Welcome to the Japanese Alps. This was a five day trip down south that I took last April.
This is near the summit of Hakuba. Hakuba village is about an hour from Nagano, which is about two hours bullet train from tokyo. Peaks like this share ridges with the resorts in this area. Very accessable. the hikes out, are flat along rivers and creeks and can get up to a few miles in length. One to two runs a day on lines like this are doable. Insanely high Avalanche hazards, as you can see.
Hakuba village is one road down a valley and I think maybe six or more resorts throughout the valley. They average three thousand vert and have some pretty ridiculous tree skiing. the next shot is from the inside of a gondola. You'll notice no tracks. This is because there is such thing in Japan as inbounds OB. Japan is strictly an on-piste environment. Not many people here even like pow, which is one of the reasons it rocks so much. If you are willing to risk it, you can ski it. You may get a warning, you may lose your pass, you could very easily get caught in a slide. This is just an example of the untouched you can poach. I very often poach tree lines, rarely open faces like this for stealth reasons as much as safety. Note the debris. (never mind my friend's face.)
The debris above is natural, not due to avi control. Avi-control does not exist, at least not at any resort I have hit so far. (About a dozen).
Gullies, ridges and tree lines like this are all over the place, just a rope-duck away. Poaching at big resorts like this is getting to be a problem and the patrol are starting to pull passes, but only recently as powder skis have developed and foreigners are learning about this place, and only at the world-class resorts. Small resorts won't pull your pass. I have friends perfectly willing to lose their pass at the big resorts. They poach, lose their pass, buy and poach again and simply argue that three passes is still cheaper than heli skiing. The patrol simply don't know what to say. They are learning, but I must admit they are pretty behind the times when it comes to snow science. Nor, do they have the personel to handle opening all of them boundaries between trails. To them, it's a management nightmare. I see a lot of employees who don't even ski. Most resort employees are farmers, not twenty-somethings looking for a pass. That age and work ethic comes out in the friendliness and pride of the staff.
This next shot is to show how easily accessible the big lines are. And, they don't pull passes for hiking OB. Just for ducking ropes IB. This is actually a few hundred meters from the peak. Behind me, the ridge goes across that valley to that face. You don't actually have to go that far. The same terrain exists on the backside of this peak, down to the same valley. It's getting down safely, and getting out of the valley that is the hard part. This is just one shot, from one side of one resort. How do you say Chugach in Japanese?
Helicopters have yet to tap this niche. Snowmobiles would be rad at the base for a tow out, don't know about regulations yet, haven't even asked actually. Once-up lift passes exist on the cheap and there is a developing core ship of local riders growing in japan. So you should be able to find a guide if you want to hit those peaks in the background. English speaking? There is a group of canadians that started some snow science programs outside Nagano, don't have their url, sorry.
Up north. (no photos, sorry)
Hakoda is a single peak and a single tram. No grooming, no ropes, no rules. Ten bucks a tram ride. Period. My non-stop day scored seven runs. Seven runs on five thousand vert, never touched another track. each run consisted of about five different pitches and tree types. From huge pines with seven foot tree wells at the top, to VW bug sized boulders popping in open glades, to birch to the final pitch of the famous bamboo. Actually, boo isn't very common, but I have found it at maybe three or four resorts. It's pretty trippy stuff. Just columns going straight up, no branches till the top, about four inches wide, and green. Often young boo-grass, about one or two meters in height will stick up out of the snow in the early season. It's a blast too.
I live in the North, in Yamagata. Hold a pass at Zao. Zao is fine for a local place and offers some good illegal stuff up top as well as lower trees. I have a few tiny resorts that are fun on snow days. Like Omoshiroyama. (Interesting mountain) It is accessible only by train. You get off the train, climb a flight of steps, order a coffee, boot up, pay twenty bucks for three hours and ski five hundred vert of scary fifty degree tree gullies, alone. Grab a beer, catch the train home.
The northern island, Hokkaido, is considered the powder paradise. It also is developing a core ship.
Somebody asked about water content, snow quality. It's an island of mountains. I've had super dry 4% one day, rain the next. It varies hugely. Also, the 700 inch resorts do exist. But that is not the norm. I have a local resort that doesn't even open until spring time as the chairs are buried. There, we ride chairs til august. I would say 300-500 inches is a fair average.
Mt Fuji does get skied. It is holy, as are trees in Japan. But you won't offend anyone's religion by skiing it. I pray at every shrine I come across. The chime of the bell in the mountains delivers me a nice rhythm before I silently disappear into the trees. Shrines with big brass bells are everywhere, especially on mountain tops. Skiing gets pretty spiritual in these parts. And, the world is just getting to know about it. Hope you can make it some time.