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Myoko Kogen


With some of the best vertical and longest runs Japan has to offer, Myoko also enjoys the deepest powder snow due to its proximity to the Sea of Japan, only 20 miles away.

Myoko Kogen is made up of not one, but three ski resorts; Akakura, Suginohara and Ikenotaira. Then you can also throw in the tiny powder-trap that is Seki Onsen, and the freeride mountain at Arai, both of which are close by and easily accessible. Truly, this is Japan's ski heartland - a region famed for its abundant snowfall and the on-mountain experience cannot be bettered.  Myoko is an absolute haven for powder junkies with gladed slopes (the tree-skiing policy is relaxed), off-piste riding (excellent guiding is available) and long, long runs (indeed, the longest in Japan at over 8km).

You base yourself in charming, traditional Akakura Onsen - a ski village that resolutely retains its Japanese character, with an authentic main street which has a mix of traditional and new buildings and great restaurants. This is also a region well known for its rich history, culture and traditional Japanese onsens.
 

Skiing in Myoko Kogen

The central resort of Myoko Akakura is actually two interconnected areas, with the main ski village at its base. The resort is sizeable, varied and experts can be kept happy in amongst the powder or out in the backcountry. Suginohara is well worth a day, with its impressive lift infrastructure and long, perfectly groomed runs. Ikenotaira Onsen is also popular with intermediates, and has some decent tree skiing, along with a terrain park and half pipe. A fourth option is Seki Onsen, which is tiny and only has a couple of creaky old lifts…yet it’s well worth the trip after a big dump of snow, as it’s got some outrageous tree skiing, with a few pleasingly-steep pitches. 

Options are bewilderingly numerous, the powder snow is bottomless and, therefore, there is something for everyone in Myoko. Different Snow have created a definitive ski guide to the region, offering a description of each resort and pragmatic advice on how to get between the resorts. We’ll send you this ‘How To…’ guide with your travel documents.
 

Off Piste

Myoko remains largely a Japanese resort (popular at weekends) and the sparsity of foreigners is advantageous if you want to head off-piste – fresh tracks galore! Getting in amongst the trees is permitted at most of the ski resorts, and they are similarly enlightened when it comes to backcountry skiing. The main resort - Akakura Kanko - has some of the steepest terrain and also great tree skiing. There are gates at the top for accessing backcountry, and then you can hike to the top of Myoko-san (2,454m) and ski right back to the resort.  Suginohara has some awesome side and backcountry, but be prepared to do some walking. However, our little ace-up-the-sleeve is Seki Onsen – a bargain-basement, no frills tiny resort with only two lifts and virtually no grooming. When the powder is deep, there is no better secret corner of Japan! 

Advanced

Each of the ski resorts have a few black runs, most of which are left ungroomed, and its fair to say that the pitch on Myoko mountain can be a little more interesting than elsewhere in Japan. However, most expert skiers base themselves in the region to explore the side and backcountry.

Intermediate

The grooming is immaculate and with many wide, long runs intermediates often find themselves in carvers' heaven. This is a region made for cruising - the runs over near the Akakura Kanko Hotel and then the truly epic runs in Suginohara being the stand out attractions. Indeed, this is where you'll find Japan's longest continuous ski run - 8.5 kilometers. I did it top-to-bottom in one go and the memory of the thigh burn still lives with me!

Beginners

Akakura actually has some great terrain for beginners and they have one of Japan's best English-speaking ski schools operating in the village. And then - for progression - Ikenotaira Onsen resort holds no nasty surprises and has some of the widest, gentlest pistes we've ever seen. 

Snowboarders

Getting between the linked resorts of Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen is via a couple of different traverses, which can be difficult to locate and snowboarders may find one of these routes a bit flat. Other than that, nothing really to fear in the Myoko region.

Après Ski

The village of Akakura Onsen is where you'll stay...and play. And it's a charming little place, not twee or contrived in any way - just utterly authentic. Along the Main Street you'll find several restaurants (cheap and cheerful izakayas are the most prevalent; wonderful places to mingle with new friends and sample lots of Japanese treats) - all good - and one or two bars. This is not the place for rowdy partying and the Japanese guests tend to be early-to-bed...but if you want some great grub, several cheeky sake's and enjoy a friendly, 'local' vibe - then this village may be right up your street.

But this is all after the mandatory après activity....whcih is to take a soak in one of the many onsens, of which there will invariably be one in your hotel. That is to say, every accommodation in Akakura has its own onsen and it is almost compulsory to use it after a long day on the mountain.
 

Family Suitability

Myoko works well for families - largely because it has that local atmosphere that kids respond to. It's welcoming. There’s are several ski-in ski-out hotels in Akakura Onsen, and the village is easy, safe and friendly - a great environment for kids. The restaurants usually have English menus, with Western options (pizza, pasta, burgers...etc) and are used to families. And then there is the ski school - as we said, one of the best in Japan! Ski instructors are Western, the lessons are accessible and they genuinely seem to love kids!

RESORT SCORECARD

Snowsure:  

Beginners:  

Intermediate:  

Advanced:  

Snowboarders:  

Après Ski:  

Families:  

Season:  mid December until early April

Base elevation:  731 metres

Top elevation:  1,855 metres

Vertical drop:  1,124 metres (Suginohara)

Number of lifts:  40, across the three main resorts

Number of runs:  86, across the three main resorts

Longest run:  8.5 kilometres

Access:  On Honshu Island, the ski resorts of Myoko Kogen are easily accessible from Tokyo - either via bullet-train or using shared taxi transfers. It takes approx four to five hours to get to Myoko from the capital. Having said this, you are very close to the north-western coast of the island and the closest airport is actually near Kanazawa.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Myoko Kogen

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes. We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. They’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - treat them as inspiration only.

Honshu Powder Safari

Hakuba - Myoko Kogen / Arai - Appi Kogen

Duration: two weeks

Are you travelling to Japan for a single purpose? The deepest, untracked & ungroomed powder snow?

from £2,498 per person, including flights

Read More

Myoko, Kyoto & Tokyo

Kyoto - Akakura Onsen (Myoko Kogen) - Tokyo

Duration: 11 days

An itinerary that distils the very best of Japan; its ancient capital, an authentic ski village & Asia’s most exciting city. Perfection!

from £1,920 per person, including flights

Read More

Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.

Accommodation

Akakura Onsen is the most popular village in which to stay, for several reasons: it's central and offers good access to the other ski resorts, the best ski mountain is actually on your doorstep (several ski-in, ski-out options), it has the largest number of bars and restaurants and - most importantly - it's a rather pleasant small village.  Not beautiful in the way Nozawa Onsen is, not buzzing-with-life in the way Niseko is, not rural in the way Zao Onsen is...instead just authentic, straightforward and welcoming. This is a real community, with only a few foreigners as permanent residents, and there is nothing twee or contrived for the tourists. This is what small-town Japan looks and feels like!

Myoko accommodation varies from traditional (basic) pensions, a couple of ryokans and then some more European-style hotels. Most are aimed at budget travellers, with the notable exception of the prestigious and super-luxurious Akakura Kanko Hotel which is actually built right on the slopes, well away from the village.

Akakura Kanko Resort & Spa

Right on the slopes is the region's most historic and opulent hotel. Elegant & steeped in tradition.

Established in 1937 it remains - to this day - the most prestigious and luxurious option (by some margin) in the Myoko region. All told, it is a rather special hotel, but be aware that you are well away from the main village, as it nestles on the ski slopes half way up the mountain. Literally. But its not a bad place to be marooned - this is where you stay for an upscale experience. There are 52 rooms, nearly all Western style, beautifully furnished and with modern amenities. The main restaurant gravitates towards fine French cuisine, though there is choice and the Japanese options -Shirakaba or Kura - are equally good choices whilst a more casual option is the Café Terrace which serves Western style dishes. Of course there is an onsen and spa also. 

Oyado Furuya Ryokan

A wonderful traditional Japanese Inn, right on the main street in the village.

It may look like nothing remarkable externally, but don't let this deceive you. This ryokan has been lovingly restored and now provides the best accommodation in the village, either in Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats and futon bedding, or in Western beds for those who prefer the comforts of home. There are a few rooms with their own private onsen (well, 'rotenburo' because they are outdoors on the balcony) but if we can't secure one of these, worry not -  the ryokan has a wonderful shared onsen on the top floor, fed from local natural hot springs. Oyado Furuya has an excellent restaurant that serves up breakfast and traditional Japanese meals in the evening. 

Akakura Central Hotel

Almost ski-in, this is the best budget option in the village...friendly & affordable.

Okay...so it's a bit dated. And it won't win any architectural design awards. And the breakfasts are rudimentary. But...you're kind of missing the point. We love the Central hotel for many reasons and not all of them are the amazing value price. It is right on the edge of the ski slopes and the main street is only a very short walk away. There are large communal spaces, ideal for mingling with fellow travellers - it's that kind of place. There are western twin rooms, Japanese rooms and also family rooms - some with bathrooms. The others have toilet and sink, but share the onsens within the hotel. The decor is so out-of-style, we're considering to retro-cool. The hotel is spotlessly clean and lovingly cared for by the wonderfully friendly owners - ever-present - but they also have native English speakers on the front desk. The longer you stay here, the more you fall in love with the quirkiness!

Activities

Myoko Kogen offers lots of opportunities for backcountry skiing - above the ski resorts, ascents to the mountain peaks offer some fabulous skiing and snowboarding. But you'll need a guide and preferably one who knows this region intimately. We know just the man, a resident of some 20-plus years (native American) and one of the best, most affable ski companions you're ever likely to ride with. If you want to stay within the resort boundaries, but want to finds the secret powder stashes and dream tree runs, then we'll use a different company - every bit as good.

We can also pre-book and organise an afternoon tour to the Snow Monkeys from Myoko Kogen.

Backcountry in Myoko

Eschewing the lifts, head in to the deep backcountry with a local guide.

We have a local contact and his focus is to get you to one of the many local peaks, for those who have experience in the backcountry, or have good powder / tree skiing experience and want to go all the way to the top. He doesn't do sidecountry touring, nor does he ski directly off the lifts. Instead the aim is to have the hill entirely to yourself and earn your turns. Your destination for the day could be Mount Maeyama (1,932m - essentially the top of Kanko resort, with more than 1,000 meters of vertical through spectacular beech forest), Mount Mitahara (2,300m - the longest course in the area; a descent of more than 10km, through fantastically varied terrain including open forests, and a winding mountain road), Akakura-yama (2,141m - above Ikenotaira resort and with amazing tree skiing) or Kanna-san (1, 909m - no lifts and no crowds, the hard work rewarded by a big view, open slopes at the top and great tree runs all the way down).
 

Freeriding at Arai

Head over to nearby Arai for the day, an ungroomed mountain of powder.

Arai is Japan's newest ski resort. Essentially it is simply a freeride mountain, with only five lifts, and then an uber-luxury hotel perched at the bottom. The good news is that its not far away from Akakura Onsen, less than an hour on the regular ski shuttle bus which will get you there for first lifts and back again in the late afternoon. Lift passes are reasonable and the reward for making the effort is absolutely worth it. There are five groomed trails - largely cat tracks - but the bounty lies in the 11 backcountry-like, avalanche-controlled freeride zones. Suitable for confident intermediates, and a slice of heaven for expert powder hounds.

Visit the Snow Monkeys

An afternoon off the slopes and go see the snow monkeys bathe in a local outdoor onsen.

Afternoon excursion to the local snow monkeys hangout - Jigokudani, otherwise known as Hell’s Valley. Photo opportunties galore as these Macaques monkeys have grown accustomed to humans watching them bathe and play in the natural onsens. Your guide will take you through the small farming villages of ‘Snow Country’ to Joshinetsu National Park, where you’ll hike for half an hour to reach their bathing pools, learning about the local plant and animal life as you go. Often the tours also visit the ancient onsen village of Shibu on the way home, which has served as a place of convalescence for Samurai, artists and travellers through the centuries and displays wonderful historic buildings.

Ski Concierge

Akakura Onsen is where you will stay, where you'll hire your ski equipment from, where the ski school is based and the place from which the guides operate - it's the local hub in every sense. Whilst the village has a low-rent, homespun feel the facilities and amenities can actually be excellent...if you know where to go. The ski school is one of the best in Japan, the rental gear is of decent quality and we have friendships with a few knowledgeable and hugely experienced guides who are based in the village.

All of the ski resorts have on-mountain eateries for lunch. Nothing fancy...but hearty, great value and delicious in each instance. in you feel like something a little fancier then the Akakura Kanko Hotel has its terrace café, which is up on the slopes.

Lift Passes

Okay - this can get rather complicated. There is a single lift pass that covers the 'big-4' ski resorts of Myoko Kogen - Akakura Onsen, Akakura Kanko, Suginohara and Ikenotaira Onsen. However, this cooperation between the resorts is only extending to foreign guests staying in particular hotels accredited to the local tourism office. If we are not staying in one of these specific hotels, then we need to buy a day pass for each resort, though fortunately the linked resorts of Akakura Onsen and Akakura Kanko will sell you a ticket allowing access to both.

Lift passes costs are a little less than elsewhere in Japan...so great value.

Equipment Hire

There are several ski hire shops along the main street and most only have crap (rear-entry boots!). Fortunately we know the best two - the only ones worth considering - and we can get this arranged for you in advance of travel. These places have fat skis, and they also have standard and performance ski and snowboard sets for adults and kids.

Lessons

Myoko Kogen has an excellent ski school, which caters for all level of skier/ boarder. Services include private lessons, some group English-speaking lessons, photography tours, guiding and multi-resort programs. 

Travel Insurance

Winter sports travel insurance is an important part of your holiday booking and we strongly recommend that you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover all your winter sports holiday requirements. We're happy to be able to offer our customers a 10% discount on all policies from Ski Club Travel Insurance.

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