5 unusual experiences in Japan’s snow country

28 Nov 2019 in Have Fun

Stay in an ice hotel, ride a snow train or take a tour of frozen waterfalls: the choice is yours!


In many parts of Japan, snow falls deep and temperatures remain well below zero throughout the winter. The famed powder snow attracts skiers and snowboarders in their millions – but there are also a host of other ways to experience Japan’s snow country.

How about taking a sake-themed train trip through the snowy wilderness of northern Aomori? Cocktails in an igloo?


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A night sleeping on a bed of ice? A nocturnal tour of frozen waterfalls? Or an urban ski adventure with a focus on après-ski entertainment?

We take a look at 5 experiences you can enjoy this winter in Japan’s snow country.

Urban skiing

Asahikawa is the second city of Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido – and it’s a lively place during the long ski season! Stay at Hoshino Resorts OMO7 Asahikawa and you’ll make the most of both the excellent local skiing and the exuberant nightlife.

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This stylish urban hotel provides free shuttle and pick-up services to Daisetsuzan Asahidake, the highest peak in Hokkaido (2291m) and 3 other resorts in Japan’s “powder belt”: Kamui Ski Links, known for challenging tree runs; Hoshino Resorts Tomamu Ski Area, packed with slopes of varying difficulties; and Furano Ski Area, the biggest in Hokkaido.

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Every morning, you can choose the resort with the best conditions. And then apply any of 30 different waxes to your skis or snowboard at the hotel’s Wax Bar.

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When you’re ready to party, the hotel’s local guides, known as OMO Rangers, will take you to the bars best-loved by local skiers and snowboarders in the city.

omo ranger

The perfect way to unwind while swapping notes on which ski resort to visit next.

Ride the sake train

Prefer to experience snow country from the comfort of a train? Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya is offering a private railway trip through the snow-strewn coastal landscapes of Aomori Prefecture.


Journeying from Misawa station to Aomori City, capital of the Prefecture, you’ll be able to admire spectacular swathes of snow-covered countryside and windswept coastlines, including Mutsu Bay where stormy waves crash up against Honshu’s northern shores.

The journey lasts a little under two hours – during which, you’ll be served different types of sake from local breweries, accompanied by classic Aomori delicacies such as octopus and scallops.

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Onboard entertainment is provided by musicians playing songs from the region’s famed summer festivals.

Visit an igloo

For the full winter experience, stay at a traditional ryokan with open-air hot spring baths – and an igloo! Two Hoshino Resorts ryokans have built their own kamakura (Japanese igloo) on site exclusively for guests’ use.


At Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru, the kamakura is lit up at night by lanterns decorated in diamond-shaped kogin patterns typical of the region. Inside, you’ll be served hot cocktails made with apples, a speciality of Aomori Prefecture.

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At Hoshino Resorts KAI Alps, near the Olympic ski station of Hakuba, you can visit the kamakura dressed in traditional snow country clothing (a mino straw cape and hanten coat).


Then head to the vast open hearth irori to warm yourself up and sample mountain food like shiruko (sweet red bean porridge).


Sleep in an ice palace

Every winter, an elaborate ice village is sculpted on the site of Tomamu ski station in Hokkaido.


Chill at the Ice Bakery and Café, warm yourself up from the inside at the Ice Bar, or admire the stunning glacial architecture of the Ice Chapel.


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You can even spend the night sleeping on a bed of ice. Simply book yourself into the Ice Hotel, whose domed ceiling and walls are made from a single sheet of ice, with bed, chairs and desk also crafted in solid ice.

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And don’t worry – the bed covers are fully adapted to the extreme conditions, so you’ll be warm all night. What’s more, you’ll have exclusive use of the Arctic Bath, a hot spring bath in the white birch forest near the hotel.

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A great place to recharge while admiring the starry sky at night.

Frozen waterfalls by night

The Oirase Gorge in Aomori Prefecture is celebrated for its numerous waterfalls. In winter, the water freezes over at night, often thawing again the next day.


This winter, Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel is organizing an evening tour of the frozen falls in a bus equipped with a powerful spotlight.


Some of the falls measure up to 16 metres and the nightly tours are a unique way to admire this winter wonderland.

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Back at the hotel, head to the Frozen Waterfall Onsen, where you can relax your body in the open-air hot spring overlooking the Oirase stream – with views on yet another frozen waterfall.



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