30 Things to Do Around Shiga Kogen & Where to Stay
Located to the east of Nagano City and nearby the Jigokudani Monkey Park, Shiga Kogen is best-known as Japan’s largest ski resort. With just as much to offer in spring, summer and autumn, Shiga Kogen is a true all year round destination. On this page you will find the following information:
Having hosted downhill skiing and snowboarding events during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Shiga Kogen’s pedigree speaks for itself. Boasting Nagano’s longest season, visitors can enjoy fantastic skiing and snowboarding from late-November well into April and as late as May. In that time, activities including snowmobiling, family activity areas and more ensure the resort has plenty to offer!
Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are the region’s No.1 tour and charter operator. Our group tours run throughout the year including two of our most popular, that take place in the ski fields of Shiga Kogen from December until March. We can also arrange private tours and charters to any destinations in the region, and as a registered travel agent, we can package transport, accommodation and more together so you save and get the most out of your time in Shiga Kogen.
WHERE IS SHIGA KOGEN?
Shiga Kogen sits 45KM (1 hour drive) to the east of Nagano City and 280KM (<5 hours drive) to the northwest of Tokyo. When people talk of Shiga Kogen, they are speaking of a mountainous area that includes Shiga Kogen Ski Resort and Shiga Kogen Highlands – a UNESCO Biopshere. The areas largely overlap and sit within the even larger Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. Given the size of the area, there are several ways to approach Shiga however most international visitors will do so from the west, via Nagano Station. As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, Nagano Station is easy to reach from Tokyo. Once there, express buses will take you onto the Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki (Mountain Station) – the most convenient transport hub in the area – and additional stops. Alternatively, the Nagano Dentetsu (Nagaden) train line will get you as far as Yudanaka Station, from where you can use local bus services or a taxi onto Shiga Kogen. Most famous as the largest ski resort in Japan, Shiga Kogen also boasts Nagano’s longest ski season while outside of winter, the area offers some of Central Japan’s best hiking and outdoor experiences. With the Jigokudani Monkey Park lying in the foothills of the national park, there’s plenty of reasons to visit Shiga Kogen.
15 THINGS TO DO IN WINTER
As Japan’s largest and highest ski resort, Shiga Kogen offers skiers and snowboarders an unmatched amount of interconnected terrain, Nagano’s longest season and most reliable snow conditions, and plenty of activities to enjoy in and around the resort. Having hosted skiing and snowboarding events during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Shiga’s pedigree speaks for itself when it comes to those sports while also offering snowmobiling, snowshoeing, family activity areas and nearby destinations including the always popular Jigokudani Monkey Park. Here are our suggestion of 15 things to do in and around Shiga Kogen in winter:
1 / SKIING & SNOWBOARDING IN JAPAN’S LARGEST RESORT / late-November to late-April
Shiga Kogen Ski Resort lays claim to the title of Japan’s largest ski resort. With over 600 hectares of terrain, most of which is interconnected, it is the largest single ski area in not just Japan but all of Asia. It is also the highest ski resort in Japan, reaching 2307 metres in the Yokoteyama area of the resort. As the highest resort, Shiga’s inland position and topography blesses it with Nagano’s longest ski season and most reliable snow conditions. While the official opening is in mid-December, the highest areas of the resort including Yokoteyama and Kumanoyu are likely to be open sometime in November. You can expect the full resort to be open until well into April with the higher areas staying open as late as May.
The overall resort is made up of eighteen ski areas all of which are covered by a single, all-mountain pass. For first-time visitors, the size of the resort can make it hard to plan their visit and it might be easier to think of the resort as three areas: 1. the Central Area; 2. Yakebitai and Okushiga; and 3. Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama. All areas other than Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama are connected allowing you to ski and snowboard Japan’s single largest expanse of terrain, with free bus services operating to the couple of ski fields not connected by ski runs. But again, the all-mountain pass overs these and all areas of Shiga Kogen – our favourite Nagano ski resort.
2 / STAY & EXPLORE SHIGA ON ‘SKI SAFARI’ / best: mid-December to late-March
As Japan’s largest and highest ski resort, Shiga Kogen offers an unmatched extent of terrain – over 600 hectares! With so much to explore, Shiga really is best experienced on a multi-day visit – an experience many locals refer to as ‘Ski Safari’. Nestled within the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Shiga Kogen has been spared the development of other resorts and as such, retains a somewhat wild and raw atmosphere. For this reason, tackling all its courses including the highest chair-lifted ski runs in Japan at 2307 metres is considered a ‘Ski Safari’ – a winter getaway best experienced by staying in Shiga over a multi-day visit.
When enjoying ‘ski safari’ in Shiga, you’ll find some of the best views from the resort’s higher areas including at the top of the Takamagahara chairlift (1907 metres), the Higashidateyama gondola station (1994 metres) the top ski fields of Yakebitai (2000 metres) and of course, the top of the resort at Yokoteyama (2307 metres).
For visitors looking to book a multi-day stay in Shiga Kogen, we can arrange accommodation, lift passes, rental and lessons, transport, tours or package it all together for you! Checkout our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ main page for what’s on offer in Shiga this winter.
3 / ENJOY NAGANO’S BEST SPRING-SKIING / mid-March to late-April
Shiga Kogen’s higher elevation and natural topography combine to bless it with Nagano’s most reliable snow conditions and longest season. Often extending into May, Shiga offers the best spring-skiing in Nagano at a time when most other resorts have closed. Take advantage of great late season deals including at Hotel Grand Phenix. Located in the Okushiga ski fields, Grand Phenix is one of the best places to enjoy the late season and Nagano’s best spring-skiing in combination with its ski in/out convenience, European-styling, and fine-dining restaurants.
4 / CHALLENGE YOURSELF ON AN OLYMPIC COURSE / best: mid-December to April
Shiga Kogen was one of a host venue of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, together with other renowned ski resorts such as Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen. Shiga has also hosted two World Cup alpine skiing events along with slalom and giant slalom. Challenging yourself on one of these ski runs – for those who are up to it! – is one of the most thrilling experiences that you can have while at the resort! The courses you want to head for a clearly marked ‘Olympic Course’ and hard to miss.
The giant slalom course -pictured above – is on the southern hill of the Higashidate gondola station and runs for 1600 meters. Another slalom course is located in the middle of first gondola line of the Yakebitai ski area, with a 650 meter drop down of the expert run. Good luck!
5 / SIDECOUNTRY & TREE ZONES IN SHIGA KOGEN / best: mid-December to mid-March
If you are a more adventurous skier / snowboarder who is eager to hunt for your own fresh powder dumps and get amongst the trees, the ski areas of Terakoya, Yakebitai and Okushiga Kogen are the best places to seek-out in Shiga Kogen. While the attitude towards backcountry in Shiga Kogen remains highly restrictive, Yakebitai and Okushiga Kogen take a more flexible approach to lovers of getting off-piste and offer limited zones where you can glide through ungroomed, untouched powder and then re-emerge on-piste as you emerge from the trees back onto a run.
Obviously if you’re get to get amongst it you’ll likely find the best snow in the morning and in the middle of the season, anytime from late-December to late-February. Shiga Kogen’s official policy is that backcountry is not permitted. It is possible however to head-out with a local guide – see ‘9 / BOOK A LESSON OR LOCAL GUIDE’ below for details.
6 / FAMILY-FRIENDLY FUN IN SHIGA / mid-December to mid-March
As winter sports are widely recognized as the activity for families, Shiga Kogen has several family-friendly facilities for visitors. If you are visiting the resort with children or don’t have much experience and looking for a fun and easy activity, Maruike Snow Activity Park – located in the Maruike ski fields – is a great option for you! The activity area is fenced-off and provides you with a various gear including sledges, snow-tubes, snow-striders and unlimited amount of snow to make a snowman or have a snowball fight. Entry is JPY500 per person (as of date of publication) and allows unlimited use of tools inside the activity area. Further into the resort, the Yakebitaiyama Family Snow Park is located directly outside of Prince Hotel West, offering a similar range of activities for kids, families, or anyone wanting to release their inner-child!
7 / TRY SNOWDRIVES & SNOWCOOTS ON A GUIDED TOUR / December to March
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun In Shiga Kogen|
|Period||December to March|
|Time||08:45 – 17:30/18:00|
|Meeting Place||Nagano Station |
Snow Monkey Park Area
Short on-time or just want to have some fun while in Shiga Kogen? Our 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun in Shiga Kogen Tour combines a morning visit to the resort with lunch and early afternoon trip to the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park. At the Maruike Snow Activity Park – as discussed above – guests can enjoy sleds and tubes along with snowdrives and snowscoots (pictured above). Suitable for guests of all ages, the drives and scoots are easy to use and just as much fun for adults as they are adults. Running from December to March, this is one of our most popular tours of the year – a great way to enjoy the best of Shiga Kogen and Nagano in winter!
8 / GO FASTER! SNOWMOBILING IN SHIGA KOGEN / December to March
1 Day Tour
|1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snowmobiling in Shiga Kogen|
|Period||December to March|
|Time||07:45/09:00 – 17:30/18:30|
|Meeting Place||Nagano Station |
Visitors wanting more speed in Shiga can enjoy snowmobiling in the Yakebitaiyama ski fields from December to March. You can choose between single and tandem ride with a minimum age of 13 years and over for single ride and 6 years and over for tandem (riding with a responsible adult). Our 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Snowmobiling in Shiga Kogen Tour operates from December to March and combines a morning of snowmobiling in Shiga with lunch and early afternoon visit to the monkey park. Another of our most popular tours each year!
9 / BOOK A LESSON OR LOCAL GUIDE / December to April
Operating out of the Okushiga ski fields, Shiga Kogen International Ski School offers both group and private lessons for all levels of skiers and snowboarders by English-speaking, certified instructors. For advanced skiers and boarders looking to enjoy some backcountry, local guides can also be arranged opening-up a whole new side of Shiga Kogen. In-store rental offers high quality, well-maintained gear for different levels. During the Christmas and New Year holidays followed by Chinese New Year in February, the school is busy and often fully-booked. So if your mind is already set on booking a lesson at that time, make sure you do so in advance!
10 / ENJOY AN ONSEN AFTER A LONG DAY ON THE MOUNTAIN / all year round
One of the great joys of skiing and snowboarding in Japan is relaxing in an ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring) after a long day on the mountain. Nagano is blessed with numerous onsen including some of Japan’s most historic hot spring towns. Shiga Kogen is blessed with multiple hot spring areas with hotels in those areas often having their own in-house hot springs. One of the most conveniently located is Hotel Sunny Shiga, which has a natural hot spring open 24-hours a day for hotel guests and during the day for pop-in visitors. Located directly across from the Takamagahara ski fields, Hotel Sunny Shiga can also be chosen as your accommodation with our ski and snowboard packages.
For guests happy to stay a little further afield, why not book a guesthouse in the hot spring towns of Kanbayashi Onsen, Shibu Onsen or Yudanaka Onsen? All three have direct access to the resort using local bus services – between 20 to 30-minutes away from the Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki (Mountain Station). The hot spring towns are located within the Yamanouchi area – also home to Shiga Kogen and the Jigokudani Monkey Park – and boast numerous traditional guesthouses that pride themselves of the comfort and enjoyment of their guests. Trust us, nothing feels better at the end of the day than slipping into a hot spring – see ’12 / EXPLORE YAMANOUCHI – HOME OF THE SNOW MONKEYS’ below for details.
11 / VISIT THE JIGOKUDANI SNOW MONKEY PARK / all year round
Located between 20 to 30-minutes drive from the lower ski fields of Shiga Kogen, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is one of the region’s most popular destinations. Most famous for their hot spring-loving antics of winter, the monkeys actually come to the park all year round. Each season provides its own unique reasons to visit the park; from the curious sight of the monkeys enjoying life in the snow through winter, to the cherry blossoms and baby monkeys of spring, hot and lush surroundings of summer and the beauty of the leaves in autumn. Want to turn your visit to the monkeys into a real experience? Why not join one of our tours to the park! Operating through the year all tours are led by locally-based guides and include entry to the park, all transport costs, lunch and other activities. Just click on the banner above to see our monkey tours throughout the year.
12 / EXPLORE YAMANOUCHI – HOME OF THE SNOW MONKEYS / all year round
Both Shiga Kogen and the monkey park lie within the wider region of Yamanouchi. Most famous for its epic skiing, snowboarding and adorable monkeys, Yamanouchi is blessed with Nagano’s largest supply of natural thermal water, the area has long been known for its many hot springs supporting multiple ‘onsen’ towns including Yudanaka, Shibu and Kanbayashi. Known as ‘onsen’ in Japanese, natural hot springs have long been sought-out for their claimed recuperative powers and in more recent years, for pure relaxation. Some of Yamanouchi’s hot springs allow use by day-visitors however most retain the tradition of reserving their onsen for the exclusive use of guests. Our ‘Explore Yamanouchi – Home of the Snow Monkeys’ page has lots of information about what’s on offer. where to find the hot springs and some of the best accommodation options in the area.
13 / WELCOME THE SPRING-SKI SEASON AT SNOW MONKEY BEER LIVE / March
Snow Monkey Beer Live takes place each March in Shiga Kogen. Over three days, the festival sees craft brewers from all over Japan – and a couple of guest brewers from overseas – ply the crowd with their finest beers, soundtracked by live bands and artists and great food also on offer! Though fairly new to the local calendar of events, Snow Monkey Beer Live has quickly gained popularity and usually sells-out in advance. Taking place in mid-March, the festival heralds the end of winter and start of Shiga Kogen’s spring skiing season.
14 / HEAD TO SHIGA’S LITTLE BROTHER – KITA-SHIGA KOGEN / December to March
The nearby ski resorts of Kita-Shiga Kogen are notably smaller than its larger neighbour, but what it lacks for size, it makes up in vertical, fun and powder dumps! As the largest resort in Kita-Shiga, Ryuoo Ski Park has only 15 courses but a substantial 1080 metres of vertical (850-1930). Popular with locals and young Tokyo-ites, Ryuoo has a youthful atmosphere and is dominated by snowboarders. The resort is long, narrow and effectively split into three sections: easy (and often crowded) beginner slopes at the bottom, intermediate courses in the midsection and advanced terrain and often excellent powder at the top. The resort is dominated by the Skyland Express Ropeway which ascends to the top of the resort at 1770 metres and the Sora Terrace Café – a popular destination in both winter and late-spring to autumn. It is important to note that the ski fields of Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen are not connected, but being located nearby each other, can be incorporated into multi-day stay in the area.
15 / ENJOY ANY OF NAGANO’S FANTASTIC SKI RESORTS / December to April
Home to more than 80 ski resorts, visitors to Nagano in winter are spoiled for choice. While we are big fans of Shiga Kogen, we are just as keen on many of the other fantastic resorts dotted throughout the region. Around an hours drive from Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen is a popular resort with a lively village. Particularly well-suited to snowboarders, the resort has a youthful atmosphere with lots of restaurants and facilities catering to international visitors.
Of course if you want resorts setup for international visitors, then head to Hakuba. Home to multiple great resorts, Hakuba Valley is Nagano’s most popular ski area. Blessed with some great terrain including epic backcountry, Hakuba is popular for many reasons. But be warned, it is popular… you won’t find the quiet runs of Shiga Kogen here! For more suggestions and information about what’s on offer this winter, see our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page.
15 THINGS TO DO IN SPRING, SUMMER & AUTUMN
Part of the larger Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Shiga Kogen has just as much to offer in spring, summer and winter. As the snow melts in May, one of Japan’s most ecological important landscapes is revealed, most of which can be explored on extensive walking trails. Ascending to over 2500 metres at its highest point, the region enjoys a pleasant alpine climate with temperatures regularly 10°C lower than in the valleys, towns and cities below. In summer, this equates to a much more agreeable climate than experienced in major cities such as Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, making Shiga Kogen an ideal destination for those wanting to escape the heat and humidity of summer. Once there, you’ll discover plenty of reason to stay and explore, staring with:
16 / EXPLORE JOSHINETSU KOGEN NATIONAL PARK / best: June to November
Shiga Kogen lies within the more expansive Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, the fourth largest national park in Japan. The park boasts multiple mountain peaks over 2000 metres including Mount Kusatsu-Shirane and Mount Asama – both active volcanoes – fantastic hiking trails, a wealth of alpine flora and fauna, and on its western border, the Jigokudani Monkey Park. While the park can be enjoyed all year round, mid-November to April sees heavy snow blanket the area as the ski resorts enjoy Nagano’s longest seasons. If you want to hike or explore by car, best to do so from June to early November when the snow will mostly have melted.
17 / SHIGA KOGEN HIGHLANDS / best: June to November
Part of the wider national park, Shiga Kogen Highlands was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1980 in recognition of its ecological importance and as a regional model for putting practices in place that promote the coexistence of nature and human society. The highlands cover approximately 30,000ha / 300km², an area comprised of rough alpine terrain including forests with ponds, swamps, high-moors, and rivers, making it an ecologically important environment in which a wide variety of animals, plants, and insects coexist.
Around seventy lakes, marshes and ponds are dotted through the highlands – a beautiful and unique landscape best-enjoyed on-foot along the many trails that can be accessed from June to November. Many unique species of alpine flora and fauna are found throughout the highlands, enticing photographers and nature-lovers to explore Shiga in the warmer months when wildlife is more active, wild flower fields bloom and the waterways sparkle under a big blue sky.
18 / WILDLIFE OF SHIGA KOGEN / all year round
Shiga Kogen is home to a range of wildlife that can be spotted throughout the year, with the warmer seasons of spring, summer and autumn being the best time of enthusiasts to visit. Troops of monkeys roam the area including the troop that famous heads down to the Jigokudani Monkey Park each day. Fondly referred to as ‘snow monkeys’, you can spot them anywhere in Shiga at any time of year. Along with the monkeys you see deer including serow or ‘kamokshika’ in Japanese, Asiatic black bears and all manner of birdlife.
19 / GONDOLAS & ROPEWAYS OF SHIGA / most of the year
After a short break after winter, the ropeways of Shiga Kogen will begin to operate again and in doing so, provide access to some of the higher reaches of the mountains, leisurely walking trails, and outstanding views. Located in Shiga Kogen, the Higashidateyama Ropeway transports passengers to 2008 metres above sea level to enjoy panoramic views, a café and alpine botanical garden. Small gondolas allow passengers to ride by themselves or just with family and friends. For visitors wanting to ride the ropeway outside of winter, please note that it operates from early-June to mid-October. Also in Shiga Kogen and rising to an elevation of 2307, the Yokoteyama Chairlift operates from late-May until the end of October. At the top, visitors have a panoramic view back for Shiga Kogen and toward the North Japan Alps. A café and viewing deck awaits up top, with walking trails leading back down or further into the national park.
20 / HIKING IN SHIGA / best: May to November
Operation of the ropeways heralds the start of the hiking season in one of Japan’s most beautiful and ecological important alpine landscapes. Numerous trails span-out across an expansive area – ranging from leisurely walks to intensive multi-day hikes. Various areas within the Shiga Kogen Highlands designation have elevated timber walkways through sensitive areas of the ecosystem including wetlands and well-maintained travels through forests and more open terrain. Mount Kusatsu-Shirane is another below hiking area with well-maintained and marked trails spanning-out around the volcano. The caldera itself is off-limits with a wide exclusion zone keeping hikers away from the summit however on the areas below, you will find some of the best hiking in Shiga Kogen – see below for details.
21 / TRAIL RUNNING EVENTS / July & October
Shiga Kogen Mountain Trail Run is one of two such events taking place in Shiga Kogen each summer with events including a 40km, 14.8km and 1-3km kids courses. Registration for the races is open from mid to late-February until mid-June (or until capacity is reached). Events are capped at: 40km / 600 participants; 14.8km / 300 participants; and kids 1-3km / 200 participants. These are serious alpine races attracting both professional and semi-professional athletes. Running across mixed terrain and unsealed tracks, participants need to be of very high fitness.
Complementing Shiga Mountain Trail Run held in July, Shiga Kogen Extreme Trail Run takes things that little bit further with 54km, 32km and 8km events, along with shorter 1-3km kids event. Registration for the races is open from mid-July until late-September (or until capacity is reached). Events are capped at: 54km / 400 participants; 32km / 300 participants; 8km / 200 participants; and kids 1-3km / 200 participants. These are serious alpine races attracting both professional and semi-professional athletes. Running across mixed terrain and unsealed tracks, participants need to be of very high fitness.
22 / FIREFLIES OF ISHI-NO-YU / late-July
Late-July to the end of August sees Shiga Kogen’s ‘Ishi-no-Yu’ glow brightly in the night as Japan’s highest firefly breeding ground – 1650 metres above sea level – whirls into magical life. Visitors heading to Shiga to witness this remarkable sight are asked to refrain from using flash photography and avoid using bright lights, such as the screens of mobile phones, to avoid disrupting the fireflies. Should you wish to see the fireflies, we recommend booking a guesthouse nearby.
23 / DAIJA FESTIVAL / mid-August
Taking place in the third week of August, the ‘Daija’ Festival is held in Shiga Kogen and commemorates the legend of a serpent that is said to live in the waters of Onuma Pond. Having fallen in love with a beautiful princess, the serpent would disguise himself as a samurai but once discovered, Kurohime’s father forbid the relationship and tried to trick the giant snake. Let’s just say the story doesn’t well… culminating in the serpent destroying her father’s castle and Kurohime throwing herself into the pond. This low-key local festival takes place of three days and includes traditional performances and fireworks.
24 / AUTUMN LEAVES IN SHIGA / late-September to mid-November
Shiga Kogen is one of the earliest and best places to enjoy autumn leaves in Nagano. Given the higher elevation of the region, the leaves can start to turn as early as mid-September but more likely toward the end of the month and then at their best in October and early-November. Given the varying elevation of Shiga, the leaves will be at their best at different times and though being at its most beautiful, Shiga is likely to be quiet – a beautiful and tranquil place to enjoy Japan’s beautiful autumn leaves. Our ‘Autumn Leaves’ main page has lots of great information about where to find the best leaves around Nagano and Central Japan including Shiga and other destinations.
25 / DRIVE THE SHIGA KUSATSU KOGEN ROUTE / May to November
Also called the Shiga Kusatsu Road, the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route connects Kanbayashi Onsen and the Jigokudani Monkey Park with Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma. In doing, the road passes over and through Shiga Kogen and wider Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, passing the peaks of Mount Yokote (Yokoteyama) and Mount Kusatsu-Shirane before reaching Kusatsu. Due to heavy snow in winter, the road is only open between May and mid to late-November but in that time, offers drivers a beautiful drive on well-maintained roads. Upon opening in spring, visitors can enjoy snow walls lining either side of the road as the pass the higher points near Yokoteyama and Kusatsu-Shirane.
Driving the route is a great way to move to and from Yamanouchi but make sure to check advisories as the road can close from time-to-time as a precaution, when activity is detected or expected at Mount Kusatsu-Shirane. It is an active volcano and your personal safety should be your first priority. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) provides real-time advice and warnings for the entire country. Prior to visiting Kusatsu-Shirane, we recommend checking the JMA website for the last safety information and updates.
26 / MOUNT KUSATSU-SHIRANE / best: June to November
Along the Shiga Kusatsu Route, you will find Mount Kusatsu-Shirane. This is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. Said to hold the world’s most acidic lake in its caldera, visitors are forbidden to get too close however in the surrounding area, you can enjoy some of Nagano’s best hiking trails through a unique alpine landscape. For visitors driving the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route, you will be able to see the volcano from the road, where you can park and take in the view of this otherworldly landscape. As noted above, Kusatsu-Shirane is an active volcano. For that reason we recommend checking the JMA website for latest safety information and updates prior to your visit.
27 / MOUNT ASAMA & ONIOSHIDASHI VOLCANIC PARK / all year round
Said to be the most active volcano on Honshu – Japan’s main island – Mount Asama is one of the few mountains in the country that people are not allowed to climb. At 2,568 metres above sea level, Asama broods at the southern end of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park and is best experienced at Onioshidahi Volcanic Park. The park is comprised of the Asama Volcano Museum – exhibiting information and displays about Mount Asama and the geography of volcanoes – and, most strikingly, an expansive natural ‘garden’ of immense boulders and rocks ejected from the volcano during its last major eruption in 1783. Walking trails now meander between the boulders making-up both short and long walking circuits. Thriving within and on those boulders, countless varieties of rare and unique alpine plants grow in an other-worldly landscape.
Mt. Asama is an active volcano and your personal safety should be your first priority. Prior to visiting Asama/Onioshidashi Park, we recommend checking the JMA website for latest safety information and updates.
28 / KUSATSU ONSEN / all year round
Accessible via the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route, Kusatsu Onsen is one of Japan’s most famous hot spring towns. Located just over the border into Gunma Prefecture, Kusatsu Onsen is centred around its iconic ‘yubatake’. Translating as ‘hot water field’, the yubatake is large open-air area over which thermal water runs along timber troughs. In doing so, the incredibly hot volcanic water cools to a temperature that allows it to be used in the town’s many bathhouses.
Each bath has its own unique blend of minerals, and are said to help with a wide range of ailments. If you are planning to head there via the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route, it’s important to note that the road is open from to May to November only. Outside of those months, the easiest way to reach Kusatsu Onsen is using local buses from nearby Karuizawa. Our ’25 Things to Do Around Kusatsu Onsen & Where to Stay’ page has lots of great information about what’s on offer once your get there.
29 / KARUIZAWA / all year round
If you make it as far as Kusatsu Onsen, it’s an easy journey onto to Karuizawa. Popular with Japanese, Karuizawa is one of the most popular resort towns in the country, known for its cool climate, shopping and dining, excellent accommodation and as a convenient access point to Joshnietsu Kogen National Park. Karuizawa Station is a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Nagano and onto Kanazawa on the north coast. Our ’25 Things To Do Around Karuizawa & Where To Stay’ page lists some of the many attractions and activities on offer.
30 / NAGANO CITY / all year round
Finally, for visitors heading to and from Shiga Kogen, there’s a good chance you’ll be making the journey via Nagano City. As the nearest major city and train station to Shiga, Nagano is both a convenient and entertaining destination to enjoy while in the area. Home to Zenko-ji, one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Japan, the forest shrines and mountain ninjas of Togakushi and the samurai town of Matsushiro, there’s plenty of reason to stop and enjoy Nagano as you move to and from Shiga. Our ’40 Things To Do Around Nagano & Where to Stay’ page is a great place to start when planning that visit.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING SHIGA KOGEN?
As Japan’s largest ski resort, Shiga Kogen can be hard to get your head around, especially for first time visitors! Comprising of eighteen ski areas, all but two are connected, allowing skiers and boarders to move between one area to the next and in total, an expansive area of terrain. Our ‘Where To Stay In & Around Shiga Kogen’ page details the main accommodation areas within the resort and a couple of options nearby including the historic hot spring towns of Kanbayashi Onsen, Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen.
SHIGA KOGEN SKI RESORT: THE STATS & FACTS
As Japan’s largest and highest ski resort, Shiga Kogen boasts Nagano’s longest season and mot reliable snow conditions. An expansive resort covered by a common, all-mountain pass, Shiga is the perfect destination for visitors wanting to enjoy a multi-day ski or snowboard adventure at one of Japan’s best resorts. Our ‘Shiga Kogen Ski Resort’ main page has all the stats, facts and highlights to entice you to plan and book your winter getaway.
JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Did you know that Shiga Kogen is just one of the more than eighty ski resorts in Nagano and more than five hundred in Japan? Needless to say, when you choose Nagano for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice! Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN, FAQs and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.
HOW TO GET TO SHIGA KOGEN
Visitors heading to the resort can do so using express bus services or drive yourself, with many travellers also choosing to take the train as far as Yudanaka Station – the nearest train station to the resort, from where local buses and taxis will run you to Shiga Kogen in around 30 to 60-minutes depending on where in the resort you are staying. For detailed information, see our ‘How To Get To Shiga Kogen – Nagano Ski Resorts Info’ page.
BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR
Locally-based and operating all year round, Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We have the local knowledge of where and when to go, to help you discover and enjoy the region’s many ski resorts and other fantastic destinations and activities.
For guests wanting to access the resorts in the comfort of their own transport, we can arrange a private tour or charter customised to fit your needs, starting and ending at any destination including from/to Nagano Station and any resort in the region. Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations in combination with any activity that suits your schedule.
All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.
We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2022 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.
Got a question about visiting Shiga Kogen? Click on the INQUIRY button below or contact us and let’s get planning together!