Mountainwatch Travel's Guide to Myoko Kogen - MountainWatch Travel

Japan | Myoko

Mountainwatch Travel’s Guide to Myoko Kogen

There are so many Japanese resorts to choose from and Myoko Kogen has got to be one of our favourites. Joe Stanco, owner and operator of Joey’s Myoko, has been living in Myoko for a few winters now. As well as owning his rental store, he rides powder whenever he can! Here Joey shares his insider knowledge in our guide to Myoko, Japan’s Powder Capital.

Skiier making a powder jump in Myoko with the valley seen behind her.
Powder Jumps in Myoko

Your Guide to Myoko – Japan’s Powder Capital

Often referred to as the powder Mecca of Honshu, Myoko Kogen regularly receives an annual snowfall of over 15 metres. And, with seven small resorts in close proximity to each other, it is one of the best destinations in Japan for a snow holiday. There’s a variety of terrain from beginners to advanced, but most people come for the powder, tree skiing, and easily accessible side country.

Located in the Nigatta prefecture, Myoko Kogen is a 3.5-hour train ride from Tokyo’s International Airports. There are nine resorts within a 45-minute drive of Myoko, but the four major resorts in Myoko Kogen – Akakura Onsen, Akakura Kanko, Ikenotaira and Suginohara – are centrally located in the heart of Myoko.

The village of Akakura Onsen is the perfect place to stay as Akakura Onsen and Akakura Kanko ski resorts are an easy walk to most of the accommodations and you can buy a lift pass for one or both. You can also catch a shuttle to Ikenotaira and Suginohara, the other two ski resorts on Mt. Myoko.

Getting There

Myoko is easily accessible by train from both Narita and Haneda airports. Take the airport train to Toyo station and then transfer to a Shinkansen to Nagano. From there catch the Shinano Railway to Myoko Kogen Station. Most resorts and accommodation options are within 10 to 15 minutes of the station, so a cab ride from the station is your best option.

JR East (East Japan Railway Company) offers a convenient train pass, the train map can be found here.

Myoko Kogen Station with a train pulling in through the snow.
Myoko Kogen Station – Image: Abe Kislevitz

The Resorts

Akakura Onsen Ski Resort and its user-friendly terrain is the best resort for beginners or to get your legs back in action if you haven’t skied for a while. It is right next door to Akakura Kanko Ski Resort, which is a better option for an intermediate rider/ skier. Akakura Kanko has a great intermediate run from top to bottom following the Gondola line and passing the famous Kanko Hotel. For advanced skiers and snowboarders, the well-spaced tree runs at Akakura Kanko Resort are perfect on a powder day. If you’re interested in doing some hiking, Kanko has a great well-known hike up and out into the backcountry.

Ikenotaira Resort also caters well to beginner and intermediate riders and skiers with long, mellow top-to-bottom runs.  The resorts serve two ski schools, Myoko Snowsports and Yodel Snow School, which have English-speaking instructors and offer lessons for children, first-timers, and more experienced adults.

Suginohara is the largest of the four resorts and has plenty of advanced and expert terrain and also has the longest run in Japan at 8.5km. Suginohara is a local favorite because of its variety of terrain and has some great rolling hill groomers from top to bottom which are perfect for intermediates. For the adventurous, Suginohara has open powder bowls located in the side country.

Skiers exploring Myoko after a fresh powder dump.
Exploring Myoko after a fresh powder dump.

The Backcountry

Myoko is well-known for its powder, tree skiing and the backcountry and there is plenty of great side and backcountry terrain on offer. However, backcountry skiing and snowboarding should not be taken lightly, and it is extremely important that you go with a guide, you have the correct knowledge, gear, and plenty of off-piste experience before you go. There are a number of local guiding businesses and stores catering for backcountry tours including Joey’s, Dancing Snow, Satomi, Aoki, and Uchida Sports which has a good selection of backcountry and powder-specific gear for hire.

Snowboarder enjoying fresh powder in Myoko
Boarding in Myoko on fresh powder

Off Snow Activities

Myoko has plenty of off-snow adventures and cultural experiences within easy access. A visit to the ancient village of Togakushi Kogen is something you will not forget. It is home to the famous Togakushi Shrine, a Shinto shrine nestled between 900-year-old cedar trees.

The Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is also nearby, and daily bus tours are available from Akakura Onsen. Another great option for a day off the snow is the Echigo Tokimeki Railway, a scenic trip through the local surroundings of Myoko across to the coast. It is a spectacular journey and the railway cars have huge windows with expansive views of the mountains and countryside. The dining car has a selection of menus created by local chefs, featuring local produce sourced from the surrounding farms and the nearby ocean.

Myoko also has many Onsens (hot springs) full with water sourced from deep below Mt. Myoko. A number of hotels have their own onsens to explore and relax in.

Snow Monkey's relaxing in the onsen at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Accommodation And Dining

Most hotels are centred around Akakura Onsen as it allows access to the main ski resorts, and has the most food and drink options. Myoko has a variety of accommodation types available, both Japanese and Western style, and for all budgets. There are a number of hotels, family-run ryokans, lodges (but slightly older), and European-style chalets.

The Akakura Kanko Hotel is located halfway down Akakura Kanko resort, with stunning views of the mountains. Built in 1937, it’s an absolute icon and continues to provide luxury ski-in ski-out accommodation to guests.

Skiers at Akakura Kanko Hotel
Akakura Kanko Hotel, Japan.

Family-friendly hotels include Akakura Hotel & Annex, Akakura-So, Kougakuro, Park Hotel, Oyado Furuya, Hotel Taizan, Hotel Central, and Hotel MOC. Myoko has great amenities, activities, and culture for the family to enjoy.

Most of Myoko’s restaurants and bars are also around the Akakura area. Nearly all of them are still owned by the local Japanese people so you’ll find the izakayas and restaurants offering Japanese dishes like ramen, udon, and soba. There is also an Italian restaurant, a burger joint, and an abundance of crepes. You can get everything from traditional rice dishes to sushi to homemade kara-age chicken.

An assortment of dishes from Akakuro Hotel.
Dinner in Akakuro Hotel

If you are keen for après or a night out, you’ll find some incredible bars and venues in Myoko. If you’d like to explore more traditional Japanese-style places, you have Love Bar, Popcorn Bar, and Skate Bar. It is also nice to gather at your hotel’s lounge with a fireplace for a relaxing unwind.

Skiers in Myoko enjoying the latest dump of powder
Skiers in Myoko enjoying the latest dump of powder

Myoko Kogen is a must-visit for any skier or snowboarder. Hundreds of hectares of terrain, a peak altitude of 2454 metres, long vertical. And some of the deepest and lightest powder in the world. All complemented with an authentic Japanese experience that makes a visit to Myoko a snow holiday you will never forget.

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