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Myoko

Mount Myoko (R, Myōkō-san) is a volcano in western Niigata Prefecture an one of Japan's oldest snow resort areas. Blessed with an incredible 13-16 meters of snowfall on average each winter, the Myoko area is a top destination in the country for deep powder skiing and snowboarding, and offers interesting terrain for riders at all levels to enjoy.

A handful of separate resorts are spread across the mountain's slopes. Of the main resorts, Myoko Akakura is the largest and most popular, and is where most of Myoko's accommodation, restaurants, bars and shops can be found. Myoko Suginohara is another standout resort claiming to have one of the country's longest runs at 8.5 kilometers. Other Myoko classics include Ikenotaira, with good beginner and intermediate runs, and Seki Onsen, a tiny but well-loved mecca for powder hunters.

Below the ski slopes, onsen are Myoko's next claim to fame. Ranging from secluded outdoor baths to posh modern ski hotels, many hot spring sources and traditional ryokan are scattered around the area - especially around the bases of the major resorts. While the town has developed over the years to accommodate the winter crowds (and growing numbers of foreign visitors), the mom and pop shops, foot baths and old ryokan around each corner still lend Myoko some rural charm.

Myoko Akakura Ski Area
Akakura is Myoko's largest ski area and one of Japan's oldest, operating since 1937. Though technically two separate, interconnected resorts - Akakura Kanko Resort and Akakura Onsen - Akakura is often explored as one with an all-mountain pass. With a wide range of terrain (graced with Myoko's legendary snow), good lift infrastructure and facilities (including an English speaking ski school and child care), and the bustling Akakura Onsen village at its feet, this resort will likely be your base on a visit to Myoko.
Season*
Mid December to early April
(December 12, 2020 to April 4, 2021)
Lifts
21 lifts
Tickets
Full day 4800 yen (Akakura Kanko Resort)
4900 yen (Akakura Onsen)
6000 yen (Both)
Half day 3300 yen (Akakura Kanko Resort)
4000 yen (Akakura Onsen)
Nighter 2600 yen (Akakura Onsen only)
Access
Train/Bus About 40 minutes by train from Nagano Station; 10 minutes by free shuttle bus from Myokokogen Station.
Car About 1 hour by car from Nagano City; 5 minutes from the Myokokogen IC expressway exit.
* Season dates may be adjusted due to lack of snow. Check before going.
Myoko Suginohara Ski Area
Located about 5 kilometers south of Akakura, Suginohara is a medium-sized resort with Myoko's highest elevation and longest runs. Suginohara's pistes are mostly well groomed intermediate and beginner cruisers, but nice in-bounds off-piste and sidecountry options are also on offer for more advanced riders.
Season*
Late December to late March
(December 26, 2020 to March 28, 2021)
Lifts
5 lifts
Tickets
Full day 4800 yen
4-hour pass 3900 yen
Access
Train/Bus About 40 minutes by train from Nagano Station; 15 minutes by taxi from Myokokogen Station.
Car About 1 hour by car from Nagano City; 10 minutes from the Myokokogen IC expressway exit.
* Season dates may be adjusted due to lack of snow. Check before going.
Ikenotaira Ski Area
Ikenotaira is a more mellow alternative to Akakura and Suginohara, well-suited to beginners and intermediate riders. As it also enjoys Myoko's abundant powder snow, it can be a a good place for learning how to ride in deep snow, also featuring an international ski school.
Season*
Mid December to late March
(December 19, 2020 to March 28, 2021)
Lifts
6 lifts
Tickets
Full day 4000 yen
Half day 3000 yen
Access
Train/Bus About 40 minutes by train from Nagano Station; 10 minutes by free shuttle bus from Myokokogen Station.
Car About 1 hour by car from Nagano City; 5 minutes from the Myokokogen IC expressway exit.
* Season dates may be adjusted due to lack of snow. Check before going.
Seki Onsen Ski Area
Seki Onsen a precious gem among powder hunters. It is tiny, with only two lifts and six mostly intermediate courses. But what it lacks in size it makes up in snowfall, receiving so much that it regularly extends its season into May (much later than its neighbors). Unusually for a Honshu resort, there is no ban on off-piste skiing and snowboarding, allowing experienced riders to thoroughly explore its steep wooded terrain and venture well into the sidecountry for fresh runs.
Season*
Mid December to early May
(from December 19, 2020 as long as snow conditions last)
Lifts
2 lifts
Tickets
Full day 3800 yen
Half day 3000 yen (from 12:00 till close)
Access
Train/Bus About 40 minutes by train from Nagano Station; 30 minutes by bus from Sekiyama Station (no buses from Myokokogen Station).
Car About 1 hour by car from Nagano City; 20 minutes from the Myokokogen IC expressway exit.
* Season dates may be adjusted due to lack of snow. Check before going.

Getting there and around

How to get to Myoko

Myoko is located close to the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Most visitors to Myoko from eastern Japan will find it easiest to travel via Nagano Station, while Joetsumyoko Station can be the better station to get off when coming from western Japan:

Via Nagano Station (how to get to Nagano)

From most places in eastern Japan, including Tokyo, Myoko is most easily accessible via Nagano City. From Nagano Station, take the Shinano Railway to Myokokogen Station (45 minutes, 850 yen one way, 1 train/hour, not covered by the Japan Rail Pass) from where it is a short bus or taxi ride to the ski resorts.

Via Joetsumyoko Station

From many places in western Japan, e.g. Osaka and Kanazawa, Myoko is more easily accessed via Joetsumyoko Station along the Hokuriku Shinkansen. From Joetsumyoko Station, take the Echigo Tokimeki Railway to Myokokogen Station (35 minute, 670 yen one way, 1 train/hour, not covered by the Japan Rail Pass) from where it is a short bus or taxi ride to the ski resorts.

Alternatively, there are a small number of direct buses between Joetsumyoko Station and the Akakura, Suginohara and Ikenotaira resorts during winter (about 1 hour, 1100-1300 yen one way, 2 buses/day).

Getting around

Most ski resorts are located within a 10-15 minute bus or taxi from Myokokogen Station. Free shuttle buses are operated during the ski season between Myokokogen Station and the Akakura and Ikenotaira resorts, while a separate shuttle bus service connects the resorts of Akakura, Ikenotaira and Suginohara with each other. Seki Onsen is not connected to the other resorts or Myokokogen Station. Instead, Seki Onsen can be reached by bus from Sekiyama Station (25 minutes, 440 yen one way, every 1-3 hours), one station north of Myokokogen Station.