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How to Get to the Tohoku Ski Resorts: Bandai, Zao Onsen & Appi Kogen

How to Get to the Tohoku Ski Resorts: Bandai, Zao Onsen & Appi Kogen

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The ski resorts of Hoshino Resorts Alts Bandai, Zao Onsen Ski Resort and Appi Kogen Ski Resort are the best in Tohoku, but lying at distance from Tokyo and each other, it takes a little planning to reach them. On this page you will find the following information:

How to Get to Bandai Ski Resort

How to Get to Zao Onsen Ski Resort

How to Get to Appi Kogen Ski Resort

Moving Between the Resorts

Getting to the Resorts from Nagano & Niigata

Japan Rail (JR) Pass

Renting a Car in Japan

Tohoku Ski Resorts: The Stats & Facts

Japan Ski Resorts: Everything You Need to Know

When planning your visit to any of the Tohoku resorts it’s important to note their distance from starting points such as Tokyo. Of the three resorts listed below, Hoshino Resorts Alts Bandai is the nearest – 290KM to the northeast of the capital – while Zao Onsen Ski Resorts and Appi Kogen Ski Resort are 375KM and 585KM to the north of Tokyo, respectively. Not only do the resorts lie notably further from Tokyo than the resorts of Nagano and Niigata, but they also lie at significant distance to each other.

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Because of this, planning-out your visit and making sure you know how to get to your resort or resorts of choice is essential when heading to Tohoku. Thankfully, Japan’s fantastic rail network including its legendary Shinkansen / ‘Bullet Train’ network makes the journey to each resort as fast as possible and pretty straight-forward (though still a little time-consuming). Should you realise the distances and times to these resorts don’t really appeal to you, we recommend considering the resorts of Nagano or Niigata with are notably faster to get to.

HOW TO GET TO BANDAI SKI RESORT


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Of the three resorts listed on this page, Hoshino Resorts Alts Bandai is the nearest to Tokyo. Approximately 290KM from the capital, Bandai can be reached using services on the Tohoku Shinkansen to Koriyama Station. The journey takes between 75 and 105 minutes (depending on which service you choose) and costs JPY7810 for a non-reserved seat or JPY8340 for a reserved seat. There are many services throughout the day. Once at Koriyama, shuttle buses run to the resort twice a day, departing at 08:15 and 15:20. The journey takes around 80 minutes and costs JPY1000 for adults and JPY500 for children. Advanced booking is required. A total journey time of between 3.5 to 4.5 hours from Tokyo. These train services are covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. The bus service is however not covered by the pass – see below for details.

HOW TO GET TO ZAO ONSEN SKI RESORT


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Located around 375KM from Tokyo, Zao Onsen Ski Resort takes only slight longer to get to than Bandai but many people would argue it’s worth the effort. From Tokyo Station, the Yamagata Shinkansen operates along the Tohoku Shinkansen line for most of the journey before switching onto the Yamagata Line for the final segment of the journey to Yamagata Station. The journey takes between 145 to 175 minutes (depending on which service you choose) and costs JPY11,450 for a reserved seat. All services are reserved seat only and operate multiple times a day. Once at Yamagata Station, buses run to the resort hourly from 06:50 onward until 18:55 (with most services departing at 20 past the hour). The journey takes only 35 to 40 minutes and costs JPY1000 for adults and JPY500 for children. Advanced booking is not required. A total journey time of between 4 to 5 hours from Tokyo. These train services are covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. The bus service is however not covered by the pass – see below for details.

HOW TO GET TO APPI KOGEN SKI RESORT


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Appi Kogen Ski Resort is the furthest of the three resorts from Tokyo, sitting around 585KM to the north of the capital but doesn’t take much longer to get to. To reach the resort from Tokyo Station, take any service on the Tohoku Shinkansen line to Morioka Station. It takes 130 to 215 minutes (depending on which service you choose) and costs JPY15,010 for a reserved seat. All services are reserved seat only and operate multiple times a day. Once at Morioka, buses run to the resort every 1 to 2 hours. The journey takes between 45 yo 60 minutes and costs JPY1150*. A total journey time of 4 to 5 hours depending on the shinkansen service you choose and your connection to a bus service Morioka. These train services are covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. The bus service is however not covered by the pass – see below for details.

Alternatively, from Morioka Station you can use the local JR Hanawa Line to reach Appi-Kogen Station – a journey of 60 minutes / JPY1170. Appi-Kogen is the nearest station at the ski resort but it’s important to note that it’s a small one. The large hotels run free shuttles from the station otherwise there’s an infrequent shuttle operated by the ski resort. If you choose to head all the way to Appi-Kogen Station by train, make sure to check if your hotel operates a shuttle from the station to the resort and arrange to have them pick you up. Hotels typically want you to do this at least three days in advance Taxis are also available but need to be booked in advance. Whatever you do, DO NOT arrive at the station without having already arranged your transport to the resort / your accommodation. While someone is likely to take pity on you and assist, you might have a long wait at a very cold little station while you wait for something to be arranged. In the end, unless you have a reason to make the journey via Appi-Kogen Station, we recommend using the express bus from Morioka Station – a faster, more convenient and more comfortable way to travel.

*The resorts large hotels including Hotel Appi Grand also operate free shuttle services from Morioka for the exclusive use of their guests. You need a reservation at one of the hotels operating a bus and to book your seat with them in advance. Check hotel websites for details.

MOVING BETWEEN THE RESORTS


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Given the distance between the resorts, there is no easy way to move from one to the other. For visitors using public transport, your best option is to backtrack from the ski resort you’re already at to the Tohoku Shinkansen Line and use services operating on the line onto the next resort. Alternatively, renting a car and driving yourself is an option. Hoshino Resorts Alts Bandai and Zao Onsen are the closest to each other – 125KM / 2.5 to 3 hours drive – while Zao Onsen to Appi Kogen lie 300KM / 5 hours apart. Bandai to Appi Kogen are the furthest, lying 400KM / 6+ hours away from each other. For more details about renting and driving, see ‘Renting a Car in Japan’ below.

GETTING TO THE RESORTS FROM NAGANO & NIIGATA


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For visitors wanting to combine a visit to one of the resorts of Tohoku with resorts in Nagano or Niigata, it is possible but will take time. The resorts of these two regions lie even further away and there’s no fast transfer option between them. Whether you are starting from Bandai, Zao Onsen or Appi Kogen or one of the resorts in Nagano or Niigata, your best option will be to take a shinkansen service to Tokyo Station and then switch to the next shinkansen line onto your next ski resort. If so, purchasing a Japan Rail (JR) Pass makes a lot of sense as it will likely save you a lot of money – see below for details. Renting a car and driving yourself is also an option but the drive is likely to be long and tiring, especially so given winter road conditions. Arranging a private charter to transfer you directly between resorts is also an option but given the distance between them, the price is likely to be extremely high and would only be cost effective for large groups traveling together. For more information about the best resorts in regions including Nagano, Niigata and Hokkaido, see our ’30 Best Ski Resorts in Japan’ page.

JAPAN RAIL (JR) PASS


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Covering all 9 shinkansen lines in Japan and many other train services, the JR Pass is a great option for visitors planning to use the shinkansen more than a handful of times and/or travel large distances. Travelers have the option of 7, 14 and 21-day passes covering either Ordinary or Ordinary and Green Cars. The JR Pass allows for use of almost any service on the shinkansen lines at no additional cost but noting that should holders wish to have a reserved seat, they are still required to book a seat at the ticket office (at no additional cost). Please note, that the majority of the train services listed above are reservation only, meaning that even if you have a JR Pass, you will need to go into a JR Ticket Office prior to using the train to reserve a seat. To avoid any delay and missing your train, allow a good amount of time to do this or ideally, do it on a day prior to your intended travel. Most major stations will have English-speaking staff on-hand to assist.

RENTING A CAR IN JAPAN


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As noted above, the most popular Tohoku resorts are spaced over an expansive region and often at distance from each other. Should you only be heading to one resort while in Tohoku, we recommend using the shinkansen and shuttle bus to and from your resort of choice. However if you want to visit two or more resorts, you might want to consider renting your own car. Rental companies including Budget Rent-A-Car, Nippon Rent-A-Car, Nissan Rent-A-Car, Time Car Rental and Toyota Rent-A-Car have numerous outlets across the country. Japan Rail also operates its own rental service – JR Rental Car – with offices at most major train stations and offering discounts to holders of the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. Vehicle types and prices vary by company but prices are competitive.

The process of renting a car in Japan is easy. We recommend booking online prior to arriving in Japan and arranging a vehicle and unless you have decent spoken Japanese, making sure to request a vehicle with English or other foreign language navigation system. To rent a car in Japan, you must:

— be 18 years of age or older,

— and have a valid Japanese drivers license, or

— have a valid drivers license in your home country and a valid international drivers license*

It is important to note that if you do not have a Japanese drivers license, you cannot drive in Japan unless you are also carrying a valid international license – even if you have a valid license in your home country. To obtain one, you will need to apply and have it issued before traveling to Japan. The process and cost varies by country so check with your local/national automotive association for further details. For more information about driving in Japan, see our ‘Moving Around Japan: Using Trains, Buses, Planes or Drive Yourself’ page.

*Nationals of Belgium, Estonia France, Germany, Monaco, Switzerland and Taiwan are not eligible for an international drivers license. Agreement between those countries and Japan means that those nationals can drive in Japan on the drivers license issued in their home country as long as they are also carrying an official Japanese translation of it.

TOHOKU SKI RESORTS: THE STATS & FACTS


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Though they might not be as well-known as the resorts of Nagano, Niigata and Hokkaido, the ski resorts of Tohoku offer some excellent skiing and snowboarding and a different atmosphere to the more developed and international resorts of Japan. Our ‘Tohoku Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know including all the stats and facts about Hoshino Resorts Alts Bandai, Zao Onsen Ski Resort and Appi Kogen Ski Resort.

JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW


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Did you know that the resorts of Tohoku are just some of the hundreds spread throughout 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.