Welcome to Shiga Kogen—the largest combined ski area in Japan and home to the longest ski season in the country.
Pull on your snow boots any time between late November and mid-May, because this familiar-sounding ski resort is the perfect winter destination. Host to multiple events during Nagano’s 1998 Olympics and home to its own brand of Japanese beer (aptly named Shiga Kogen), this place has a fair bit to offer.
Ski resorts in Shiga Kogen
The 18 ski resorts combined take at least two days to cover. Thankfully, they offer a single lift pass for a full-day 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.
A four-hour pass costs ¥4,800 and some resorts also offer night passes as well as 1.5-day ones, with discounts for the spring season (starting April 1st, 2020).
Below is a quick round-up of some of the more popular areas in Shiga Kogen, which we recommend exploring at your own pace.
The northernmost resort, Okushiga Kogen has excellent snow quality. It is best for intermediate/advanced-level skiers and snowboarders and isn’t too crowded.
Yakebitaiyama neighbors Okushiga Kogen. It boasts well-developed lift infrastructure and runs for all ability levels. Yakebi and Higashitateyama (located in central Shiga Kogen) were resorts that hosted events in Nagano’s Olympics.
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 Kogen. A small area called Ichinose Yamanokami connects the two of them, and the various runs make it good for all levels.
Terakoya is the second-highest resort of Shiga Kogen after Yokoteyama, so it has lots of dry powder snow. It’s very popular with ski racers.
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 Kogen, and Ichinose. Shuttle buses go between resorts from December to early May and are free if you have the lift pass.
Onsen towns near Shiga Kogen
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 Kogen (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 for Shiga Kogen
One-day tour: Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun in Shiga Kogen: This quick tour from Nagano is for those who want to go to Shiga Kogen and get a lot done. The morning involves visiting Jigokudani Park. After lunch (included), you get some time on Shiga Kogen’s slopes and a chance to enjoy the view from farther up the mountain. It’s an action-packed day starting at ¥17,800 per person.
For hotels, Japanican have some pretty good deals. See what's available.
Nothing catching your fancy? Check out this selection of 2020 ski packages.
Getting from Tokyo to Shiga Kogen: Transport options
From Nagano Station, you can take the Nagaden trains to get to Yudanaka Station, which is the closest to Shiga Kogen. There are two options: catch the Nagano Electric Railway, with a change at Shinshunnakano, which takes 70 minutes and costs ¥1,190, or 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, hop on a local bus to Hasuike for ¥840, which takes 30 minutes.
Recommended Tokyo Accommodation
An easier option is the Nagaden Shiga Kogen Express bus. During ski season, it goes from Nagano Station to Shiga Kogen’s Hasuike about once an hour. It’s only ¥2,100 and takes about 70 minutes. From Hasuike, you can continue on the Nagaden to Oku Shiga Kogen or towards the south. You can also get on a different shuttle bus serving the other resorts.
Highway buses take about 3.5 hours, and the prices range from ¥2,000 to ¥4,000.
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 January 2020.