Shiga Kōgen, in Nagano Prefecture, is the largest combined ski area in Japan, and it’s home to the longest ski season in the country. You can pull on your snow boots and head there any time between late November and the middle of May.
Shiga Kōgen is part of the Jōshinetsu Kōgen National Park, in the mountainous Yamanouchi region of Nagano. It was host to multiple events during the 1998 Winter Olympics, and is also low-key famous for its own brand of Japanese beer (aptly named Shiga Kōgen). There are plenty of hot springs nearby, too — including the famous snow-monkey one. All of which is to say: Shiga Kōgen has a lot to offer. Here’s what you need to know.
Ski resorts in Shiga Kōgen
We promise we’re not exaggerating. There are 18 ski resorts in the Shiga Kōgen area, and it would take at least two days to visit them all. They are spread across roughly 600 hectares of terrain, with the trails exceeding 80 kilometers, combined.
Thankfully, there is a single lift pass that gives you access to all of the Shiga Kōgen ski resorts for a reasonable price: For the 2023/24 season, a full-day lift ticket costs ¥7,500 and a 4-hour pass goes for ¥6,500. You can use it for all 51 lifts, gondolas, and ropeways. You also have to pay a small ¥500 deposit, but you get it back when you return your lift pass (which is an IC card).
Below is a quick round-up of some of the most popular snow resorts in Shiga Kōgen, which we recommend exploring at your own pace.
1. Okushiga Kōgen
The northernmost resort, Okushiga Kōgen has excellent snow quality. It is best for intermediate/advanced-level skiers and snowboarders — and isn’t too crowded.
Yakebitaiyama neighbors Okushiga Kōgen. It boasts well-developed lift infrastructure and runs for all ability levels. Yakebi and Higashitateyama (located in central Shiga Kōgen) were resorts that hosted events in Nagano’s Olympics.
This actually comprises two ski resorts: Ichinose Family and Ichinose Diamond Ski Fields. Together, they make up a key area for accommodation (pro tip: Villa Ichinose is an affordable option here) and what little nightlife you can find in Shiga Kōgen. A small area called Ichinose Yamanokami connects the two resorts, and the various runs make it good for all levels.
Terakoya is the second-highest resort of Shiga Kōgen after Yokoteyama, so it has lots of dry powder snow. It’s very popular with ski racers.
Getting between resorts in Shiga Kōgen
Lifts and slopes connect many of the Shiga Kōgen ski resorts to each other. For example, 15 of the ski resorts on the northeastern side, including Yakebitaiyama (aka Yakebi), Okushiga Kōgen, and Ichinose are connected this way.
Shuttle buses also run between resorts from December to early May, and are free if you have the Shiga Kōgen lift pass.
Onsen towns near Shiga Kōgen
Nothing feels better than sinking into a steaming hot spring, or onsen, after a day of skiing — and luckily there are a few onsen towns to choose from.
Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen offer normal hot-spring baths, while Jigokudani Monkey Park offers the world-famous sight of monkeys bathing in hot springs. You can’t bathe with the monkeys, but there is an onsen for humans to use at the ryokan lodging near the park.
Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen can be reached on the bus route between Nagano and Shiga Kōgen (see below for more details). If you’re looking to go a bit farther, you can catch a bus to Mount Shirane, then down to Kusatsu Onsen — one of the better-known hot-spring towns in Japan, thanks to its open-air water chutes. Kusatsu is part of Gunma Prefecture, which borders Nagano.
Shiga Kōgen tour packages
If you want to keep things easy, you can book an all-in-one package from Tokyo.
Snow Monkeys & Shiga Kōgen Roman Museum Day Trip from Tokyo
This round-trip package from Tokyo is for those who want to nip down to Shiga Kōgen and monkey it up. Besides the snow monkeys, you’ll be able to enjoy a buffet lunch, and see artworks and artifacts at the Roman Museum. Skiing is not part of the package.
Pricing starts at ¥14,980 per person, and you can book tickets on Klook.
Getting to Shiga Kōgen: Transport options
How to get to Nagano from Tokyo
The Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano Station is about ¥8,340 and takes around 1.5 hours. The JR Pass or JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass is ideal — you can compare Japan rail passes here.
Highway buses from Tokyo to Nagano
Highway buses are an affordable way to get from Tokyo to Nagano, with prices starting as low as ¥2,300 and regular daytime departures. However, it also takes much longer — 4-5 hours on average. If that’s not a concern for you, you can book a bus ticket here.
How to get to Nagano from Osaka
To get from Osaka to Nagano by train, you have two main options. Both options take about the same amount of time, and although one is cheaper, you should take the availability of rail passes into account before making a choice.
You can take the Tōkaidō Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Nagoya Station. The journey takes a little over an hour and prices start at ¥6,470 one way with reserved seating. From there, take the Shinano Limited Express to Nagano Station (3 hours, ¥7,660). This route is fully covered by the All Japan Rail Pass, but no other rail passes.
Alternatively, you can take the Thunderbird Limited Express from Osaka Station to Kanazawa Station (2 hours 45 minutes, ¥7,990). Then transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano Station. It costs ¥9,120 one way with reserved seating, and takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you’re making a round trip along this route, we recommend the Hokuriku Arch Pass — you’ll see savings of over ¥8,000.
Highway buses from Osaka to Nagano
You can also take an overnight highway from Osaka to Nagano, with prices starting at ¥5,000. Because it’s an overnight bus, you depart Osaka late in the evening, and arrive in Nagano the next morning. Expect to spend 7-8 hours on board, so we only recommend this for people who can sleep on buses. You can book a bus ticket here.
How to get to Shiga Kōgen from Nagano
From Nagano Station, you can take the Nagaden trains to Yudanaka Station, which is the closest train station to Shiga Kōgen.
There are two train options:
- 1. Catch the Nagano Electric Railway, with a change at Shinshū-Nakano Station, which takes 65 minutes and costs ¥1,190
- 2. Spend an extra ¥100 and catch the Limited Express, which takes 45–50 minutes (bonus if you catch the Snow Monkey train)
Then, at Yudanaka Station, hop on a local bus to Shiga Kōgen Yamanoeki for ¥900, which takes 30 minutes.
Buses from Nagano Station
Another, perhaps easier, way to get to Shiga Kōgen from Nagano Station is catching the Nagaden Shiga Kōgen Express bus. During ski season, this bus goes from Nagano Station to Shiga Kōgen Yamanoeki about once an hour. It’s only ¥2,200 and takes about 75 minutes.
From Yamanoeki, you can continue on the Nagaden to Oku Shiga Kōgen or toward the south. You can also get on a different shuttle bus serving the other resorts.
Alternatively, you can rent a car in Nagano and drive up to Shiga Kōgen yourself.
Shiga Kōgen FAQs
We answer some of the most common questions about Shiga Kōgen ski resorts.
Where do you fly into for Shiga Kōgen?
You can either fly into Tokyo or Osaka. For Tokyo, you have a choice between Haneda Airport and Narita Airport. For Osaka, you’ll be flying into Kansai International Airport. From Tokyo or Osaka, you can take the Shinkansen to Nagano Station, and then either a train or bus to Shiga Kōgen itself.
How many ski resorts are there in Shiga Kōgen?
18. There is a huge variety of skiing and snowboarding options in Shiga Kōgen.
Is Shiga Kōgen good for skiing?
Very much so. The 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics was held there for a reason! There are runs to suit all skill levels, from beginner to advanced. The vastness of the area also means that it’s less likely to be crowded.
What is the elevation of Shiga Kōgen?
The highest point is 2307 meters.
For more winter sport options, have a look at our guide to skiing and snowboarding near Tokyo.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in January 2018. Last updated: November 2023.