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Snow Destinations

During winter, cold air masses from Siberia blow towards Japan, picking up moisture from the Sea of Japan in the process. The wet cold air collides with the mountains along the Sea of Japan coast, resulting in heavy snowfall. Some areas experience extreme amounts of precipitation with snow depths of three to six meters.

Fittingly, Japan offers many popular destinations for snow seekers. While most of Japan's major cities, including Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, receive only small amounts of snow, locations offering snow experiences are readily accessible from them. The snow season in Japan is long and in some places begins as early as November and lasts into May, with the peak being in February.

The following is a list of places of interest where you can experience snow:

Onsen in Snow

Onsen (hot springs) are great places to spend a relaxing time. The experience is enhanced when dipping in the therapeutic waters of an open air bath that offers snow scenery as well. Below are some onsen where you are likely to be able to enjoy such an experience in winter:

Manza Onsen••

Minakami Onsen

Snow Festivals

Winter festivals involving snow and ice are held in cities and towns across the snow-rich regions of Japan. They present a fun way to enjoy the season for tourists and a pleasant distraction from the inconveniences caused by the snow for the locals. Below are some of the more famous winter festivals:

Sapporo Snow Festival••

Otaru Snow Light Path••

Winter Wonders

The arrival of winter brings along with it several natural occurrences that create lasting impressions:

Ryuhyo (Drift Ice)

Cranes in the Kushiro Marshlands

Ski Resorts

There are over 500 ski resorts across Japan, which vary in size from large resorts with dozens of runs to small one-lift slopes. The best resorts and snow conditions are found in northern Japan (Hokkaido and Tohoku) and in the mountains along the Sea of Japan Coast (especially Niigata and Nagano). For those who are interested in experiencing snow, but who do not wish to ski or snowboard, most resorts have play zones designed for families with small children. Here are some recommended ski resorts:

Niseko

Shiga Kogen

Hakuba

Yuzawa

Karuizawa

Snowscapes

Below are some locations that offer particularly appealing winter landscapes:

Biei

Okunikko

Snow in Spring

Visitors who arrive after winter but would still like to experience snow may consider these attractions:

Shin-Hotaka Ropeway