10 Places to Play in the Snow Near Tokyo
A vacation in the snow would be lovely, but we don't always have that much time. Fear not however - there are many places that are easily reached from Tokyo that you can visit over one to two days. This article will focus not on ski destinations, but on child-friendly snow destinations. Read on for some great places to take the kids this winter.
1. Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort
Echigo-Yuzawa is just over an hour from Tokyo, making it one of the easiest snow lands to reach! For 3,000 yen they offer a special pass the gives one access to the ropeway, Snow Land and the onsen. You can buy this ticket from the "Snow Country Tourism Zone Information Center", which is located in front of the west exit of Echigo-Yuzawa Station. Then walk about 10 minutes through the snow (or take the free shuttle bus) to the Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort. The park has two snow lands - Nunoba Snow Land at the base of the mountain and Kogen Snow Land at the top. Nunoba offers sledding with escalators to take you to the top, snow striders and inflatable slides. The Kogen park has sledding and snow tubing and even a big playground. Afterwards you can warm up in the onsen before heading home on the shinkansen.
How to get there: Take a shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Echigo-Yuzawa Station (80 minutes)
If your kids like "kawaii" (cute) things, they may like the NASPA Resort as Pingu, the famous penguin character, is the mascot for this snow park. There is a special indoor room for kids dedicated to Pingu, and look out for the penguin himself walking around in the snow! They have a play area where kids can learn to ski as well as a dedicated slope for sledding and beginner skiing. Nearby are several hot spring inns if you decide to stay the night.
How to get there: Take a shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Echigo-Yuzawa Station (80 minutes) then take a NASPA shuttle bus.
3. Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort
Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort is only 2.5 hours from Tokyo and a very popular choice with Japanese families. They have lots of snow equipment to play on in their "Yuki-no-yuenchi Kid's Paradise", like snow tubes and snow strider bikes. They also have a "Sori Land" area where both kids and adults can go sledding. Smaller kids will enjoy their Spongebob Kid's Park too. They have child care and ski lessons for kids, but these are Japanese language only.
How to get there: Take a shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Echigo-Yuzawa Station (80 minutes) then a local train to Joetsu Kokusai Ski Jo Mae Station (14 minutes).
The Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort is popular with families due to its easy access from Tokyo and the fact that it is right next to an outlet shopping mall. They have English language ski lessons for kids and adults, tube slides and a large snow play area. Even better - kids 12 and under can use the ski lifts for free! Most of their ski runs are beginner level so very suitable for families without much ski experience. For serious skiers, the snow quality is reportedly not so good here, but for those just wanting to experience snow it should be fine.
How to get there: Take a shinkansen from Tokyo to Karuizawa, then take a free shuttle bus to the resort.
5. Fujiten Ski Resort
Fujiten is a snow resort from which you can see Mt. Fuji, making it the most Instagramabble location on this list. For kids they have a large snow park with one of the biggest sledding slopes in Kanto. The park also has tubing, trampolines, and ski lessons for kids. If you get sick of playing in the snow, there is an observation deck to see Mt. Fuji up close.
How to get there: Take a bus or train to Kawaguchiko Station and then take a shuttle bus from there (20 minutes, weekends and holidays only) or a taxi. Alternatively you can rent a car and drive there.
The Lake Sagami Pleasure Forest has the biggest snow play spot in Kanto. It is man made, but has a 50m sledding slope which even adults can whiz down! There is also a tubing park and play area. The park itself has several playgrounds and amusement park rides, as well as a large-scale light-up illumination event in the winter that is not to be missed.
How to get there: Take the Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Sagamiko Station then take the bus from platform #1 towards Mikage (8 minutes).
The Minakami Kogen 200 snow park is excellent for families. Kids can take a ride on a "snow liner", ride on a merry-go-round made of tubes, try snow tubing, snow striders and sledding. They even have special sleds for little babies. They have made snow huts to play inside, and there is also play equipment like a giant bouncy slide. For the adventurous, there are special ski courses just for kids and beginners, as well as snow shoe tours.
How to get there: Take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Jomo Kogen Station and then take the hotel shuttle bus (60 minutes, guests only). If you are not staying in a hotel, take the Joetsu Line to Yubiso Station and take a taxi from there.
Minakami Norn has a Snow Land with snow striders, snow sliders, snow tubes and sleds. They utilise a snow escalator so kids don't need to walk back up the hill. They also have bouncy castles, playgrounds and childcare facilities (reserve in advance). They offer snowball fight sessions and treasure hunts in the forest.
How to get there: Take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Jomokogen Station then take the Joetsu Line to Minakami Station and a shuttle bus (20 minutes) from there.
Naeba is great for families with kids. They have snow trains, snow tubing, sledding and kids ski lessons. They also have a daycare service and a dedicated Family Resort Land. The daycare services and ski lessons are mostly in Japanese; if you want English language services you will need to pay a much higher price. They also offer the world's first indoor and outdoor ski program designed just for kids who have never skied before.
How to get there: Take a highway bus from Tokyo to the Prince Hotel Naeba.
Shirakabako Royal Hills Ski Resort is 3.5 hours from Tokyo, so it's probably better to stay one night in order not to tire everyone out with travel. They have two kids parks - one for small children to play in and a sledding course with an escalator that takes kids to the top without having to climb up. The first floor of the hotel houses a kid's play room for when you need to warm up.
How to get there: Take the Chuo Honsen Line to Chino Station then a local bus (50 minutes) or taxi.