Welcome to Shiga Kōgen — the largest combined ski area in Japan and home to the longest ski season in the country. You can pull on your snow boots and head to Shiga Kōgen any time between late November and mid-May.

The resort was also host to multiple events during Nagano’s 1998 Olympics and even has its own brand of Japanese beer (aptly named Shiga Kōgen). Oh, and there are plenty of onsen nearby. Which is to say: this place has a fair bit to offer.

 Yokoteyama, Shiga Kogen
View from Yokoteyama, Shiga Kōgen in winter | Photo by iStock.com/EarthScapeImageGraphy

Ski resorts in Shiga Kōgen

We promise we’re not exaggerating. There are 18 ski resorts in the area, and it would take at least two days to visit them all. Thankfully, there is a single lift pass that gives you access to all of the resorts for a very reasonable price: for the 2022/23 season, a full-day lift ticket costs ¥6,500 and a 4-hour pass goes for ¥5,500. 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 IC card lift pass.

Below is a quick round-up of some of the more popular resorts in the area, which we recommend exploring at your own pace.

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

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.

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Ichinose

This is actually two resorts: Ichinose Family and Ichinose Diamond Ski Fields. Together, they make up a key area for accommodations (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 of them, and the various runs make it good for all levels.

Terakoya

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.

shiga kogen
Shiga Kōgen | Photo by iStock.com/ViktorCap

Getting between resorts

Lifts and slopes connect many of the resorts to each other, for example, 15 of the ski resorts at the northeastern side, including Yakebitaiyama (aka Yakebi), Okushiga Kōgen, and Ichinose are connected this way. Shuttle buses also go between resorts from December to early May and are free if you have the lift pass.

Onsen towns nearby

Shibu Onsen town
Shibu Onsen | Photo by iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

Nothing feels better than sinking into a steaming hot spring after a day of skiing — and luckily there are a few towns to choose from nearby. Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen offer normal baths while Jigokudani Monkey Park offers the famous sight of monkeys bathing in hot springs.

The first two towns 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 further, you can catch a bus to Mount Shirane and then down to Kusatsu Onsen — one of the more well-known hot spring towns in Japan thanks to its open-air water chutes.

Tour packages

snow moneys in the winter
Photo by iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

Snow Monkeys & Shiga Kōgen Roman Museum Trip

This is round-trip tour from Tokyo is for those who want to go to Shiga Kōgen and monkey it up. In addition to the snow monkeys, you’ll be able to enjoy a buffet lunch and view artworks and artifacts at the Roman Museum. Price starts at ¥15,509 per person and can be booked here.

Getting from Tokyo to Shiga Kōgen: Transport options

Trains

The Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano Station is about ¥8,140 and takes around 1.5 hours. The JR Pass or JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass is ideal — you can compare rail passes here.

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From Nagano Station, you can take the Nagaden trains to get to Yudanaka Station, which is the closest to Shiga Kōgen. There are two options:

  • Catch the Nagano Electric Railway, with a change at Shinshunnakano, which takes 65 minutes and costs ¥1,190, or
  • Spend an extra ¥400 and catch the Limited Express, which takes 45–50 minutes (bonus if you catch the Snow Monkey train).

Then, at Yudanaka, hop on a local bus to Shiga Kōgen Yamanoeki for ¥850, which takes 30 minutes.

An easier option from Nagano Station is the Nagaden Shiga Kōgen Express bus. During ski season, it goes from Nagano Station to Shiga Kōgen Yamanoeki about once an hour. It’s only ¥1,800 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.

For other winter 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 2022 by Maria Danuco.

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