Quiet slopes and backcountry adventure in lesser-explored Tohoku
The Tohoku region stretches some 400 kilometers north to south across Japan’s main island from Aomori to Fukushima. Winds from the northwest blow through the western and central areas, covering the region in deep snow from November to early May. With most snow tourists heading to Nagano and Hokkaido, the slopes in this region are generally much less crowded.
How to get there
The region covers a vast area, so your departure points and connections will differ depending on your final destination. The most convenient transport options are air or rail. There are airports in the region with direct flights from Tokyo and Osaka and each regional city has a shinkansen station.
Ski resorts in northern Tohoku
There are ski resorts across the northern prefectures of Aomori and Iwate, and you can easily access both from Tokyo. It takes 90 minutes to reach Aomori Airport from the capital. Alternatively, the Tohoku Shinkansen takes around three hours to Shin-Aomori Station and around two and a half hours to Morioka Station (Iwate Prefecture). You will need to rent a car or take a taxi to most resorts from these transport hubs, but some offer bus service.
Ski resorts in southern Tohoku
Journeys to the more centrally located ski resorts in Fukushima and Yamagata prefectures are relatively shorter. It is a one-hour flight from Tokyo to Yamagata Airport or about 90 minutes to Fukushima's Koriyama Station by bullet train.
Renting a car
Renting a car is recommended for traveling into the more remote areas, or for visitors who don't want to rely on public transport. Read up on license restrictions before you go as they differ by issuing country. Be sure to ask about road conditions and check whether you need chains or a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Large scale resorts, backcountry adventure and perfect powder
The Hakkoda area in Aomori Prefecture is known as a hub of backcountry skiing and snowboarding, so is the ideal destination for snow tourists looking for an extra rush of adrenaline. The Hachimantai area is particularly famous for the quality of its snow, while the expansive Appi Kogen resort is the largest in the Tohoku region and has a wide variety of trails. The FIS World Alpine Ski Championships were held at Shizukuishi in Iwate, where one course is now left ungroomed and is reserved for snowcat tours.
Bubbling baths and fearsome monsters close to world-class slopes
Hot mineral water pours into the area's hot spring resorts, meaning you can relax in therapeutic baths after a day on the slopes or hiking in the mountains. The otherworldly juhyo "snow monsters" are regular sites in the region's mountains and are a popular tourist draw.