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Snowboarding in Japan

The first thing you have to decide is where you would like to ski. From December to February, there are dozens of available resorts up and down the country. In the south, there is Nagano and Hakuba (which you will remember from the Winter Olympics in 1998). Towards the northern part of Honshu (the main island), you have many resorts, including Yamagata which we visited on our most recent trip. On the northern most island of Hokkaido, you can also find a number of world-class resorts. Where you go is up to you. I’ll outline for you where we went and the experience we had. You are welcome to mimic us or to choose your own destination. Where ever you go, I’m sure you will have a great time.

Our resort of choice was Mount Zao in Yamagata prefecture. We had heard that the snow at Zao is fantastic and that there are many other attractions to see whilst you are there. In order to get to Zao, you have a few options. If you are touring on the Japan Rail pass, you can easily take any number of Shinkansen bound for Yamagata Station. It takes just over two and a half hours and trains depart regularly. Once you arrive in Yamagata Station, it’s a short $10 bus trip up to Mount Zao that takes about an hour. If you are not using the Rail Pass, there is a bus that you can take from Tokyo Sation all the way to Mt Zao for only $25. These are infrequent, so be sure to call ahead to book your tickets. Regardless of which option you take, you will arrive at Mt Zao Station.

There is a multitude of accommodation, depending on your budget and preferences. We stayed in a Japanese- style bed and breakfast called Bokunouchi. As part of the package, it features a fully catered breakfast and dinner, which left us with plenty of time to focus on snowboarding!

If you have not taken your own gear with you, then you will need to rent gear before you hit the slopes. I would recommend Shiba Ski Rental. From Zao Station, turn right and follow the main street. As you are walking, you will see the various ski lifts leading up the mountain. Shiba Ski Rental is on the left hand side of the road. The couple that run the store can speak both English and Japanese so you are in good hands. They also do a discount if you rent for more than a single day. My wife and I rented boards, boots, and helmets and it cost us $250 for three days.