• A guide to 2020/21’s snow highlights

    Sport & Nature_Story

    A guide to 2020/21’s snow highlights


So winter is almost all wrapped up for the 2020/21 season, and while it's sad to say goodbye, it's a great time to reflect on the season and start daydreaming about the next one. We thought as a nice little end to the season, we'd run through some of the destination highlights of the year and potentially fill you in a little on what you missed.

Winter landscape with fresh snow in Kagura Resort, Niigata (Video: Dominique Nisbett)


Situated in the northern Alps of Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba is a destination on many snow lovers' lists. In recent times it's grown rapidly in popularity, thanks in large part to the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, the massive array of slopes, accommodations, and facilities and the relatively easy accessibility from Tokyo. One of the best bits about Hakuba is how visitor friendly the area is. To help skiers and boarders make the most of their time, 10 of the area's major resorts have teamed up to offer the "Hakuba Valley Ticket" a ski lift ticket you can use all day across all the participating resorts.

Mountain ridge Happo-one where Nagano Winter Olympic Alpine Skiing took place in 1998.

From Tokyo, the easiest way to reach Hakuba via public transport is to catch the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano (100 minutes, 8000 yen) and then from Nagano catch the express bus to Hakuba (60-90 minutes, 2000-2200 yen).

Photos: Dominique Nisbett

Our Recommendations:

Eternal Snowscape… With view of the mountain range of the Northern Alps of Hakuba Village, contentment is found here, surrounded in minimalist Japan-inspired designs and warm wooden furnishings. Close to the world renown Happo-one ski resort, you can come home to your choice of own outdoor private onsen hot springs bath, or a dog friendly room!

Swathed in peaceful forest views, this architectural delight consisting of 3 bedrooms promises you the privacy, ideal for a family or group. Just a walking distance from Happo-one ski resort, you may choose to enjoy the seasonal flavors of the local restaurants, or we can arrange for you to dine in the villa with a top chef.

Photos: The Hakuba Company

Minakami Houdaigi Ski Resort, Gunma

Gunma is one of Japan's more underrated prefectures, especially when it comes to stunning natural features. However, it is one of the nation's best destinations for skiing. Houdaigi Ski Resort is a great destination for family travellers and diverse groups of skiing abilities. Sitting at an altitude of 1400 meters, it receives great quality snow and excellent views across the 16 courses. To reach the resort, head to JR Minakami Station, take a 30-minute bus to "Yunokoya" or "Takaragawa Onsen", and get off at Takaragawa Iriguchi bus stop.

Photos: Dominique Nisbett

Our Recommendations:

BETTEI SENJUAN (Ryokan Collection listed)
Skiing down the finest snow covered mountain of Gunma, and ending your day in your private warm onsen bath breathing in the pristine view and air, is a pure luxury that Senjuan promises you. Other outdoor activities such as hiking and white-water rafting during the warmer seasons, are but few examples of this ryokan offering a journey of discovery.

Sample Itinerary:

Kagura Resort, Niigata

In the incredibly snowy corner of Niigata, Kagura is home to one of the most loved ski mountains in Japan, Mt. Naeba. Niigata's incredibly high altitude and wonderful scenery make it an excellent place for skiing both because the snow is dry and powder-soft and the views unparalleled. Relatively easy to access from Tokyo, it's a great choice for a quick adventure or impromptu ski trip. To reach the area from Tokyo, take the Jōetsu Shinkansen to Echigo Yuzawa Station.

Photos: Dominique Nisbett

Our Recommendations:

Established during a pilgrimage in Kamakura era, this 700 year old mystical hot springs of Kaikake Onsen has been known to offer a remedial therapy for the war stricken samurais. This hikyou - a hidden inn - is located in the midst of lush green leaves with birds chirping in the break of dawn. A treasured experience bathing in tradition and history.


There's plenty we've raved about Niseko before. From wonderful accommodations to incredible cuisine, and of course, world-class snow, it's a 'must visit destination for any self-respecting skier. Home to kilometres of ski slopes, this Hokkaido highlight offers all types of runs for skiers and boarders of all interests and abilities, from beginners to experienced backcountry hunters. For ultimate freedom, pick up the Niseko All Mountain Pass, which give you access to all three resorts. To get there between December and March (peak snow season), hop on a bus from Sapporo or Chitose. Hokkaido Chuo Bus, Niseko Bus, Good Sports Whiteliner and Hokkaido Access Network all run direct buses between hotels in Sapporo's city centre and Niseko.

Photos: Dominique Nisbett

Our Recommendations:

Panorama Niseko is one excellent example of Niseko's luxury snow resort lifestyle. It's a collection of 12 artfully built and meticulously designed villas and townhouses, surrounded by some of Hokkaido's most beautiful natural landscapes, with a spectacular view of Mt Yotei. You have the finest dining options, including catering or in-house preparation by a top chef. Splurge!

Photos: Panorama Niseko

This newest addition to Niseko, the breathtaking view out the floor-to-ceiling window faces either Niseko Annupuri or Yotei Mountains. The sheer harmonious decor invites you to be a part of this sophisticated depths of nature’s tranquility…

Photos: Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Nozawa Onsen

Quickly gaining traction as the new hot place to visit for international skiers, Nozawa Onsen has a lot going for it. As the name suggested, Nozawa was once a sleepy hot spring and ski town, also located in Niigata. However, many folks flock to the area as it offers both incredible skiing and plenty of authentic Japanese culture, including ryokan and minshiku (guest house) accommodation as well as, of course, plenty of hot springs (onsen). Its accessibility from Tokyo is another plus. From Tokyo, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Iiyama, (about two hours), then transfer to a "Nozawa Onsen Liner" bus (25 minutes).

Photos: Dominique Nisbett


Situated on the border of Gunma and Niigata Prefectures is the rugged beauty that is Tanigawadake. A popular place all year round, it's stunning in autumn, covered in vibrant red and orange leaves, and an excellent place to hike in spring, but in winter, it truly comes alive. In winter, the mountain's Tanigawa Ropeway takes guests to Tanigawadake's Tenjindaira ski resort, which is situated halfway up the mountain. Compared to other resorts, it's relatively humble in size, but its seasons are some of the longest in the country. On a good year, the mountain can be open for skiing as early as November and shut as late as May! To reach the resort, take a bus from Minakami Station to the lower station of the Tanigawadake Ropeway (20 minutes) and then take the resort's ropeway.

Photos: Dominique Nisbett

Our Recommendations:

BETTEI SENJUAN (Ryokan Collection listed)

Contact TARO for more information on customized travel plans with these accommodations, transportation, and activities.