Springtime Adventures in Japan

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Visitors can catch a glimpse of snow monkeys relaxing in the natural hot springs at Japan's Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of snow monkeys relaxing in the natural hot springs at Japan’s Jigokudani Monkey Park.

While many travelers flock to Japan during the spring to see the cherry blossoms, fans of outdoor adventures will find that the country offers much more than just beautiful flowers during this time of year.

Skiing may not immediately come to mind when your clients think of springtime, but many of Japan’s most popular ski resorts boast several feet of snow well into the spring months. Located in northern Nagano, Shiga Kogen is one of Japan’s largest ski areas with 21 ski resorts and a wide variety of slopes for skiers of all levels. Some resorts in Shiga Kogen, including Terakoya, Takamagahara, Ichinose Family, Ichinose Diamond, Yakebitaiyama, Okushiga Kogen, Kumanoyu, Yokoteyama and Shibutoge, also offer discounted lift tickets during the spring.

After a day on the slopes, travelers can continue to get a breath of fresh air while keeping warm in one of the many natural mineral-rich hot springs in the area. These hot springs can be found both outdoors and indoors. And humans aren’t the only ones in Shiga Kogen who enjoy the hot springs. For a chance to catch a glimpse of snow monkeys warming up and lounging around a hot spring, send your clients to Jigokudani Monkey Park, where several hundreds of these animals flock to in the winter.

In Zao Onsen—also located in Japan’s snow country—your clients can find opportunities for skiing and other snow sports, but what makes the area unique is its volcanic crater lake. Known as Okama, visitors are able to access the lake, which is surrounded by three mountains, only as the snow begins to melt, and the journey to the lake is half the fun. Because the area receives so much snow, when the roads are cleared the most popular route leading up to the lake is bordered by snow piled two stories high on either side.

The Zao Echo Line roadway leading to the volcanic crater lake with snow on each side.
The Zao Echo Line roadway leading to the volcanic crater lake with snow on each side.

Four hours from Zao Onsen but still within Japan’s snow country is Yukawa, where travelers can book a snowshoeing tour if skiing and snowboarding is not appealing. For those looking for an outdoor activity away from the snow, Yukawa also offers the Nakazato Forest Adventure experience where guests can go zip lining, rope swinging and more.

Travelers looking to combine outdoorsy fun with a visit to Japan’s capital city now have a new option for accommodations in the Otsuka area of Tokyo. OMO, the fourth brand of Hoshino Resorts, opened OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka last month. The hotel features guestrooms designed with yagura, a traditional Japanese wooden tower with the beds on top and a seating area with a couch and storage space underneath. OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka also offers an onsite cafe, plus guided tours of the neighborhood led by “OMO Rangers.”

For more information, visit us.jnto.go.jp, hopstepjapan.com and omo-hotels.com.

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