Overwhelmed by Japan options!

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Birdlady, Jun 5, 2018.

  1. Birdlady

    Birdlady First Runs

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    Hi all - we're trying to plan our first o/s (northern hemisphere) ski trip in Jan/Feb 2019. I originally posted that we wanted to go to USA for 7-8 days and the budget was around $5k, but we've since changed our minds (and got good advice from you guys) to go to Japan. We've also increased the budget to about $7k, and the time to about 10 days skiing (plus travel days). We aim to go at the end of Jan 2019. I'm completely overwhelmed by options and wondered if people who had experience Japan skiing before might help please!

    About us: he is comfortable on black runs, I'm transitioning to blue (although after this Aus ski season I'm hoping I'll be comfortable on blues). We've both only ever skied in Australia. I love being able to go through the trees in the quiet at Perisher. I have read about 'tree runs' in some resorts in Japan (does this mean the same thing as skiing through the trees in Aus??). I don't really know about 'back country' or even if I'd be competent enough to do it? What I love about skiing is the scenery and the quiet - I'm not a huge thrill seeker!

    We will have an Epic season pass, so we know we get 5 days at Hakuba, but it doesn't have to be Hakuba if there is a better option for us.

    If we stay in Hakuba: is it quick and easy to get between resorts without a car? Ie - is it best to stay in one hotel and get a shuttle to whichever resort each day?

    Thank you so much for your advice last time and thanks in advance for advice on these questions!
     
  2. Richard

    Richard Maintenance Dept
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  3. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty
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    Hakuba does have shuttles, but from what I have heard they can get crowded and options vary depending on what part of the valley you are staying, but others will have much more info.

    I'd also suggest Shiga Kogen. It is a big resort with lots of varied terrain including trees nearly all of which you can access without relying on shuttles, although there are shuttles as well.
     
  4. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    10 days - do 2 locations. Do Hakuba to use your Epic pass and then go somewhere else. Myoko, Madarao, Nozawa Onsen would be my suggestions.
    Budget is heaps for Japan.
    Funny I don't think of skiing in Aus as being through the trees. But very few places in Japan are crowded midweek so the "quiet" part is easy. In most resorts there are some areas where you can ski through the trees. Others can get funny of you go to far off piste. And some, through the trees is ok in some places and not in others. But at most resorts dabbling in the trees on the edge of runs is ok.
    Forget back country. That is for the serious guys with avalanche training and all the gear.

    Hakuba and shuttles - I have always had a car so cannot comment. Others will have advice about that. But you usually only ski one resort each day. Whilst there are some linked resorts - Hakuba 47 and Goryu, in most cases they are not that close to each other. It is not like Perisher which is actually 4 old resorts that are now 1 big resort.
     
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  5. Birdlady

    Birdlady First Runs

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    Thank you for this - I've just spent the evening in a Shiga Kogen wormhole - it looks fantastic and good lord it's so much cheaper than Aus!!
     
  6. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty
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    You'll find that most Japan ski areas (with one exception) will be cheaper than Aus.
     
  7. Birdlady

    Birdlady First Runs

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    Okay, after more research, Shiga looks the goods, but am wondering if those who have been before can offer advice on which area to stay? Okushigakogen Hotel looks nice, but given it's at the far end of the linked resorts, is it better to stay closer to the middle? Or should we just prepare at the end of each day to make the long ski back to our hotel? If we get tired and find ourselves at the other end of the linked resorts are there shuttles to get back to Okushiga?
     
  8. skivet

    skivet Hard Yards

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    We have stayed twice at Okushiga Kogen Hotel. The ski back was for us not an issue, we had a late lunch around 2pm then would make our way home skiing, but if you decide not to ski home there is a free shuttle you can catch.Some of the best runs in my opinion are that area and the adjoining prince hotel area, then onto Ichinose. If you wanted more central the accom, around Ichinose may suit. A small collection of hotels and some restaurants here too. We stayed at Chalet Shiga, basic compared to Okushiga Kogen Hotel but also a lot cheaper. The Teppa bar downstairs is good too. Prince East is the third accom we have stayed at. The least we liked. Rooms were good but no atmosphere and expensive.
     
  9. Beerman

    Beerman One of Us
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    If you want a taste of Japan without many foreigners (or locals for that matter) with a large ski area, Shiga is about your best option. As mentioned above, read the other threads to get a feel for the different ski hills on offer in Japan.
    Also check out http://www.powderhounds.com/ for reviews, and http://www.snowjapan.com/ on the many choices available across Japan. The snow Japan website is good for accom providers direct email addresses.
     
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  10. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    The downside to Shiga is the lack of any village and therefore atmosphere. Few restaurants exists which often means you are limited to eating in the Hotel which is missing the point of experiencing Japan especially first up

    Shiga has good skiing variety but I would never suggest Shiga to someone making their first trip to Japan, second / third etc for sure, never the first as you will miss out on experiencing what is a great part of skiing Japan and that is a local village experience.
    I think going to a resort that has this experience is very important on the first trip

    That is why I always steer people to Nozawa as the first place to taste Japan, it has it all and will blow you away.
    A second resort needs to be added for terrain variety ( and moving to another place adds excitement ) and the very close by Madarao / Tangram resort is the go

    Shiga is pretty much closed down mid week, a ghost town as the resort relies on weekend bus tours of Japanese, it feels really weird reminds me of a stage set not in use, hotel after hotel with the lights off..............

    The notion of avoiding Australians in the 6 or so main ski resorts in Japan is long, long gone and outside Niseko it is not a real problem
    In later trips we can get you to resorts where you will see very few but not the best option first up for mine

    I wouldnt go to Hakaba first up either as it is so spread out and again no real Japanese village and having to take shuttles each day is a hassle you dont need first trip either, great resort and a must second trip in my opinion.

    Next best after Nozawa for first trip is Myoko for sure, great place to cut your teeth
     
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  11. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room
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    You will love Iwatake I think.
     
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  12. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    If you want to get back for your buck out of the epic pass, my advice would be to do 2 resorts like Skichanger suggested. Start at either Nozawa, Shiga or Madaro as they are all lift connected ski areas. Then finish the trip with 5 days at Hakuba.

    The bus system at Hakuba is ok, it can get crazy packed on a powder day or weekends and the time tables aren't great. But if you stay at Happo-One you could ski there for 2 days, one day at Iwatake, one at Tsugaike 1 and one at 47/Goryu.

    However if you wern't to fussed with using the epic pass, then skip Hakuba (unless you have a car) and do a combo of Nozawa/Myoko/Nozawa/Shiga. I'd pick just two as you lose half a day transferring between. Nozawa Onsen has the best village, but that time of year it will be crazy busy!
     
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  13. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    Ski Nozawa mid week and be at Madarao on the weekend etc
    Go early Feb as all the Australian families have gone back to school.........
     
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  14. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    I haven't visited Noz in 5 years, and never Madaro, but do either get busy during the Chinese New Year period? Tues Feb 5 2019
     
  15. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Madarao, not yet but maybe in the future. It has has new Chinese owners. The same ones that own Appi.

    We are already seeing changes. When I arrived last Sunday I could see earthworks across the valley from Chalet MAdarao. Yesterday Madarao Mountain Resort posted a video on facebook saying mountain biking was beginning in July.
    [​IMG]
     
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  16. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    That is very interesting do you have a link to the new owners website please
    Hope they dont screw up what is a great hill
     
  17. Kash

    Kash Hard Yards

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    @Hunter is right. I wouldn't be doing Shiga for your first Japan trip. You want to fully Japan experience with the après feel as well, not just uncrowded slopes with no aussies. For a first trip, I'd recommend:

    Myoko, Nozawa Or Furano. Each have lovely villages, good terrain but aren't too unfriendly for non-Japanese speakers. Also really easy to get to to. Hakuba is good, but a bit of a ball ache to get around to visit the various resorts if you don't have a car.
     
  18. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    Very informed answer.

    Only rider is the extra hassle of getting to Furano which I would save for further trips down the track.

    First trip make it as seamless as possible.

    Shiga is one of the last places I would send someone first time up
     
  19. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    Furano is bloody freezing too.
    Ok for those used to coping with that kind of temperature. But not the best option for a first timer. Great place though.

    I loved Shiga.
    But it was super quiet. Driving in and out the same day was good. I wouldn’t want to be stuck there for a couple of weeks if I was used to the Apres being part of the ski package.
     
  20. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us

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    Not really, unless you're used to knee deep snow in the trees at Perisher. Make sure you're confident handling powder, and probably steeps too, before you give it a shot. There are designated tree runs in certain areas at Hakuba 47 and Tsugaike, you need to do a short induction and then wear a bib/sash to signify you've taken the course. From memory Madarao and possibly some of the Myoko resorts have designated zones now too. Some places are a free for all, usually the smaller operations. It's very inconsistent, and some patrols will get very aggressive. General advice is if somewhere is roped or says "keep out", then do as the sign says. Always have an exit plan too.

    As for where to go, I'd say definitely use your 5 days at Hakuba at some stage. It's a solid $500 saving on tickets for you. It's also well worth checking out. Worth considering Myoko for the rest of your trip, but try to get yourself accommodation that provides transport.
     
    #20 blowfin, Jun 8, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  21. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Same website. They have not changed the management.
     
  22. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Madarao has lots of ungroomed areas. And there are no real restrictions apart from the obvois roped of ones.

    Seki Onsen is not rules except don't jump off the chair lift. They have 1 groomed run.
     
  23. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    If it's an Epic Pass with 5 days free at Hakuba, it's more like $300 of savings on lift tickets.
     
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  24. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    And if you're at Hakuba for 5 days, you can use the $55-$60/day savings on lift tickets, to stay in a hotel that does "drop off/pick up", then you don't have to use shuttle buses!!!!
     
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  25. Donzah

    Donzah Part of the Furniture
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    Or get a car....... .
     
  26. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Or a car ;)
     
  27. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us

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    I meant for the two of them, in rough terms. $50 a day x 5 x 2 (approx).

    And yeah with the money saved on lift tickets, hiring a car there is a pretty good option. Not sure I'd recommend it on a first trip though. :zzz:
     
  28. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us

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    That's way more constructive than nitpicking the numbers in my post :D
     
  29. Birdlady

    Birdlady First Runs

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    Thanks all. Nozawa looks great! I looked at the trail map and was concerned that we'd get bored with the terrain over a week (we think we'll now just do 7 days skiing) - then took a closer look at the length of the runs!!! I don't think we'll have a problem! LOL 5km on some runs!
     
  30. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    That's why I suggested "drop off /pick up" for a first trip to Hakuba
     
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  31. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us

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    Yep, I agree with you, that was in reference to the others suggesting car hire.
     
  32. grantn

    grantn Hard Yards

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    I went to Nozawa early Feb last year, expecting it to be less crowded than mid/late January (which I have done multiple times). I reckon it was just as crowded. Just different demographic - I reckon January is packed with Aussie families on school holidays, and early Feb is packed with early 20-30 year old Aussies. Village was just as busy as January too.
     
  33. Zimbooo

    Zimbooo One of Us

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    Hakuba........use your pass. You will have a great time. Stay up in Wandano as the shuttle bus is easy and empty (when you jump on) as you are at the start of the route to other hills away from Happo.
     
  34. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty
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    Ha, I went to Shiga on my very first Japan trip in 1986. Got plenty of Japanese apres experience, with some entertaining drinking sessions with local staff in one of the Izakayas.
     
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  35. fenrir

    fenrir Hard Yards

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    If you are booking it yourself and want a direct flight with a minimum of fuss definitely use your Hakuba pass. It's cheap, easily accessible via Nagano (which is only a few hours from the airport via train) and the terrain is fun. Happo and Goryu/47 are big mountains by Australian standards but can get busy on the weekends especially around the local holiday period so maybe plan to visit midweek. Iwatake is also worth a look, as is Norikurya (although the bus there may cost 1000Y return extra, unsure if its included in the epic pass). No need to drive but be prepared for some squeezy bus rides. There is plenty of nightlife - echoland is Aussie central so go there or avoid depending on the experience you are looking for.

    As others have pointed out there are a number of cheap options available via Nagano for some additional days if you want to see more terrain - Myoko or Shiga Kogen are both examples to look into.

    Regarding 'tree runs' I would rate them as somewhat intimidating in Hakuba compared to the terrain off the Interceptor chair at Perisher. They are often steep with deep powder and in places the trees were closer together than the width of my skis.
     
  36. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    You need to add madaro which is so easily connected with a direct 40min bus
    7 days at nozawa is too long

    Don't even consider a car
    Never understand why you would bother with the pressure of driving a car in a new country in the snow when that country has one of the best public transport systems on the planet
     
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  37. Donzah

    Donzah Part of the Furniture
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    How many cars have you hired in Japan @Hunter
     
  38. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    Because “access”.
     
  39. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    None
    Never will
    Public transport connections are too reliable too clean too easy to bother oneself with the hassle of car hire

    One of the joys of Japan is sitting back in comfort on the Shinkansen / buses and taking it all in having just picked up a beer and sandwich off the cart service

    Gold...........

    Car is flexible sure and makes sense if public transport was poor but it isn't in fact must be one of the best services in the world
     
  40. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Some people just don't want to drive a car.... And I can understand.

    Also, if there's been an unexpected 50cm of powder overnight, and the car is shoe-horned into a space half a metre from the next car, it can take a while to dig it out, so you may not get first tracks anyway!!!
     
  41. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    So true
     
  42. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Whilst there is great public transport in the cities, like Australia, in the country it is almost non-existant. Our 1st year in Myoko we had no car. Our neighbour was so worried about us that he let me know every time he was going to the supermarket in case I wanted to go with him.
     
  43. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    LOL you do attract the snow don't you.
     
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  44. Donzah

    Donzah Part of the Furniture
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    Some of the best places ive been in Japan don't have PT access. That includes ski hills.
     
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  45. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local
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    All the years I skied in Hakuba Valley (with 2 kids in tow) I never hired a car ...pow days ring a cab , too easy.
     
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  46. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    Plenty of remote hills that would be better to explore with a car yes.
    All of the main resorts across both Islands dont require cars for good access.

    Case in point :

    Airport > Tokyo Central > Nagano > easy PT access the wide range of resorts nearby.

    Sure once you have skied the main 10 or so popular resorts across both Islands taking a car and linking up 4 / 5 smaller hills make sense

    A lot of Japan trips required before a new visitor to Japan like the person who started this thread gets to that point, if ever.........
     
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  47. Donzah

    Donzah Part of the Furniture
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    Unless you've done it... How can you offer a opinion re?
     
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  48. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    Because I am very well informed on the alternative for one thing.

    So you never put forward an opinion on any subject unless you have personal experience...........never ?

    Sport for instance, just to mention one subject ?
     
  49. sourmash

    sourmash Addicted

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    Have done one trip to Hakuba and another eight to Niseko. Did Hakuba and another three to Niseko with no car.
    So last five trips with car and subsequently will never not have transport again. In fact, just hankering for better wheels.
    Looking at spending up to Prado level to ensure no dramas and a more relaxing drive - Have done 240km days in a shit box Honda CRV from Sapproro to Fukugawa return for a cat ski day. Day trips from Niseko to Kiroro, Rusutsu etc have always paid off.
    First trip maybe no car, after that don't leave home without it.

    @Hunter - how do you get first tracks on PT? Virtually impossible, but what I live for, so car required
     
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  50. Donzah

    Donzah Part of the Furniture
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    I've done 8 trips to Japan.
    Countless shink trips.
    This isn't about transportation between cities.
    It's maximising your experience while there