Shiga Kogen (which means “Shiga Highlands”) is a sprawling ski area made up of no less than 19 (mostly) interconnected ski resorts of varying sizes. The ski area hugs the north-western edge of...
- Offering 52 miles of slopes and terrain, Shigakogen Mountain Resort is the largest ski resort in Japan.
- Shigakogen Mountain Resort is the the best rated ski resort in Japan.
- It is known to be the most family-friendly ski resort in Japan.
- Elevated between 4396 ft and 7569 ft, the Ski Resort is among the 3 highest elevated Ski Resorts in Japan. The vertical drop from summit to base is 3173 ft. The average difference in altitude between base and summit of Ski Resorts in Japan is 3130 ft.
- Season starts on Nov 23 and ends on May 3 (162 days). Average season duration in Japan is 149 days.
- Average snow depth during the season (Nov 23 to May 3) is 72 " at summit elevation and 39 " at base elevation. Snow coverage is usually best during March, offering an average snow depth of 91 " at summit elevation and 50 " at the base. Therefore Shigakogen Mountain Resort is among the 3 ski Resorts with best snow conditions in Japan.
The Ski Resort
At Shigakogen Mountain Resort, incredible landscapes are home to Olympic ski runs. In the midst of the Japanese Alps near Nagano, the ski area combines 18 resorts in the UNESCO National Park of ShigaKogen. Fans of winter sports will enjoy amazing natural surroundings and the unique Japanese powder snow in the country's largest ski resort.
Several events of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games were held in Shigakogen. Beginner, advanced and experts skiers will all find adequate runs at the giant resort. If you're looking for the most challenging of slopes, try the Olympic run and find out how the racers during the Olympics in Nagano must have felt. For more relaxed skiers, the runs at Mt Yakebitaiyama offer great conditions for some laid-back skiing.
Not far from Tokyo, you can pay a visit to the 2000-meter peaks of Yokoteyama, Terakoyayama and Yakebitaiyama. Besides beautiful mountain ranges, you might even see Japanese Macaques bathing in one of the hot onsen springs.
On Mountain Dining
Shigakogen offers numerous opportunities to restore your energy levels with local specialties. The Yakiniku Tenma in Takamagahara/Ichinose is a restaurant especially worth recommending. The Japanese Barbecue Yakiniku is a tasty way to strengthen yourself before heading back out onto the slope.
Good ramen noodles can be found at the ramen corner of Yakebiyama ski resort. Be sure to try the Japanese delicacy, served with Miso, corn and meat.
The Soba meals with buckwheat noodles at the Sharm in Takamagahara are also worth trying. The restaurant is located at the Ginrei hotel. You can buy Japanese menu sets at the Green restaurant in Sun Valley/Maruike/Hasuike.
If you prefer Western kitchen, the Ristorante Altopiano in Takamagahara/Ichinose serves delicious burger menus. Vending machines dispensing coffee and bottles of water can be found all over the resort.
Race down the mountain like an Olympian on the black run at Yakebitaiyama. The Olympic run is 650 meters (2,100 feet) long and considered one of the ski area's most difficult challenges.
Slalom fans will enjoy the giant slalom course, also located in Yakebitaiyama, Advanced skiers will definitely get their money's worth on the 2,400-meter run.
Beginners will find an ideal run at Mt Terokoyama, starting at the peak of Mt Higashidateyama. Those new to winter sports can practice on the green-marked run down into the valley. More advanced skiers will want to travel up to Mt Terakoyama at 2,125 meters (feet), where a more difficult run with an amazing view awaits them.
In the Yakebitaiyama area, lighted runs are open daily from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Okushiga Kogen offers nighttime skiing as well. Its best you ask for the exact opening hours there directly, as these are variable.
In case you didn't see any Macaques on the slopes, take a trip to the Jigokudani valley nearby. There, the red-faced monkeys like to bathe in the onsen springs at the Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Of course, why not try a hot onsen bath yourself? The best idea is to book a room in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese guest house. Here, you'll be able to dine in a kimono and enjoy the onsen baths. Since the hotels often have their own onsen, you can also try and ask to use it (for a fee), even if you're not spending the night there.
Public onsen can be found at the Shiya Sun Valley and Shirakabaso hotels, for example. The Ishinoyu hotel is a very recommendable choice for families with small children. More public bathing spots are located in the onsen villages of Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen. When visiting the onsen, you should keep some things in mind, however: Onsen are usually separated by sex and bathed in without clothing. Tattoos are often not well received.
Après-Ski and Nightlife
If you're in the mood for après-ski, Ichinose is the place you'll want to visit. The area is home to several typical Japanese Izakayas and Western style bars.
The more adventurous among the guests might enjoy Japanese curiosities like meat sashimi or different types of meat on a spit at Time Izakaya. If you're not one of them, you can order a local beer with Barbecue or other meals from the English menu. The traditional bar is an amazing experience, even for non-natives. Izakayas are great places for relaxed après-ski in Japanese atmosphere.
Teppa Room in Chalet Shiga offers a more Western ambiance and serves appetizers as well as local beer.
Dining and Restaurants
Be sure and try a few of the hotel restaurants in Shigakogen and get to know Japanese cuisine. The international restaurants can be quite an interesting experience as well – Pasta Tonno, for example, might be served as a plate of delicious, but cold, spaghetti with raw tuna.
Shabu-Shabu is a Japanese meal you prepare by dipping raw meat in hot water until it's cooked. You can try this for yourself at the Prince Hotel in Yakebitaiyama. Shabu-Shabu is a great group event, since preparing the meat with your friends is just as fun as the actual dinner. The Prince Hotel also offers a Western style buffet as well as the Chinese restaurant Shishi.
Okushiga Kogen Hotel serves a mix of Japanese and French cuisine. This combination is very recommendable, as the new creations bring out the best of both culinary worlds.
Tasty Indian specialties can be found at Komoshika in Ichinose. A variety of curries, tandori and naan are served here.
Infrastructure & Rental
Shiga International Ski School offers ski classes in English for children as well as for adults. Kids aged twelve and above can also take snowboard lessons. Group sizes are comprised of a maximum of six participants. At request, the ski school might offer courses in other languages as well. Shiga International Ski School is located in Okushiga Kogen. There are buses and shuttle services you can take in order to get to the ski school.
Ski rental services are found at the following hotels:
- Sunroute Hotel, Olympic Hotel in Ichinose
- Hotel Shirakabaso in Hasuike
- Prince Hotel in Yakebitaiyama (also rental service for ski wear and terrain equipment)
- Okushiga Kogen Hotel, Grand Phenix Hotel in Okushiga Kogen
At the Hasuike ropeway station, in Kumanoyu and in Yokoteyama you'll also find two “Snowcan” ski rental services.
If you've purchased a Japan Rail Pass, you can get from Tokyo to Nagamo with the Hokuriku Shinkansen in about two hours, without having to pay extra. From Nagano, a bus can take you to to Yudanaka in 40 minutes. Depending on where you're spending the night, there are buses from Yudanaka to the mountain resort.
During the ski season, express buses drive from Nagano to Shigakogen every hour. All of them stop in Hasuike, which is where you'll need to get off in order to reach Shigakogen. There are shuttle buses connecting the different ski resorts.
You can also take the highway bus from Tokyo to Nagano. Once you're there, take one of the connections described above.
If you're traveling by car, it'll take you approximately four hours from Tokyo to the mountain resort. Take the E18 to Nagano, then the 292 to the mountain resort via Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen. Keep in mind that toll fees are charged in Japan!