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Winter is an ideal time to visit the deep north of Japan's main island of Honshu, known locally as Tohoku. The snow-covered mountains here are scattered with top-class ski resorts. Among the best ones to visit are Gala Yuzawa and Naeba, both easily accessible in under a couple of hours from Tokyo by the Shinkansen bullet train. The hot spring town of Zao Onsen is famous for its ski slopes where you can schuss past "snow monsters" – fir trees frozen into fantastic shapes by the winter elements – and later relax in a giant rotemburo (outdoor pool) that holds up to 200 people. For those who prefer cross country skiing the tracks across the ...

Winter is an ideal time to visit the deep north of Japan's main island of Honshu, known locally as Tohoku. The snow-covered mountains here are scattered with top-class ski resorts. Among the best ones to visit are Gala Yuzawa and Naeba, both easily accessible in under a couple of hours from Tokyo by the Shinkansen bullet train. The hot spring town of Zao Onsen is famous for its ski slopes where you can schuss past "snow monsters" – fir trees frozen into fantastic shapes by the winter elements – and later relax in a giant rotemburo (outdoor pool) that holds up to 200 people. For those who prefer cross country skiing the tracks across the Bandai Plateau will be ideal, and there’s also downhill skiing at Inawashiro Snow Paradise. There are many other onsen towns to search out other than Zao: top picks include Sukayu Onsen south of Aomori near Hakkoda-san; Nyuto Onsen near the lake Tazawa-ko in Akita-ken; and Naruko Onsen north of Sendai in Miyagi-ken. Seasonal matsuri (festivals) to mark your calendar for include Sendai’s Donto-sai, on January 14, when nearly naked men brave the elements to secure good fortune for the coming year, and Matsushima’s oyster festival on the first weekend in February.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Simon Richmond for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: The Tōhoku region is a geographical area of Japan. Tōhoku is Japanese for "northeast," and the Tōhoku region occupies the northeastern portion of Honshū.
  • Language: Japanese
  • Currency: Yen
  • Research: Wikipedia | Facts and Details | Tohoku
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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    January and February