Advice needed Extended Japan Stay

Nomad71

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Nov 6, 2021
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Hi everyone,

I'm seeking recommendations for a 4+ week family ski trip over December/January. We've skied in Japan 10 or a dozen times but looking for something very specific this trip. For background, this is where we've skied before:
Hakuba
Shiga Kogen
Nozawa Onsen
Myoko Kogen
Tomamu
Niseko
Lotte Arai

We're not opposed to going back to one of these places but we're looking for somewhere we can base ourselves in self-contained accomodation for over a month. Since we won't have a car, we'd like a place with good infrastructure. That is, good sized supermarket, plenty of restaurants and (if we're being really fussy) some other things to do other than ski.

I thought maybe some people on here with more knowledge than us may be able to suggest a place we haven't been that ticks most or all of those boxes and we can investigate in more detail.

We're well aware that Japanese ski culture is predominantly either Big (Prince) hotel style or Ryokan and that many ski hills are set in remote small villages. But just maybe there is something we're overlooking.

Really hope you all can offer some suggestions. Thanks in advance.
 

Donza

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Soooo expensive to rent one and we'll just spend our time in the one resort area. We'll fly into Tokyo and I'd rather catch the train/fly to wherever we end up going.
Way way cheaper to hire a car than use train or fly.
Month hires are usually only charged at 15 days.
Plus it opens up options.
December January.
I'd only consider Hokkaido or Tohoku.
 

LMB

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Way way cheaper to hire a car than use train or fly.
Month hires are usually only charged at 15 days.
Plus it opens up options.
December January.
I'd only consider Hokkaido or Tohoku.
This.
Hire the car.
and this…

Are you thinking next month or is this planning for 21/22?
 
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Sandy

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Hi everyone,

I'm seeking recommendations for a 4+ week family ski trip over December/January. We've skied in Japan 10 or a dozen times but looking for something very specific this trip. For background, this is where we've skied before:
Hakuba
Shiga Kogen
Nozawa Onsen
Myoko Kogen
Tomamu
Niseko
Lotte Arai

We're not opposed to going back to one of these places but we're looking for somewhere we can base ourselves in self-contained accomodation for over a month. Since we won't have a car, we'd like a place with good infrastructure. That is, good sized supermarket, plenty of restaurants and (if we're being really fussy) some other things to do other than ski.

I thought maybe some people on here with more knowledge than us may be able to suggest a place we haven't been that ticks most or all of those boxes and we can investigate in more detail.

We're well aware that Japanese ski culture is predominantly either Big (Prince) hotel style or Ryokan and that many ski hills are set in remote small villages. But just maybe there is something we're overlooking.

Really hope you all can offer some suggestions. Thanks in advance.
I presume that this is 2022-2023, over school holidays?
 

dr80

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....we'll just spend our time in the one resort area. We'll fly into Tokyo and I'd rather catch the train/fly to wherever we end up going.
Train / fly to your destination and hire the car near there.
Check out nearby hills, restaurants, onsens, attractions, sights, shopping.
4+ weeks is a long time in the one accom on the same hill imo
 
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absentskier

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I'd hire the car at Chitose . Base myself in otaru.
Cheap accommodation.
Are you saying there isn’t a resort in Japan with a decent town, good comfortable self-contained accommodation at or very near the base of the slopes, a good ski hill and other things to do? Because that’s exactly what I’d be wanting too.
 
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Donza

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Are you saying there isn’t a resort in Japan with a decent town, good comfortable self-contained accommodation at or very near the base of the slopes, a good ski hill and other things to do? Because that’s exactly what I’d be wanting too.
No. Not really.
That's not how resorts are designed in Japan.
You could say that about Niseko. By design.
Where foreign money has influenced the construction of self contained accommodation.
 

Nomad71

Early Days
Nov 6, 2021
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OMG! I got up this morning to all this wonderful feedback. So....

1. OK, OK - I'll look more closely at car hire. Last time I did this, the rental and tolls were going to equal the Shinkansen tickets and I'd rather a 2 hour train trip than a 5 hour drive.

2. Yes, this is for the 2022/23 Christmas and New Year period. We used to go in late January, February or Early March and pull the kids out of school but now they're in high school it's far more limiting.

3. Donza said only consider Hokkaido that time of year. A bit too early season for the main island? It'll be around December 18 onwards.

4. I know a place like Niseko would tick most of our boxes and we did stay in a lovely self-contained place there. But TBH, the wind affected lift closures leaving us stranded a bus ride away from home was a pain in the butt.

Anyway, knowing what I know about the structure of a lot of Japanese ski towns, I realise what I'm looking for might not exist but it was worth asking in case I was overlooking something.

Please keep the suggestions rolling in if you've got them. Maybe this thread could help others too.
 
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Tanuki

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If you did have a car you could base yourself in a big town in Tohuku e.g. Morioka and drive to nearby resorts (bit of a stretch)
Hakuba township ticks a lot of boxes, maybe even Nagano city as it's reasonably close to handful of great ski fields.
Yuzawa is similar to Hakuba township.
Otaru as Donza said, charming seaside town with all the amenities you need and easy access to quality snow.
 
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Donza

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OMG! I got up this morning to all this wonderful feedback. So....

1. OK, OK - I'll look more closely at car hire. Last time I did this, the rental and tolls were going to equal the Shinkansen tickets and I'd rather a 2 hour train trip than a 5 hour drive.

2. Yes, this is for the 2022/23 Christmas and New Year period. We used to go in late January, February or Early March and pull the kids out of school but now they're in high school it's far more limiting.

3. Donza said only consider Hokkaido that time of year. A bit too early season for the main island? It'll be around December 18 onwards.

4. I know a place like Niseko would tick most of our boxes and we did stay in a lovely self-contained place there. But TBH, the wind affected lift closures leaving us stranded a bus ride away from home was a pain in the butt.

Anyway, knowing what I know about the structure of a lot of Japanese ski towns, I realise what I'm looking for might not exist but it was worth asking in case I was overlooking something.

Please keep the suggestions rolling in if you've got them. Maybe this thread could help others too.
1. Hire cars vary in price according to location and extras added (snow tyres, 4wd). They are much cheaper in Hokkaido though. As the demand for cars is summer based, winter they are discounted. They come with Snow tyres and 4wd as standard. I reckon a month hire would set you back 2500 yen per day.
2 and 3 are kinda combined. Yeah I think for reliable snow and less crowds over the busy Nye and Coming of age day (around 9th Jan) Hokkaido would be the choice. There is a point in Honshu (thinking Hakuba, Myoko etc) where the switch gets flicked so to speak with snowfall. That seems later in December . Closer to new years.
4. You pretty much summed up the beauty of a car in Niseko.
 
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mannyk

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OMG! I got up this morning to all this wonderful feedback. So....

1. OK, OK - I'll look more closely at car hire. Last time I did this, the rental and tolls were going to equal the Shinkansen tickets and I'd rather a 2 hour train trip than a 5 hour drive.

2. Yes, this is for the 2022/23 Christmas and New Year period. We used to go in late January, February or Early March and pull the kids out of school but now they're in high school it's far more limiting.

3. Donza said only consider Hokkaido that time of year. A bit too early season for the main island? It'll be around December 18 onwards.

4. I know a place like Niseko would tick most of our boxes and we did stay in a lovely self-contained place there. But TBH, the wind affected lift closures leaving us stranded a bus ride away from home was a pain in the butt.

Anyway, knowing what I know about the structure of a lot of Japanese ski towns, I realise what I'm looking for might not exist but it was worth asking in case I was overlooking something.

Please keep the suggestions rolling in if you've got them. Maybe this thread could help others too.
We spent 10 days in Yuzawa 2020. There are lots of ski hills in the area with free shuttles leaving from the train station, and then theres Naeba close by.
One month is probably a bit too long but a good option for 10 days. No car needed.
 

skichanger

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So many things to consider.
To really know where is open and has snow look at the Snow Japan Now! reports from previous years. Some of Honshu, especially further north, is open by then. So I would not be looking at just Hokkaido.

Also to decide places to consider you have to think about the mix of snow and other activities. Anywhere really cold will not have much else happening. There will probably be some sort of night time festival at the beginning of winter and then not much else. But if there is reasonable access to the coast or a big city there may be more things to see.

How far do you want to drive everyday to get to the slopes? And do you want people to be able to get back to your accommodation by themselves if they want to finish earlier than everybody else?

How many resorts do you want within a reasonable driving time?
 

Tanuki

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We spent 10 days in Yuzawa 2020. There are lots of ski hills in the area with free shuttles leaving from the train station, and then theres Naeba close by.
One month is probably a bit too long but a good option for 10 days. No car needed.
How did you find Yuzawa township for food /apres stuff and culture?
 

Nomad71

Early Days
Nov 6, 2021
20
10
8
1. Hire cars vary in price according to location and extras added (snow tyres, 4wd). They are much cheaper in Hokkaido though. As the demand for cars is summer based, winter they are discounted. They come with Snow tyres and 4wd as standard. I reckon a month hire would set you back 2500 yen per day.
2 and 3 are kinda combined. Yeah I think for reliable snow and less crowds over the busy Nye and Coming of age day (around 9th Jan) Hokkaido would be the choice. There is a point in Honshu (thinking Hakuba, Myoko etc) where the switch gets flicked so to speak with snowfall. That seems later in December . Closer to new years.
4. You pretty much summed up the beauty of a car in Niseko.
Thanks heaps for the further input. Great info about hire cars in Hokkaido. I'll definitely investigate. Funnily enough, Snow Japan reports Honshu (Hakuba, Myoko) had a bigger base by Dec 31 last season than Niseko. Maybe just an anomaly. Our experience in Niseko was that we headed out the door and skiied across the range only to have the lifts shut during the day and leave us stranded to catch a bus back. A car wouldn't have really helped in this situation. It's just a downside of this particular resort. If we get a car though, we can head to other resorts even if we're staying in Niseko. I'm definitely going to look closely at your suggestion. Thanks so much again.
 

Any

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Donza is correct, Hokkaido is almost your only option.
and even then, a good >50% of Niseko slackcountry isn't skiable until after about Jan 10 because of the Sasa.

my first season in Niseko was 6 months without a car.
it is survivable if you're in one spot walking distance from the chairlifts. but it is a 2-3 hour round trip to get groceries from Kutchan, and you're limited by how much you can carry. buying dunny paper takes up a lot of space.
but a family, with kids, without a car is a very different story than an antisocial bachelor.

I am a big fan of settling somewhere and getting comfortable, and using it as a base to hit other resorts nearby. However you also need to consider that a month in one spot is quite a long time.
I choose Niseko because it is large enough, with enough terrain, slackcountry and enough backcountry, to not go batshit crazy living there and skiing there for 90+ days. and that is with a car.
there are plenty of other places that'd be better to ski mid season (not december), but only for 1-3 days. more than that and you get very tired of doing the same short runs over and over.

Furano is a larger town than most ski resorts, and a large enough resort to stay a while, and would be survivable without a car, but they wont have the snow that time of year. they get drier snow, but a lot less of it too.

accommodation suitable for living without a car and skiing every day, for a month, will be very expensive. possibly the same price as booking long term accommodation for the whole season. locations within driving distance will be far cheaper.
you also need to consider accom that has cooking facilities, and more than a bar fridge.
(tho I have hung food outside my window when my fridge got full ;P tie string to each item, and label the strings so you know whic one to pull up. beware of foxes tho lol)

I think also for kids, I'd probably find somewhere nearby enough that they can shuttle bus out and home independently.

Niseko's windhold stuff is mostly the west facing aspects. so many people fall for "Niseko Village" thinking its the main part of "Niseko".

my suggestion for Dec/Jan, for a month, with a car, with kids, would be Niseko. based in Hirafu (expensive), Lower Hirafu, or outskits like Izumikyo (which is just outside Hirafu to the east), Kabayama (just outside to the west, no shuttles tho), or Kutchan (but no shuttle busses to/from there).
i think people still advertise on kutchannel, and there's 2-3 facebook groups for locals that you could hit me up for invites.

(15 seasons in Niseko, probably biased, and no kids. so take my biases into account)
 
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Nomad71

Early Days
Nov 6, 2021
20
10
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So many things to consider.
To really know where is open and has snow look at the Snow Japan Now! reports from previous years. Some of Honshu, especially further north, is open by then. So I would not be looking at just Hokkaido.

Also to decide places to consider you have to think about the mix of snow and other activities. Anywhere really cold will not have much else happening. There will probably be some sort of night time festival at the beginning of winter and then not much else. But if there is reasonable access to the coast or a big city there may be more things to see.

How far do you want to drive everyday to get to the slopes? And do you want people to be able to get back to your accommodation by themselves if they want to finish earlier than everybody else?

How many resorts do you want within a reasonable driving time?
Thanks heaps for the input. Some really great questions there. I had already considered these things but I didn't mention them in my original post. We don't really want to stay in a city away from the slopes (eg. Nagano. Although the long track ice skating rink was awesome there). It would be far more convenient if we could ski locally on any given day and travel to other slopes on other days. As you said, freedom for any family member to head home early if they wish is ideal. Don't really have a set idea of how many resorts within a reasonable drive. We stayed just outside Breckenridge (USA) one year for 4 weeks and visited 3 different resorts in the area.
 

Nomad71

Early Days
Nov 6, 2021
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10
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Donza is correct, Hokkaido is almost your only option.
and even then, a good >50% of Niseko slackcountry isn't skiable until after about Jan 10 because of the Sasa.

my first season in Niseko was 6 months without a car.
it is survivable if you're in one spot walking distance from the chairlifts. but it is a 2-3 hour round trip to get groceries from Kutchan, and you're limited by how much you can carry. buying dunny paper takes up a lot of space.
but a family, with kids, without a car is a very different story than an antisocial bachelor.

I am a big fan of settling somewhere and getting comfortable, and using it as a base to hit other resorts nearby. However you also need to consider that a month in one spot is quite a long time.
I choose Niseko because it is large enough, with enough terrain, slackcountry and enough backcountry, to not go batshit crazy living there and skiing there for a long time. and that is with a car.
there are plenty of other places that'd be better to ski mid season (not december), but only for 1-3 days. more than that and you get very tired of doing the same short runs over and over.

Furano is a larger town than most ski resorts, and a large enough resort to stay a while, and would be survivable without a car, but they wont have the snow that time of year. they get drier snow, but a lot less of it too.

accommodation suitable for living without a car and skiing every day, for a month, will be very expensive. possibly the same price as booking long term accommodation for the whole season. locations within driving distance will be far cheaper.
you also need to consider accom that has cooking facilities, and more than a bar fridge.
(tho I have hung food outside my window when my fridge got full ;P tie string to each item, and label the strings so you know whic one to pull up. beware of foxes tho lol)

I think also for kids, I'd probably find somewhere nearby enough that they can shuttle bus out and home independently.

Niseko's windhold stuff is mostly the west facing aspects. so many people fall for "Niseko Village" thinking its the main part of "Niseko".

my suggestion for Dec/Jan, for a month, with a car, with kids, would be Niseko. based in Hirafu (expensive), Lower Hirafu, or outskits like Izumikyo (which is just outside Hirafu to the east), Kabayama (just outside to the west, no shuttles tho), or Kutchan (but no shuttle busses to/from there).
i think people still advertise on kutchannel, and there's 2-3 facebook groups for locals that you could hit me up for invites.

(15 seasons in Niseko, probably biased, and no kids. so take my biases into account)
That is awesome info. Just the kind of experienced input we need. Thank you so much. A hell of a lot of stuff for me to follow up on and look into. Cheers.
 

Nomad71

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We spent 10 days in Yuzawa 2020. There are lots of ski hills in the area with free shuttles leaving from the train station, and then theres Naeba close by.
One month is probably a bit too long but a good option for 10 days. No car needed.
How did you find Yuzawa township for food /apres stuff and culture?
@mannyk I'm also keen to hear more of your experience in Yuzawa. I looked at this as a destination a couple of years ago.
 

Any

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I am surprised @Any doesn't mention the onsen possibilities a car gives. But may be he is covered in so much Australian dust, that he has forgotten all about it.
haha yeah I had forgotten.
so many favorites off the beaten track.
didn't get back to Japan last season. seems I'd forgotten onsens even exist. I know I've completely forgotten all the Japanese I knew. who knows what else I've forgotten.

Fukiage open air onsen near Tokachi is still my favorite. The hottest i've ever been to. there's something real classy about my naked ass shoveling 100 loads of snow into an onsen so all the ladies can get in.
Goshiki gotta be my 2nd fav. Something about the copper instead of sulphr
 

skichanger

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Thanks heaps for the input. Some really great questions there. I had already considered these things but I didn't mention them in my original post. We don't really want to stay in a city away from the slopes (eg. Nagano. Although the long track ice skating rink was awesome there). It would be far more convenient if we could ski locally on any given day and travel to other slopes on other days. As you said, freedom for any family member to head home early if they wish is ideal. Don't really have a set idea of how many resorts within a reasonable drive. We stayed just outside Breckenridge (USA) one year for 4 weeks and visited 3 different resorts in the area.
I would seriously consider Yuzawa or surrounds.. I have visited it a couple of times, though not in winter. There are a few westerners, no where near as many as Hakuba, Myoko, Niseko etc. It is a city, has good transport to the various resorts and best access back to Tokyo on the shinkansen.

Kagura opens earlier than lots of other places. 18th December there is usually lots of snow. Only 2 years with less than a metre then.
 

Donza

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I would seriously consider Yuzawa or surrounds.. I have visited it a couple of times, though not in winter. There are a few westerners, no where near as many as Hakuba, Myoko, Niseko etc. It is a city, has good transport to the various resorts and best access back to Tokyo on the shinkansen.

Kagura opens earlier than lots of other places. 18th December there is usually lots of snow. Only 2 years with less than a metre then.
Yeah I was thinking of Yuzawa as well.
I just thought Yuzawa itself may be low tide until January.
However Kagura , yeah indeed.
 
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skichanger

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FYI our first season we survived 3 months at Chalet Myoko, Shin Akakura, without a car. You can get groceries delivered and there are some year round buses (winter buses did not run 20/21) that we used. Same would apply wherever you go.

When I arrived I did not even have water or electricity. We effectively "camped" in the lodge. Not something for the feint hearted or really for a holiday. And at that time there were very few English speakers or other westerners.

The point is that you do not "need" a car, but it is nice to have. You do need to be comfortable driving in snow conditions. We see some really dumb things that a little experience would avoid.
 
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Dave6

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What about the requirement for self contained accommodation? Tends to reduce options in Japan if wanting to be based close to a resort/hill.
 

Sandy

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Any

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I thought Id look for some pictures to get an idea of the snow in late December.
It looks better than I remember, so I thought I would clarify, Niseko in Late December:
- I'd say 99% of inbounds is skiable
- 30% of slackcountry is skiable
- 10% of backcountry is skiable.

In December, you get used to the Sasa hitting you in the face.
For example, the first picture is about 1/2 second before I got a bloody lip.


With this information, if your goal was to only ski inbounds, I'd say you could go quite a bit further south if you wanted.


Dec 21 2019
dec212019.jpg


Dec 31 2018
dec312018.jpg


Dec 22 2017
dec222017.jpg


Dec 30 2016
dec302016.jpg


Dec 19 2015
dec192015.jpg


2014 photos missing?!

Dec 14 2013
dec142013.jpg


Dec 8 2012
dec82012.jpg


Dec 19 2011
dec192011.jpg
 

Any

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I thought Id look for some pictures to get an idea of the snow in late December.
It looks better than I remember, so I thought I would clarify, Niseko in Late December:
- I'd say 99% of inbounds is skiable
- 30% of slackcountry is skiable
- 10% of backcountry is skiable.

In December, you get used to the Sasa hitting you in the face.
For example, the first picture is about 1/2 second before I got a bloody lip.


With this information, if your goal was to only ski inbounds, I'd say you could go quite a bit further south if you wanted.


Dec 21 2019
dec212019.jpg


Dec 31 2018
dec312018.jpg


Dec 22 2017
dec222017.jpg


Dec 30 2016
dec302016.jpg


Dec 19 2015
dec192015.jpg


2014 photos missing?!

Dec 14 2013
dec142013.jpg


Dec 8 2012
dec82012.jpg


Dec 19 2011
dec192011.jpg

Dec 2020 was by far the worst snow conditions I've ever experienced. Fun. But Id rather not repeat it.

51399030171_ec20888680_o.jpg
 

Nomad71

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Fukiage open air onsen near Tokachi is still my favorite. The hottest i've ever been to. there's something real classy about my naked ass shoveling 100 loads of snow into an onsen so all the ladies can get in.
Goshiki gotta be my 2nd fav. Something about the copper instead of sulphr
Did you just say Unisex Onsen? I just looked it up. Looks gorgeous. We are definitely going there!!
 
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Nomad71

Early Days
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FYI our first season we survived 3 months at Chalet Myoko, Shin Akakura, without a car. You can get groceries delivered and there are some year round buses (winter buses did not run 20/21) that we used. Same would apply wherever you go.

When I arrived I did not even have water or electricity. We effectively "camped" in the lodge. Not something for the feint hearted or really for a holiday. And at that time there were very few English speakers or other westerners.

The point is that you do not "need" a car, but it is nice to have. You do need to be comfortable driving in snow conditions. We see some really dumb things that a little experience would avoid.
Did a season in Lake Louise driving an SUV for Ski Patrol. Also had a 4 week stint one year and a 6 week stint another year in the US with a hire car. Pretty comfortable driving in the snow. Thanks for the insight. Sounds hardcore.
 
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Any

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Did you just say Unisex Onsen? I just looked it up. Looks gorgeous. We are definitely going there!!
yeah.
I only know of maybe 4 or 5.
@Hyst probably knows more than I do.

it sucks when you have to split up your crew for an onsen.
is not so fun to end a great day backcountry with a kickass girls ski group by sitting on my own in an onsen.
when its one chick and a bunch of dudes they might not be so keen tho.

some proper ones with facilities/etc require everyone wear swimmers, or heavily recommend the ladies wear something.
but the natural outdoor ones its (to my understanding) a super real big no no to wear anything in the water.
 

Nomad71

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yeah.
I only know of maybe 4 or 5.
@Hyst probably knows more than I do.

it sucks when you have to split up your crew for an onsen.
is not so fun to end a great day backcountry with a kickass girls ski group by sitting on my own in an onsen.
when its one chick and a bunch of dudes they might not be so keen tho.

some proper ones with facilities/etc require everyone wear swimmers, or heavily recommend the ladies wear something.
but the natural outdoor ones its (to my understanding) a super real big no no to wear anything in the water.
Looks like the men get their kit off, while the women are a bit more modest:

Unknown-20.jpeg
 

Heinz

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Don't worry. It's a 4 hour drive from Niseko. Takes some commitment to get there.
Fukiage is great. If you staying in Tokachi you can get there on skis. Great spot, only downside was putting cold ski boots on afterwards.
The bottom pool is a comfortable temperature, it is shallower so you can sit there for an extended period. I checked out the top pool also, was a mixed group with a few older women, but it was HOT. A couple of mins there was all I could manage.

268a_Tokachi_Fukiage_onsen.JPG
 
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DidSurfNowSki

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Nomad, if you want some ideas, check out this.


The only decision you need to make is clockwise or anti-clockwise ;)
 
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expatgm

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Aug 4, 2014
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oh, and ssssh. dont go telling people about Fukiage. the best part about it is that its almost secret :p
It’s fairly deserted in winter , most people go up the road to Hakuginso. Although I don’t know how Covid-19’s affected that place.
 

Any

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It’s fairly deserted in winter , most people go up the road to Hakuginso. Although I don’t know how Covid-19’s affected that place.
yeah out of many visits we've only ever seen one other couple there.
oh, and one time a city council worker came to check on it also.
 

Donza

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Apr 21, 2004
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Nomad, if you want some ideas, check out this.


The only decision you need to make is clockwise or anti-clockwise ;)
We're going clockwise
 
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