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Japan Resort Recommendations Requested

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

 Doing some research for a friend: they are looking to snowboard in Japan this spring, and don't speak Japanese.  Skill level is intermediate, they are looking for a resort that is easily access-able via transit, not too expensive, but not totally Westernized (they want to experience Japanese culture, although they probably prefer a Western-style hotel instead of a ryokan).  

 

Any ideas?  Niseko Hirafu is the only resort I am somewhat familiar with: my family members all live on Kyushu, lots of big mountains but too far south for snow!  

post #2 of 13

Any Hakuba resort outside Nagano is going to be great for them. Happo-One, Hakuba 47, etc...

 

Find Fattwins on TGR for lodging recommendations. He runs a lodge and can recommend others as well.

 

All the resorts are pretty much going to cost the same, the biggest expense is the traveling. Nagano/Hakuba is closest to Tokyo and will be the cheapest to get to. Also has the biggest mountains in all of Japan and will be holding the most snow. Will be very easy for non-Japanese speakers.

 

If they want to double their travel time from Tokyo and get into real rural Japan... come to Yamagata and ski Zao. But we'll run out of snow by mid-april... sooner if the tropical rains hit.

 

Even further north into Hokkaido is an option if they want to fly again after arriving in Tokyo. Should have colder snow.

post #3 of 13

they should definitely stay in a ryokan at least one night. i don't see how you can take a vacation in japan and not do that.

post #4 of 13

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by epl View Post

 

they should definitely stay in a ryokan at least one night. i don't see how you can take a vacation in japan and not do that.

 

I think one has to take this with a grain of salt. Ryokans are very nice, imo. I enjoy laying around in a robe with my wife. But they require things like- sitting on the floor of your room because there is no table above knee-height, and being served fish for breakfast in your room with no chairs and no coffee to wash it down. Quite frankly, I think most westerners hate ryokans after their first time. Most of us compare stories, anyway. "Have you stayed at a Ryokan yet? I'll never do that again." After you've been in Japan a few years, the story-sharing subsides, but I don't think most westerners really enjoy that kind of cultural experience. It's too heavy and taxing on the body. For example, if my parents or sister ever come to visit, I won't put them in a ryokan. 

 

Japanese restaurants and temple retreats are usually enough of a cultural overdose for a day. Ryokans can put the cherry on a cake that was finished 6 hours ago for the average tourist here. Much would rather just retreat to their room and get the hell out of dodge for a bit. Japan is pretty full-on for most visitors coming for a short vacation. 

 

Then again, maybe they're cool and enjoy things like; in-room sake, private (romantic) hot springs, naked-skin under robes, slippers, bamboo-straw flooring, and the-whole-goddamn-floor-is-your-bed/table style lodging. 

 

The rule of thumb here is- Can they sit on the floor? Or- are they fat? 

 

 

post #5 of 13

Better tell them to get here fast. I just got back from three days in Hokkaido and it's looking like an early end to winter even up there. It was 17 C in Tokyo when my plane landed this evening, and forecast is for highs of 16 C in Hakuba this weekend. There will be snow, yes. The question is: will it be worth sliding on?

I'm dusting off my golf clubs.

post #6 of 13

I'm planning a trip for next winter to Hokkaido.  Am on a mission to secure the best POW on the planet.  Samurai, I've done some preliminary research regarding the resorts and will continue to do so...do you have any recommendations?  Please advise.  We're thinking either late January or early February...from the historical data on snowfall..this looked like a safe bet.  Does that make sense to you?

post #7 of 13

I can second the thought of staying with Fattwins (Nick) at his Hakuba lodge.  I stayed there a couple of years ago and will go again.  Had a ball.  Shared rooms at very good rates or for a few Yen more (although still very reasonable rates) you can get a dedicated (twin) room with or without ensuite. 

 

http://www.hakubapowderlodging.com/

 

The lodge has access to ski resorts stretching along the whole valley - something like eleven resorts off the top of my head.  The above site has descriptions of each of them.  Nick provides daily runs to the supermarket, pick up and drop off at the station, advice on resorts and conditions and onsen and local bars etc.  Nick is an experienced back country guy - give his blog a quick look on the site.

 

Well worth the trip IMHO.

 

post #8 of 13


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by locknload View Post

 

I'm planning a trip for next winter to Hokkaido.  Am on a mission to secure the best POW on the planet.  Samurai, I've done some preliminary research regarding the resorts and will continue to do so...do you have any recommendations?  Please advise.  We're thinking either late January or early February...from the historical data on snowfall..this looked like a safe bet.  Does that make sense to you?


 

That timing sounds perfect. February is ridiculous with new snow, imo.

 

Feel free to look me up here if you want to ski Zao, which is not in Hokkaido, but rather on the main island, about 3 hours north of Tokyo by bullet train. It's a vast resort with 4 gondolas. It's actually more of a hot-spring paradise than a ski destination, though, because the good skiing is so hidden. I know my way around and genuinely ski fresh lines all day for the 10-16 weeks of tree season. (~Mid-Jan to Mid March) One appealing thing is the lack of pow chasers here. I personally know everybody who rides the trees here... we're that small of a group. There is no "Race for pow" phenomenon. It's just so plentiful in the trees.

post #9 of 13

i have skied in japan for the last 3 seasons before this year, twice at niseko and once at furano. i do speak some japanese so maybe im not totally up on how a non-japanese speaker would find it, but in any case here's my take on the 2 resorts

 

Niseko

 

I think Niseko is a fantastic resort. There are plenty of runs for an intermediate skier and definitely some more advanced runs as well if your friend improves. There is little in the way of "expert" terrain but given your friend is an intermediate i dont think that would bother them. There is more than enough variety to keep yourself entertained for 10 days or more, and night skiing there is fantastic (every night they light up most of the mountain until 9pm). Snow quality of course is amazing, and it just never stops snowing there

 

On the negative side, it has been totally overrun by aussies, and I dont think you will find much in the way of japanese culture there anymore. Although everyone in Niseko speaks *some* english now, don't go there for a japanese experience. Its still a japanese village, but doesnt really feel so japanese.

 

to get there its about 2 hours from sapporo airport and any package deal company will take care of it for you, very little hassle involved.

 

Furano

 

Definitely an intermediates mountain. If you love wide open groomers then furano is the place for you. There are tons of long, wide runs that are really really good for someone of beginner to intermediate ability, but very little beyond that. There is only 1 real black run (kumatoshi if i remember correctly) and ski patrol only open it twice a day for 10 mins at a time. If your friend is at a lower intermediate level i would recommend furano, anything beyond that probably not.

 

most of the hotels are on the mountain, but furano itself is an actual town about 10 mins away by bus. furano town is totally japanese and hasn't yet been overrun by westerners. people in the town probably wont speak much english. so it is definitely much more of a japanese experience than niseko.

 

furano is about 3-4 hours from sapporo airport by bus and again it is very low hassle, any package tour will take care of it for you

 

 

hope this helps and feel free to post any questions

 

Dave

post #10 of 13

hmm, maybe samurai is right about the ryokan, i guess i'm weird in liking soup and fish for breakfast. and even though i haven't visited japan in 20 years, i still miss the smell of tatami. and the robotic, ass-washing toilet seats.

post #11 of 13

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by epl View Post

 

hmm, maybe samurai is right about the ryokan, i guess i'm weird in liking soup and fish for breakfast. and even though i haven't visited japan in 20 years, i still miss the smell of tatami. and the robotic, ass-washing toilet seats.

 

You mentioned 3 things I miss when I go back home-- tatami, automatic toilets, and fish and soup for breakfast. 

post #12 of 13

oh, and vending machines that sell whiskey. do they still have those?

post #13 of 13

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by epl View Post

 

oh, and vending machines that sell whiskey. do they still have those?

Yup. I think it's funny that they installed a security system to verify age for cigarette vending machines, but right next to those machines are beer/alcohol machines with no age verification. 

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