TOP RECOMMENDATIONS Shiga Kogen
18 ski areas make up one of Japan's leading winter resorts
Shiga Kogen is a highland area with altitudes reaching more than 1,000 meters and is part of the Joshinetsukogen National Park in northern Nagano Prefecture. The area is one of Japan’s leading snow destinations with 18 ski resorts — a total of 84 courses where the longest run stretches 5,000 meters. Buses run between each site and you can go back and forth between some of them. You can use your lift ticket on all the mountains (excluding night tickets), so one day in Shiga Kogen can include skiing, snowboarding and having fun in the snow at multiple ski resorts. The snow season at Shiga Kogen is long because of the area’s high elevation and low temperatures, meaning you can be on the slopes until early May. Like other Japanese snow destinations, the area is famous for its hot springs, and you can bathe in the healing waters in the lodging facilities at the eight onsen spots. At the foot of the Shiga Kogen area is Jigokudani Yaen-Koen — more famously known as the Monkey Park where wild monkeys come down from the trees to bathe in the hot water. While the monkeys live across wide swathes of Japan, at the park you can observe them in their adopted habitat.
How to get there
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station. Transfer to the Nagano Electric Railway and head to Yudanaka — the last stop on the line. From Yudanaka, take a bus to Shiga Kogen. There are also direct buses to Shiga Kogen from the east exit of Nagano Station.
Take the Kanestu Expressway to Fujioka JCT, then onto the Joshinestu Expressway to the Shinshu Nagano interchange. From the interchange, take National Road 292 to Shiga Kogen. The journey from the Nerima Kanetsu Expressway takes around 3 hours 30 minutes (240 km.)
Yakebitaiyama Ski Area — a world-class venue
Yakebitaiyama is Shiga Kogen’s largest ski area and was a venue for the Nagano Olympics and the Alpine Ski World Cup. The area has 14 courses with the longest stretching to 2,500 meters, and two gondolas serve the slopes. If you book a room in one of the three Shiga Kogen Prince Hotels (East, South, and West) at the base of the slope, you can enjoy very easy access to the world-class slopes.
On top of the world — the Yokoteyama Shibutoge Ski Area
The summit of the Yokoteyama Shibutoge Ski Area is at an elevation of 2,307 meters — the highest for a ski area in Japan. The scenery at this resort is particularly beautiful with views of the Japanese Alps, Mt Fuji, and the Juhyo snow monsters — fir trees covered in ice and snow — near the summit. At Yokoteyama Sancho Hutte, a lodge at the summit of the mountain, you can eat freshly baked bread from Kumonoueno Panyasan, whose name means "a bakery above the clouds."
Top quality snow at the Okushiga Ski Area
The overall snow quality in Shiga Kogen is very high, but of particular note is the snow that falls on Okushiga Kogen — a resort in the area’s northern reaches. During the high season, the powder snow that falls here is thought to rival that of its northern neighbor, Hokkaido. The summit of Yakebitaiyama (2,009 meters) is connected to the adjacent Yakebitaiyama Ski Area. Head to the downhill course on the No. 4 Trail for a 2,600-meter-long run of undulating slopes. At the base of Trail No.1, there are two high-class resort hotels — the Okushiga Kogen Hotel and Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga. Book a stay at one of these resorts for a higher quality snow resort experience.