 hectares of ridable runs. It has something for new or advanced riders alike.
A part of the magical appeal of Nozawa is the plethora of inviting hot springs that can be found around the village area. Known as Onsens, the natural hot tubs are an important aspect of Japanese culture that obviously appeals to snowboarders as well. There’s no better way to cap off a day full of powder than to soak your sore muscles in a hot spring.
Another one of the best places to snowboard in Japan is Niseko. This is a large, popular region that has several top-notch resorts. Each one offers great riding and excellent accommodations. This region is not as rustic and traditional as other spots. Even so, as it has been heavily westernized, it appeals to many tourists who want an easily accessible way to take advantage of snowsports in Japan.
Niseko United is the main resort area. It’s made up of four different resorts on one mountain that are all located near one another. The amazing snow the region is known for comes from its unique geography where winds come blowing across Asia to pick up moisture over the Sea of Japan and drop huge amounts of powder here. It’s a fun, exciting experience to be in Niseko when it really starts to dump.
Hazano is the area of Niseko that’s best for beginners or those who are just learning how to ride or ski. You can find entry-level runs and smaller terrain parks that allow you to perfect your skills on the snow before tackling harder terrain.
Grand Hirafu, which is the largest of the four main resorts, gives you the best chance to find hidden powder stashes that no one else has ridden. There are some great dining and lodging options as well.
Niseko Village is great for more advanced riders who want some challenging and exciting terrain to explore. Featuring some of the best lift-accessed, off-piste areas in the world, the Village can provide an amazing experience that almost resembles the backcountry. Just be sure to stay safe if you venture outside of the resort boundaries.
Annapuri is the fourth resort area of Niseko. It’s a great spot for riders of all abilities, which makes it a popular family destination. There are a ton of groomed runs here so you can get warmed up before you dive into anything too serious. The views of the surrounding mountain ranges and natural wonder here will leave you in awe.
The Secret Snow of Japan
If you’re more the adventurous type, I want to tell you about a legend I’ve heard more than once on the chairlifts in Colorado. I can’t verify it myself, but because the tale is sort of a snowboarder’s treasure map, I wanted to share it with you.
There’s a snowboarding guide in Nagano who knows of the best secret stashes in the country. You will need to pay for his services, but it’s more than worth the cost to enjoy some of the deepest and best runs in the entire world. You access these hidden locations by snow machine and can ride all day before enjoying a soak in a hidden Onsen at the end.
Sounds pretty amazing right? I don’t know the guide’s name or where to find him exactly, but if you ask around when you make it to the region you might get lucky.
If you’re dreaming up and planning your next snowboard trip, Japan needs to be on your shortlist. Every serious snowboarder should try to get out there at least once in their lifetime. Endless powder, quality food, and private hot springs all on the same day? Yes, please.
The places mentioned here are some of the best in the country, but there are plenty more regions and resorts to explore. You can’t go wrong with snowboarding in Japan. Get out there and do it if you can!
Have you ever boarded in Japan? Where did you go and what was your favorite part of the experience? Let us know in the comments below!