Planning a ski trip to Japan and want to experience the real thing? Sleep on a tatami mat in a ryokan, speak to local Japanese people, and eat some real Japanese food, other than teriyaki chicken and salmon and avocado sushi? Oh, and ski some awesome terrain!
There is one particular resort that ticks all the boxes for an authentic Japanese ski holiday, and is also relatively easy to get there, and has plenty of infrastructure and nightlife to make it worth staying more than a couple of days. Nozawa Onsen is in the Nagano region on the main island of Honshu, about a 5 hour bus ride from Tokyo (or while we are being authentic, perhaps I can suggest the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from Tokyo to Nagano).
Nozawa Onsen has numerous Ryokans (traditional Japanese Inn’s), where you will be asked to remove your shoes at the door, be hosted by a lovely Japanese family and sleep on futons or tatami mats. Many have their own onsen, or the town has a couple of public onsens for that after ski relaxation. There are even some super modern ryokans, such as Kawamatoya, which has an incredible restaurant and funky interior design.
Nozawa is famous for its fire festival. Held in January each year, it is a time of celebration that brings the resort and town alive;
It takes roughly one hundred villagers to build the shrine for the Nozawa Fire Festival. The trees are cut down in October and brought down from the mountain and through the village on January 13th prior to being made into a huge wooden structure or shaden. After the shaden has been constructed, the priest from Kosuge shrine performs a ceremony endowing it with a dosojin. The highlight on January 15th is a “fire-setting battle” which ends up with the setting fire of the shaden with blazing torches by the offensive team and the offering of torches to the deity, making the festival truly spectacular and exciting. The entire festival is quite lengthy and can take up to four hours from the beginning to the end. Some observers gather just for the main attraction which is the battle between the guards and the torch bearing villagers. Add liberal servings of saké to all of the above and you’re sure to go home buzzing after seeing quite a spectacle – and maybe a bit scorched from the flames!
So modern and traditional Japanese accommodation, onsens, amazing food and a fire festival, we haven’t even mentioned the skiing yet! There is some terrain for every level in Nozawa, and plenty of powder days to be had! It has over 1000m of vertical and plenty of runs to choose from. Lift tickets and accommodation tend to be a bit cheaper than some of the other resorts, so it is well worth the visit!
Check out our Nozawa Onsen accommodation for a range of choices for your trip to ski Nozawa!