A trip to Japan during winter won’t be complete without having a ski trip. There are over 500 ski resorts across Japan and the best resorts and snow conditions are found in northern Japan (Hokkaido and Tohoku) and in the mountains along the Sea of Japan Coast (especially Niigata and Nagano).
Due to a time constraint, I did not manage to visit those popular ski resorts as they are located quite far from Tokyo. However, I manage to squeeze in 1 day ski trip to Zao Onsen Ski Resort at Yamagata prefecture (3 hours from Tokyo) which is famous for it’s Ice Monster the peak season for which is in February.
First we took the morning Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Yamagata Station.
For planning, you may rely on Hyperdia.com in order to check the train schedule and cost. We used it quite a lot in our planning stages.
For breakfast, we grabbed a boxed meal from a convenience store because the hotel breakfast was not being served till 7am — we left hotel at 6.30am. They are pretty and yummy.
Since we reserve our seat in advance (free of charge for JR pass holder) we could select seats that can turn so that we could face each other.
The weather was fine on the day we went and we could see the top of Mt. Fuji (1:36 in the video). During the rest of our trip it got cold and cloudy and the view was spoilt. My advice is that if you get the chance to see Mt. Fuji, take photos immediately. We failed to do so and therefore have no photos with it.
The train ride was very smooth and we all managed to sleep for the most of the trip.
Joff managed to stay awake and recorded view outside the window during the trip. As we went further north, we saw more snow along the way.
After arriving at the Yamagata station we directly went to our hotel to check in and freshen up. The Richmond hotel is just a 5 minute walk from the station. Very convenient.
Lian and Joff touch snow for the very first time in their life hahahahha 😀 😀
After checking in we walked to the bus station — which is right beside the train station — and took the bus to Zao Onsen. The bus fair is 1000 Yen one way and the journey takes approximately 45 minutes.
The bus departs every hour and you might need to come early to ensure that you can take the next one although even though the first bus had filled up another one was engaged for the second batch of passengers.
As we went further up the mountain the snow thickened and the view improved. We were so excited. Winter Wonderland!
Zao Onsen Ski Resort
There is no public transportation around Zao Onsen, so we had to walk everywhere. Everything is within walking distance though.
It was lunch time and we stop at the first restaurant we saw. It is also the one nearest to the bus station. Their soup noodles were so delicious.
There are 3 slopes in total in this resort. Since this was our first time attempting to ski, we went to the beginner slope. If you want to see the ice monster garden, you should select the most advanced slope. I forget the name of the slopes but you could easily get the map once you arrive at the bus station. Maps are available in many languages include English and Chinese.
On our way to the slope, we took photos of Zao Onsen, literally covered by snow.
It took us 20 minutes to reach the slope base from where we rented our skiing and snowboarding equipment.
“Zao Onsen is rightfully well-known for it’s spectacular “Ice Monsters”. One of the natural wonders of Zao Onsen, these can be found at the top of the mountain during the coldest months, usually from late December to the middle of March. These Ice Monsters (“Juhyo”) make for some truly spectacular and unique scenery which combined with the wide panoramic scenery make Zao Onsen one of the best resorts in Japan for scenery. The Ice Monsters can be also fully appreciated during the night illuminations at the top of the mountain during the peak season” –http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resorts/zao-onsen
After 5pm, the sky got dark very fast. We were there till around 7pm and it’s count as night ski 😀
Enough with the action, now lets see some silly video 😀 😀