Skiing in Japan is gaining in popularity. In this guide, we’ll show you easy ski areas to get to from Tokyo, ranging from quick day trips to one-night getaways where you can relax in the hot springs. And the more spontaneous travelers can join in on the fun, too. We’ve collected the best areas where reservations are unnecessary, and access is made easy by bullet trains and the Zairai line or shuttle buses.
― Day-Trip Friendly Niigata: Ski Areas Accessible by JR Joetsu Shinkansen
Joetsu Shinkansen Toki
You can get to Niigata in around an hour on the Joetsu Shinkansen (bullet train), making it perfect for day trips. Once you arrive in Niigata, you can transfer to local trains or shuttle buses that will take you straight to the slopes of a lot of ski areas. Echigo-Yuzawa Station is the jumping-off point for your Niigata ski adventures. It takes around 80 minutes to get there from Tokyo on the shinkansen.
A one-way unreserved seat costs 6,260 yen, and the Max Toki, Toki, and Tanigawa are the Joetsu Shinkansen train services you’re looking for.
Skiers will love that Niigata is close enough to Tokyo for both day trips and night skiing.
Shinkansen Timetable and Price : Tokyo to Echigo-Yuzawa
・Directly Connected to the Station! GALA Yuzawa
GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort lets you make the best use of your time if you’re planning a ski day trip. The resort is directly connected to GALA Yuzawa Station, and you can ride the gondola all the way to the slopes straight from the station. You’ll find rentals, hot springs, and other facilities in the station, making it perfect for day trips. You won’t waste any travel time you could spend skiing.
GALA Yuzawa Station
The super convenient GALA Yuzawa Station is only open during the winter, though. Trains stop here according to GALA’s opening schedule around mid-December every year, so you’ll need to check if the stop is available before you get on the train. If it doesn’t stop in GALA Yuzawa, then you can take the shuttle bus from Echigo-Yuzawa Station.
GALA Yuzawa Spa
The 3 Mountain Pass lets you take the Lando ropeway to Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort, and you can access Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort from the Roman Holiday Course in the northern area.
・Shuttle Buses from Echigo-Yuzawa Station
Free shuttle buses leaving from Echigo-Yuzawa station take the hassle out of transportation.
・Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort: 2-minute shuttle bus
・Yuzawa Park Resort: 10-minute shuttle bus
・Iwappara Ski Resort: 10-minute shuttle bus
・Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort: 30-minute shuttle bus
・Kandatsu Kogen Ski Resort: 30-minute shuttle bus
・Directly Connected to a Local Line Station! Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort
Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort
At Echigo-Yuzawa Station, transfer to the JR Joetsu Line and get off at Joetsu International Skiing Ground Station. The ski area is directly connected to the station, so there’ll be a ski house right in front of you. They also have plenty of lodging at the huge Hotel Green Plaza Joetsu, so it’s great for a longer stay, as well.
― Ski Areas along JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line Great for Staying the Night
There are plenty of ski areas in Niigata and Gunma accessible from Echigo-Yuzawa Station and Jomo-Kogen Station. For ski areas farther than 30 minutes away from the station, it’s probably easier to stay the night.
・The Expansive Mt. Naeba Ski Resort
Mt. Naeba Ski Resort
This massive ski resort is a 50-minute transit bus ride from Echigo-Yuzawa Station on the JR Jōetsu Shinkansen line. The resort contains the Naeba Prince Hotel, which boasts 1,300 rooms, as well as rows of smaller lodgings like bed-and-breakfasts. It’s made for longer ski trips.
Naeba Prince Hotel
The resort is also home to the Dragondola, which is the longest gondola in Japan at 5,481 meters. You’ll have access to the Kagura and Mitsumata ski areas, as well, so there’s plenty of skiing to be done with the extra time spent at the resort.
― Heading to Yamagata via the JR Yamagata Shinkansen
It’s about a 3-hour trip to Yamagata Station on the Yamagata Shinkansen. An unreserved seat for a one-way ticket will run you 10,640 yen.
Shinkansen Timetable and Price : Tokyo to Yamagata
・Watch Out for Ice Monsters! Zao Onsen Ski Resort
A 40-minute transit bus ride (1,000 yen) from Yamagata Station will take you to Zao Onsen Ski Resort– known for its powdery snow. It’s a popular location for those looking to get in some skiing time, as well as those who just want to see the “ice monsters” (snow- and ice-covered trees) and then destress in the onsen after sightseeing.
Zao Onsen Ski Resort
However, if you’re planning on going to this area of Yamagata or Fukushima, it’s recommended that you stay 2-3 days to make the most of your trip, since travel time is high.
― Heading to Nagano/Yamagata via JR Hokuriku Shinkansen
JR Hokuriku Shinkansen
These are also areas where you should plan to stay a few days for a ski trip. The main transit stations are Iiyama Station and Nagano Station on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen line.
It’s about 2 hours to Iiyama Station, with a one-way unreserved seat ticket costing 8,250 yen. For Nagano it’s around an hour and a half, and a one-way unreserved seat is 7,810 yen. The JR Hokuriku Shinkansen also has trains that only have reserved seats, like the Kagayaki, so be careful which one you ride.
Shinkansen Timetable and Price : Tokyo to Iiyama
・Popular with International Visitors, Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort
Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort
Australians in particular are wild about Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort. It’s about 30 minutes by bus from Iiyama Station. There’s a moving walkway from the edge of the onsen village to the slopes for easy access. Snowfall is high, and there are public bathhouses all over the village, so it’s very popular as a stay-over resort.
・Internationally-Renown Hakuba Ski Resort
Hakuba Ski Resort
A 30-minute bus ride from Iiyama Station is Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort, home of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Regarded as a skiers paradise, it boasts some of the best powder snow in Japan. The famous Hakuba Valley has several ski resorts/areas, and they’re connected via the shuttle bus.
This area is perfect for those looking for a longer trip with access to a variety of slopes, as well as those searching for a resort catering to international guests.
・Take the Local Trains from Nagano Station to Akakura Onsen Ski Resort
Akakura Onsen Ski Resort
Situated at the foot of Mount Myoko, Akakura Onsen Ski Resort in Niigata isn’t quite well-known yet, but it has some of the highest snowfall in Japan. From Nagano Station, take the Shinano Railway 40 minutes to Myoko-Kogen Station, which is the closest one to the resort. Akakura Onsen Ski Resort is a charming accommodation area with an onsen village in addition to its slopes.
Akakura Onsen Ski Resort
・Hidden Day-Trip Ski Area, Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort
Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort
Many people head to Karuizawa for the outlets and the Prince Shopping Plaza, but it gets enough snowfall in the winter to have skiing, too. It’s only about an hour on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen, with an unreserved seat for a one-way ticket running 5,490 yen. You get some serious bang for your buck here.
The Prince Hotel Ski Resort is connected to Karuizawa Station, so you can get off the shinkansen and be on the slopes in minutes. Access is super simple, but since there’s so much sightseeing to do in Karuizawa, you may want to extend your trip a few days.
Shinkansen Timetable and Price : Tokyo to Karuizawa