Now let's get down to business - skiing! Imagine Japan beyond the cities and what do you see? Volcanoes? Bamboo forests? Ancient hot-spring towns? Now imagine all that, complemented with some of the best powder snow in the world, efficient, well-run ski resorts, a fascinating culture and practically zero crime. And you have yourself skiing in Japan. After all those years going West, you owe it to yourself to go East! Here are just a few reasons why:
We'll wax lyrical about the snow in Japan, but you don't need to take our word for it: simply pick up any ski and snowboard magazine, or ask any of your ski buddies and you'll discover that Japan is the firm favourite of those in the know. The Japanese islands are affected by weather systems skimming the Sea of Japan on their way from Siberia – and that makes for a predictable 12 to 18 metres of snow every year, kept chilled, crisp and fluffy by the cold temperatures. The result is boundless powder, perfect for easy fresh tracks and the best gladed tree skiing we've ever experienced.
"The Alps used to be our default setting for ski holidays. Patchy snow, characterless purpose-built resorts and extortionate prices were the norm. One ski holiday to Japan and we have been converted..."Carolyn Foreman (Oxfordshire, UK)
Staggeringly, there are around 500 ski resorts in Japan. We have chosen a handful that offer varied terrain, good grooming and great facilities with English-speaking guides and ski schools. Between them, you'll find something to suit you; whether you're into skiing or snowboarding; cruising the gentle slopes or adventuring off piste. The hotels or facilities are world class, and we rarely see crowds outside of the weekends, thus ensuring you more runs, fresh tracks and a relaxed vibe, both day and night - many Japanese ski resorts are floodlit allowing you to ski in to the evening.
Did we mention that we love Japan? From sushi and noodles in busy roadside cafes to delectable multi-course kaiseki cuisine in smart restaurants - the food is divine. The people aren't merely 'polite', they're warm, engaging and welcoming. The culture is vibrant and absorbing. And thankfully most Japanese ski resorts actually feel Japanese – and there's a whole lot more to see if you venture totally off-piste. We'd like to introduce you to the hive of culture that is Kyoto, the buzz of Tokyo, and the tranquility of Takayama. Whether meeting the iconic geisha, soaking in an onsen with the locals, or taking in the temples, we believe the unique, indelible culture in Japan adds a richness to your ski holiday which is hard to beat.
"The skiing was amazing - truly remarkable - but more than that, it was Japan itself that was the star of the show. The time we spent in both Tokyo and Kyoto was hugely enjoyable."Mercer Davies (Hong Kong)
You might approach your first onsen with trepidation (we're not generally accustomed to bathing in our birthday suits with utter strangers), but we urge you to shake off these inhibitions! The ancient Japanese tradition of soaking in natural hot springs is still very much a part of life here, and it's nowhere more alive than in the ski resorts; after all, skiing and onsen are the perfect match. The idea is to head for a soak after you come off the slopes, meaning you'll be squeaky clean and your muscles will be atoned before dinner.
There's a general misconception that Japan costs the earth. Ok, so your flight may be more expensive, but thereafter everything from skiing to dining out is often significantly less expensive in Japan than it is in Europe or North America. We also have an excellent range of accommodation options, including pensions, inexpensive lodges and chalets, in addition to the more luxurious hotels. If price is on your mind, don't be put off and please just pick up the phone and talk to us; for many years a lot of our skiing has been done on a shoestring budget, so don't be shy!