Tokyo is an enchantress, known for its deep-rooted culture and a spectacular landscape. The city embraces you and bit by bit reveals its beauty, from the fascinating cuisine to the warmth and geniality of the people. Among these beauties, is an intoxicating winter season, one where snow takes center stage, creating a new facade in the city. If the snow entices you, then this article reveals eight exquisite places near Tokyo where the snow is at its best. And when there, you’ll even get a chance to soak in the abundant onsens, born of the area’s volcanic activity. So scroll down and find out more about where to find snow near Tokyo.
1. Tokamachi - Tokamachi Snow Festival
A two-hour bullet-train ride from Tokyo and a journey to the hinterland of Niigata Prefecture brings you to the quaint city of Tokamachi. It is here that you’ll experience your first taste of Japan’s snow in a part of the country where the snow falls so vigorously, you can literally sink chin deep into it. To the untrained eye, this is a misfortune for the region, and indeed, it has led to a rapid reduction in population. However, Tokamachi refused to let this weigh it down, turning its one main drawback to an attraction; the Tokamachi Snow Festival. If you’re in Tokyo in February, follow the crowds to this festival, an extravaganza of fun in the snow.
Tokamachi Snow Festival
Address: 3-3 Chitose, Tokamachi-shi, Niigata-ken 948-8501
Website: Tokamachi Snow Festival
Months: Third Saturday of February
2. Yuzawa in Nigata Prefecture
Yuzawa enjoys stark contrasts; it’s the heat of the onsen and the cold of the mass of snow. The resorts in the area know they have something that people want, so they combined the two, offering skiing facilities that are complemented by the intoxicating waters of the onsen baths. The snow here spans acres upon acres of slopes, offering some of the best ski trails in the region. And with an elongated winter season that starts in November and drags all the way to May, Yuzawa’s resorts are constantly welcoming visitors through its doors.
Address: 300 Kandatsu, Yuzawa-machi, Minami-Uonuma-gun, Niigata-ken 949-6192
Months: Mid December - early April
3. Mount Fuji
This is somewhat of a jewel in Japan’s chest, a stunning mass of rock that’s crowned with snow at its peak. Rising to a height of 3776 meters (12388 feet), the mountain is known for its sacred significance and even more for its volcanic potency. Unfortunately, you might not be up and close with the snow, since Fuji’s climbing season is between July and September, a period when the slopes have cleared up and the trails are less treacherous. However, from afar, it makes for an apt backdrop to your photos.
Address: Chūbu region, Honshu, Japan
Website: Mount Fuji
If Mt. Fuji is too much of a stretch, then travel an hour on a bullet train to the charming resort town of Karuizawa, seated at the foot of Mt. Asama. The volcanic activity here is still alive and well, creating hot springs that entice visitors who also come to enjoy the winter activities on offer. Thanks to its spot amidst several mountains, this town boasts some of the most thrilling skiing trails that never lose their charm. Still, Karuizawa remains open all through the year, with an unending array of summer activities for those who visit when the snow thaws.
Address: 2381-1 Nagakura, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano-ken 389-0192
Months: Mid November - January
5. Zao - Zao Snow Monsters
Zao is, arguably, one of the most enchanting places with snow, on this list. It’s a ski resort, tucked within Yamagata’s mountains, a spot that allows it to receive a massive amount of snow in winter. But here, there’s a difference; the snow’s intensity creates a white blanket that completely engulfs the land. The resultant vista is one that’s simply heavenly. The trees stand coated in a thick layer of snow, with bits of their leaves peering through, but retaining their acquired, uniform white look. It gets so intense that the trees take on new shapes, lent to them by the dense snow layer, earning them the name of ‘Snow Monsters’. You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that these are frozen creatures, rendered immobile.
Zao Snow Monster Festival
Address: Zao, Tohoku Region
Website: Zao Snow Monster Festival
Months: Late December - early March
6. Shiga Kogen - Biggest skiable area in Japan
Where Zao fascinates with its snow monsters, Shiga Kogen intrigues with its sheer vastness. This area boasts a whopping 19 ski resorts, which, in turn, serve up a delectable skiing treat that is famed for being Japan’s largest ski area. On this vast real estate, there are 52 ski lifts, trails and hot springs found en-route to the summit of Mt. Yokote. It’s said that it would take you a total of two days to cover the whole ski area. If you’re looking for the ultimate snow experience, Shiga Kogen certainly qualifies.
Address: Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan
Website: Shiga Kogen
Months: Mid November - early May
If you travel on Japan’s version of the Romantic Road, you’ll chance upon the quaint town of Nikko that’s right at the entrance to the eponymous Nikko National Park. Sure, come to Nikko for the snow; the town’s winters are a tapestry of scenic, snow-covered landscapes, and fun winter activities. However, do yourself a favor and spend time in Nikko indulging in the town’s main attractions, like the Toshogu Shrine and, of course, the stunning Nikko National Park. And when the temperatures get chilly, you can warm up at Yumoto Onsen, an offspring of the rich volcanic activity in the area.
Address: 1 Imaichi Honchō, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1292
Months: December - March
8. Tateyama - Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
This is, perhaps, the best way to experience snow near Tokyo. The Tateyama Jurobe Alpine Route is served by a variety of transport means, ranging from trains to cable cars to a trolley bus. You can opt for any one of these and get to enjoy a spectacular view, but probably the best one is the highland bus, a means that takes you past the spectacular Tateyama Snow Corridor where towering snow walls that rise to a height of 20 meters, flank the road. This is best witnessed in spring when a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) pedestrian section is opened between April and June.
Website: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Months: Mid April - late November
The ultimate snow experience
If it’s snow you seek, there’s no shortage of destinations, near Tokyo, that offers the ultimate snow experience. While you’re at it, spend time marveling at the spectacular scenery that’s characteristic of Japan, scenery that’s endowed with majestic volcanic mountains and enthralling hot springs. An unforgettable experience awaits at these destinations.
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