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  1. Peter Nakasato

    Is Kusatsu (Gunma) still open?

    Hi! By 'still open' I mean in general (not just for this season). I hear there was a volcanic eruption nearby so wondering what went next? We'll be fairly close by next winter. Thanks
  2. Hello Good to meet you Anyone here know the ski hills in Minakami well? We want to know which might be the best place for a young family with beginner kids. We're interested in the playing in the snow activity thing as much as skiing. Thank you.
  3. Chris bell

    Marunuma Kogen mid season

    I’m curious about Marunuma Kogen, in Gunma. https://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resorts/marunuma-kogen Anyone been there? I know it is popular early and late season, but how about mid season? It doesn’t look that convenient by public transport, so presumably many go by car. Any thoughts?
  4. Helen P

    Minakami options

    Hi Last year we went to Minakami in summer and loved it. Not been in winter yet but wondering what people thought about places. We are fairly decent intermediate skiers, usually staying on or at lease close to courses and groomers. Was looking at Hodaigi or Okutone.
  5. Accommodation Information on Iwakura Resort Hotel in Katashina, Gunma can be found here: https://www.snowjapan.com/japan-places-to-stay/gunma/katashina/iwakura-resort-hotel
  6. Accommodation Information on Tenjin Lodge Minakami in Minakami, Gunma can be found here: https://www.snowjapan.com/japan-places-to-stay/gunma/minakami/tenjin-lodge-minakami
  7. Accommodation Information on Hoshi Onsen Chojukan in Minakami, Gunma can be found here: https://www.snowjapan.com/japan-places-to-stay/gunma/minakami/hoshi-onsen-chojukan
  8. Accommodation Information on Chalet la neige in Minakami, Gunma can be found here: https://www.snowjapan.com/japan-places-to-stay/gunma/minakami/chalet-la-neige
  9. Resort Spotlight The Resort Spotlight for the White World Oze Iwakura resort in Katashina, Gunma Prefecture can be found here: https://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resorts/white-world-oze-iwakura
  10. Hello all snow Japaners, it is great to see the forums firing up again in anticipation of the coming season. I have moved to Tokyo from Niigata (where I got into skiing) and I am looking to maintain the habit while living in Tokyo. At the first sign of cooler weather, I started clicking around the numerous sites offering bus/train package deals from Tokyo. I found one deal, 初すべり 11月限定日出発 (first ski, November departure) with tickets to Marunuma Kogen in Gunma, starting on November 22nd. What is the chance of the resort even being open at that time, even partially? Are they using artificial snow there? This year they are claiming a pretty impressive park, I wonder how much of that terrain they will be able to build so early in the season. You can see the snow park layout on the pdf downloadable from their site. I just had a click around Kagura and they are hoping to get the lifts moving on November 22nd with a full open (Tashiro area) scheduled for December 7th. I seem to recall them putting the same dates up last season but I believe that things didn't actually get going until about a week after that. I remember because it was my first slide last season. Also, other than Marunuma and Kagura, does anyone else have any early season favourites in the Yuzawa/Minakami or even Nagano areas?
  11. Looking for budget accommodation near White World Oze. Looks like not much up there, other than the pricey resort hotel.... Has anyone stayed at or know of any cheap pensions nearby?
  12. I have had my eye on today since earlier this week as it was always looking like it would clear up and be fab weather. The question was.... where to go. I found myself on the Kanetsu this morning going over to Minakami and the fantastically awesomely beautiful surroundings of Tanigawa, along with the always annoying ski-jo that is Tanigawadake Tenjindaira. I'll put the rant in spoilers, as lots of it is similar to last year. And the year before. But it needs to be said! So, fantastic blue skies this morning. Lots of 'ants' walking up the mountain. Yes, it's just beautiful up there. In no particular order, all taken from within the skijo area.
  13. Bushiman

    Oze Iwakura White World

    Having spent the last 10+ years riding your typical big/popular resorts in Nagano/Niigata/Hokkaido, this season I fancied a change... Pre-season I'd spent a good long while looking at Google Earth, and topographical maps searching for the kind of resort I like... Something a long the lines of Hakuba Cortina. For any of you that have ridden at Cortina, you'll know that the whole resort centers around a large bowl with everything (pretty much) funneling down to one run in the middle. No traverse ins/outs. Steep. Trees. Perfect.... Only problem is that over the last 3years, Cortina has become the Mecca for powder hounds from home & abroad and the resort is too small to deal with this influx of new customers. I went this season in early FEB and got maybe 8 lines in the entire day due to queues for lifts!? Shocking. /rant Anyway, my search was on... That search led me to Oze Iwakura 'White World'. From the satalite images/topo map it looked perfect. One giant bowl. Steep. Trees. Perfect... I googled photos of the resort, and was instantly keen to give the place a whirl. Now, I needed winter to turn up and the opportunity to go.... That opportunity came thanks to a SnowJapan giveaway! The week prior to going it rained... Pretty much everywhere... So my expectations weren't high, even though I knew that region of Gunma had been forecast snow... My buddy NECK & I headed off early that morning full of anticipation, and after 3hrs, rocked up into the carpark just before 10am where we met Gunma Boarder -who had provided us with lots of useful info on the SJForums... It was snowing... It was getting heavier.... We hopped on the shuttle bus that took us the 5mins from carpark to resort, and jumped in the (single!?) line for tickets. That took a while. Then onto our first lift up the mountian... Potential tree lines everywhere! I was hyped indeed -especially as I couldn't make out a single track in any of it, and it was gone 10am!? First line. Steep. Bottomless. Tight trees. Easy in, easy out. Perfect. Second line. Steep. Bottomless. Tight trees. Ridge line. Gully. Amazing. Third line. Steep. Tight trees. Bottomless. Cliffs. No patrol. Big smiles all round! Rinse & repeat... We explored a bunch of areas, safe in the knowledge that eventually we'd get spat out somewhere inbounds thanks to the bowl layout. The one and only piste line we did all day (the Milky Way,) was, er... good!? Hahaha! We only rode it to scope some more trees, but the piste itself was fairly wide, open, long, with mild gradient -perfect for beginners... For those of you into riding piste, I did note that they actually closed off Champions Course A&B during lunch and re-groomed them for the afternoon... Lunch was decent, cheap and just off the main piste halfway down. What impressed us was that they had two large heating stoves in the restaurant with plenty of coat-hangers, pegs and hooks so everyone could de-layer and get things dried before heading back out. After lunch, thanks to it absolutely puking fat chunks of snow, our tracks had filled... We rode till almost last lifts, and only then did patrol come have a word... Unfortunately for him, we'd had the most epic day and were just leaving so threatening to take our tickets was met with much laughter! Hahaha... Poor chap. It kind of flummoxed him, and he skied off muttering angrily to himself.... Conclusion: I wish White World was closer than 3hrs away...
  14. Got up early this morning and was out by 6:30am, destination White World Oze Iwakura in Katashina, Gunma. Got on the always-popular Kanetsu Expressway at Shiozawa Ishiuchi and got off at Numata IC. Negotiated the rather busy Route 120 in Numata area, then was interested to see the new tunnel connecting Numata with the Katashina area. It really does cut a chunk off the journey which is nice to see. Photos at the bottom here. My house to White World was just under 90 minutes. White World is an interesting place. I agree with lots of what Gunma Boarder said in his review here: http://www.snowjapan...ews/detail/1982 (I'll write my own sometime later). Blue skies looking up to the resort, hazy in lots of other directions (though not as funky hazy as it was when I returned to Minamiuonuma this afternoon). Snow was... well, I was a bit disappointed. It was snowing a bit yesterday there I believe and I was expecting to get lots of lovely cruising groomed runs in early morning. But they didn't seem to have bothered with the grooming at all. No corduroy that I could find. And it wasn't soft, my knees were taking some load there on the long cruising runs. The lift system is not obvious here. I made a few mistakes early on even though I have been here before a few years ago. Worth studying the map before going. Even when I know them though, it's a bit disjointed but that's hardly unique in Japan! There's also a few lifts over the back that they have discontinued since 3.11 and they don't look like they'll be moving again anytime soon. But I quite like lots of the courses here, and would have liked them better if there was more fresh snow and it had been groomed. (I wanted a groomed morning). Also had a kebab. Though forgot to take a pic of that, before I knew it it was gone! Mister Donuts at Numata on the way home. I quite like it here, though I'm not sure I'll be making the journey much. The tunnel on the Numata side.... ...and on the Katashina side... Old road just about visible in both. Looking very lonely!
  15. We headed off on Friday night for a weekend at Kusatsu, or more accurately two nights at Kusatsu with one days skiing at Kusatsu and one day at Kagura. The trip up got off to a slow start due to an accident on the expressway, and we weren't even on the Kan-etsu. Eventually we got out of Tokyo and after a smooth run up the Kan-etsu made it to Kusatsu. One again was a bit disappointed with the amount of snow on the drive in. Although there were large piles of snow around from the big dumps recently it was pretty obvious that no new snow had fallen since. The weather reports were forecasting snow for Saturday afternoon and night, so I was hoping for at least an afternoon with good snow. Rika and I got up early Saturday, drove the couple of minutes to the base and after purchasing a family ticket ( 6,000 yen for one adult and one child, saves 1,200 yen) we were on the lifts by 8:45. A couple of laps round the bottom area were followed by a trip up lift 6 to the middle of the mountain and a run back down to the bottom. The snow was icy and hard, nothing new had fallen for a long time, the surrounding hills were pretty bare, and there was a distinct lack of snow covered trees. It didn't help that visibility was bad, could only see about 50 metres in front, fortunately both Rika and I know the lower slopes of Kusatsu well enough that 50 metres was enough. Rika decided she wanted to have a lesson so got that arranged. <rant> Rika is 6, and although she has only skied for 8 days total is a good skier, has no problems coming down intermediate runs, and likes climbing the sides of banks and skiing down. But, because she isn't at elementary school yet she is in the kids class. At Kusatsu this seems to mean no matter how good the kid is, all they are taught is how to do snow plough turns. If I'd know this before we would have spent the morning skiing together.</rant> Once Rika started her lesson at 10 I headed up the mountain. At the bottom gondola station remembered I hadn't started the ski tracks app on my phone. Did that and up the gondola I went. Going up the top lift, lift 10, showed how little snow there is at the moment. Last year the run under lift 10 was an ungroomed powder run, this year it's closed off with bare ground showing though. I lapped the gondola a couple of times before heading down to the base. The run down from the top of lift 10 to the base, is long, and fun. Possibly because of the snow conditions, or maybe because of the visibility but the top of the mountain wasn't busy, most of the people there were down the bottom half. This makes the run down a bit of a slalom once you hit the beginner slopes. this was also the only place I crashed and burned. Turning to avoid a boarder that had just fallen over I caught my ski on a hard icy piece of snow and took a big tumble. Three days later the bruise on my chest is still sore. After Rika's lesson was over we met up with Mami and James. While James was showing me how he could sled down the kids sled run Rika decided that instead of skiing with me for the afternoon she was going to go to the hotel pool with Mami and James. So after taking James sleding on the big sled run, and watching him eat an ice cream (I wasn't allowed to leave till it was finished) I headed off up the mountain again, and the others took the car back to the apartment to go for a swim. I spent the rest of the afternoon alternatively lapping the gondola, and lifts 9 and 10. For once managed to time it right and got on lift 10 a couple of minutes before it closed. But this did mean that every other lift at the top was shutting, got down to base in time to go up lift 4 just before it shut, but that was it. By this time only lift 1 and 3 were open and the queues at each were too long for me. Despite the promise of afternoon snow it never appeared, got a little bit of rain, but no snow. there were occasional breaks in the mist/fog so I was able to get a few nice photos. Overall it was a nice day. the snow could have been better, actually it should have been much better given the time of year. The other thing about the day was how warm it was. I usually ski with three layers, two Uniqlo heat tech and one cotton, under a Colombia fleece jacket zipped into a Colombia outer shell. Today I had on only once inner layer, and the under arm vents in the outer shell open, and it was still warm. Not much snow on the surronding hills Looking back at lift 9 from the main run The view forward, taken from same spot as previous photo Checking out the steepest bit of the main run down Wider view of previous photo Top of lift 7 Is snow meant ot look like this, part of lift 7 in background Exiting lift 8 Exiting lift 6, the closed mountain road can be seen in the middle of the photo. This is the first year, in the three years I've been going to Kusatsu that I've seen the tar seal of parts of the closed road while going up the gondola. the lack of snow was also apparent went going up lift 6, what in previuos years I assumed was large piles of snow, turns out were very large rocks, there goes my plan for getting of the lift if it ever stopped by jumping into a big snow pile. Last year I was at Kusatsu the same weekend, and the year before, one weekend before, so for the same time of year the snow coverage has gotten worse each year, Can't see much There were brief periods during the day when it cleared a bit Lift 9 Heading down under lift 9 This view from lift 9 shows two of the three ways the main run splits at the top. They all join up above the bottom gondola station. The bottom run in the photo avoids the steep section shown in photos above. No snow covered tree photos for this report, none to be seen anywere. Entrance to lift 6 Base from lift 1 another view of base from lift 1 Stats from Ski tracks (not started 10:30, I forgot) Max speed 46.9km/h avg 12.9 Ski distance 34.6 km, ascent 23.9km Ski vertical 4406m, ascent 4076 Max alitude 2177m, min 1274 12 runs 06:27:23 duration
  16. White World Oze Iwakura, what a place! I have lived in Gunma for 5 winters now and this is the first time I have gone to this wonderful ski resort. I can't believe I didn't go earlier! In the town of Katashina between Mt. Hotaka and Oze National Park lies a hidden gem off the international radar. The ski resort encompasses a fairly large area but has only 16 courses leaving a lot of area open for people who want to venture into the trees. I have written a review of Iwakura on the main site for all types of riders so in this report I will be focusing on the ridding I did over my last two trips. I was so engulfed in the boarding that I didn't take many of the pictures I was meaning to take! Lucky for us all Muikabochi did a great job capturing the beauty of Iwakura on his recent thread. http://www.snowjapan...-february-2014/ My first trip to Oze Iwakura was on Febuary 9th, 2014. It was after a heavy snow but not the snowpacalypse we had the following weekend. The drive up was beautiful and faster than I was expecting. Iwakura has a large parking lot which was already 15% full at 8:15 a.m despite the expressways being closed. I caught a shuttle bus to the ticket counter and then headed for the gondola. The gondola seems to be very popular and doesn't have any place for snowboards and my 163 barley fits! After a tight but scenic ride up the gondola I rode down the side of course 15 getting a feel for the pow. It definitely passed the test and left me hungry for more! after riding two lifts to get to the top of course 16 on the back side of the hill I rode the tree line on the right side of the course (when facing downhill). Later in the day people even rode under the lift. It was a sunny morning but by the time I got my camera out it had clouded over a bit. Here are a couple lines coming down under the lift. What I rode for my first run down this lift was between the lift and the course. It was a nice run through well spaced trees but left me wanting something a bit longer as you have to go back to the course about half way down. I liked this fantasy natural rail beside the lift. Didn't get around to hitting it though After this run I moved over to the forest between run 16 and 15 which is best accessed from the lift beside run 16. I started by dipping in only a little but later dropped into the valley below which is fast on the drop in followed by a natural pipe and a semi technical exit. On my first trip there was a fallen tree blocking the bottom of the valley which could be ridden over but could also have created problems if someone hit it wrong. The second time I went, which was after the snowpacalypse, this tree just looked like a big bump in the valley. Always be careful when ridding off-piste Over the next 3 or 4 hours I hit this valley from many angles. I even started traversing to the next smaller valley over to see some new lines. The whole area was great and always lead back to the bottom of the lift! over 90% of the vertical between top and bottom can be ridden in the trees with no walking out! This was the best picture I got of the bottom of this valley. The exit is just visible at the bottom of the picture. The white face you can see at the top was also ridable but was ice the first time I went and had some exposed rocks the second. I mostly used it as a traverse line to get to the next valley over which you can kind of make out on the middle left side of the picture. From the top of the lift you head over towards the gondola and the lift which accesses run 10 and 15 here is what you see. This is a pic of the entrance point. Things open up after that for most of the runs. Here is a view of the forest and my traverse line from the lift beside the gondola which accesses run 10 and 15. Things were tight in spots but the drops were good. I rode these trees until about 1:30 when hunger started to compete with my drive to snowboard more. I decided to head for a restaurant. On the way back I decided to ride down the 40 degree slope that drops back towards the bottom of the resort. Coming from the back side you have to walk (much longer than I was expecting) to get there. Seeing the run already carved up pretty good I decided to hit the trees just beside the run. Here is my drop in. It is pretty steep but the trees are well spaced. Later in the day this run scared me a bit. I was going too fast for my tired legs and almost hit a tree! Be very careful. The drop in is really fast and if you don't cut out quick enough you come to a cliff. Dipping too far in also seems to lead to a difficult to get out of valley. After lunch I hit all the runs mentioned before while taking pictures. It was a really good day! I went back to Iwakura on Febuary 23rd, 2014 for another go. I hadn't brought my snowshoes with me the previous trip and there were some places I wanted to try but was worried about the ride out. I made it to the parking lot around 8:30 and it was already filling up quickly. I caught the shuttle bus to the front of the resort and decided to head for the 40 degree wall. There was a forest run between course 7 and 5 which I really wanted to try and equiped with my snowshoes on my back, I was ready to give it a go. It turned out to be one of the best forest runs I have ever ridden! Depending on the angle you hit it anywhere between 85% and 97% of the vertical of the lift can be ridden in the trees! Probably around 750 meters to a kilometer of trees on each run. I spent my whole morning dropping in from different spots. There are three small upper valleys which pour into one at the bottom just below the lift. There were long open stretches, natural jumps, beautiful trees and the snow was great! The ride out also wasn't a problem. I hit this forest maybe 10 times before breaking for lunch and every line was unique This picture taken by Muikabochi sums up my morning. I had wanted to get a good picture of it but got a little tired and forgot that I hadn't! Thanks for covering for me Muika The forest I rode all morning is between the two runs on the left of the picture. The lift runs just beside the run on the right and you can drop into the forest along the top of course number 5. I started towards the left and worked my way towards the lift as the morning progressed. In this picture you can also see the steep tree line I hit on the previous day which is to the right of the course in the middle of the picture. This area has more dangerous aspects (small cliffs and difficult valleys) than the area to the left of the course. A beautiful shot which sums up one of the best mornings of snowboarding I have ever had! After lunch I decided to try the backcountry run which is accessed by walking up the ridgline above course 16. There are some closed course which I saw people riding on my previous visit which looked like fun. Here is a shot of Mt. Shirane and Maranuma Kogen from the beginning of the hiking course. Walking up the ridgline I was surprised to find the path already well packed by previous climbers. I wasn't surprised other people were climbing but more by how well packed the snow was. The mystery soon was solved as I saw a group of maybe 12 people walking up the ridgeline. They turned out to be a backcountry tour group that was surprised to see me and at my level of Japanese. The tour guides were also really nice! I highly recomend doing a tour in this area. This is a shot of a tree still covered with the snow from the giant storm the previous week. I climbed a little higher than this and got some shots of the surrounding mountains. These fantasy lines were getting me exited. To bad they don't go anywhere easy to get out of........... Here's one with Tokura in it. This was my drop point. The evergreens didn't last long. It was mostly like the trees pictured early in this thread. An amazing BC line though. A long drop through a beautiful forest and into a magestic valley that was amazingly silent. Towards the bottom the valley started to get a bit dangerous looking so I decided it was time to walk out over a small hill. I later saw the BC tour group emerge from the forest above me. They seem to know how to avoid the walk out I really wish I had taken some pics while walking out can't really think why I didn't........ Maybe I was a little worried I had ridden too far After that I rode the trees I had ridden the previous day and then being completely exhausted, called it a day. One of the best days of boarding I have ever had
  17. Won a ticket to White World (thank you SJ!) and am thinking to go this weekend with NECK as the forecast is for more snow there than Hakuba!? My question is.... Do they open the resort on big snow days? Do lifts eventually open if they have to spend time clearing, or is the day a write off? Did they open this last weekend with the big snow? I live 2hrs away, so it would suck fairly hard if we got there and it was a no go.... Thanks for any info!
  18. I had no intention of climbing a mountain when I set off for Kawaba on the beautiful midweek national holiday we had last Tuesday. In my mind I imagined myself maybe snowshoeing up from the top of the quad lift to get a nice fresh line but that was about it. Things changed when I came to the ticket counter to buy my six pack of one lift tickets. The girl at the desk noticed the snowshoes on my back and said “ハイキングするつもりですね。そこに行ってハイキングの申込書を書いてください。 (Your going hiking aren’t you. Please go over there and fill out the form for hiking). Having been to Kawaba countless times with snowshoes and never having filled out a form I was caught off guard. “ハイキングしません。スノーシューと滑ることは練習だけです。” (I was trying to say I am just practicing riding while carrying snowshoes but I said it a bit strangely). “ちょっと待ってください”(Please wait a sec).  Enter the girl potentially hired for her English abilities. “What course are you planning on hiking” This was actually said a bit strangely but I got the gist. “I’m not planning on hiking I’m just carrying the snowshoes to practice riding with them.” That blank look people have when they have no idea what you just said. “You have snowshoes, you are hiking right? Where are you going?” Something gives in in my brain and I decide to just go with the flow. “Yes I’m hiking. I want to climb the mountain.” She helps me fill out the form and I am given a ticket to be returned later. Nice to know they look after the hikers! Riding the lift towards the top of the mountain I was feeling a bit Schizophrenic. “Why did I come here again? I guess I’m climbing a mountain today. This should be interesting.” At the top of the quad lift I put on my snowshoes and set out on my journey. Plowing through the deep snow after 100 meters I was already feeling it, but the powerful rock wall to my left served as my energy source. The route up the mountain is on the left side of this beast. I love trees! The skies this day where some of the clearest I have ever seen. In the distance you could see the Yatsugatake and the South Alps! Mt.Asama in the forground was also stunning. You can also see some hikers who benifited from me going first coming up behind me They returned the favor shortly after. I loved this guys snowshoes! This last pic doesn't show how steep it was. This next one does. I was "fully prepared".... to walk up an easy hill and snowboard down. I only almost fell once Everyone else had crampoons and ice axes, I had snowshoes and a snowboard. If I do it again, I will come better prepared. Climbing up I was loving the trees! These ones weren't to shabby either. Tree spirits! Mt. Sukai Mt. Nikko Shirane above Marunuma Kogen seen between some peaks of Mt. Hotaka After climbing the rock face you come to a small sharp peak. After climbing the peak and seeeing the rest of the mountain in front of me I decided I probably shouldn't go any farther with my lack of gear. Here are the more prepared climbers heading for the peak. And one with the whole mountain in the background. One of the hikers said I had already done the hardest stuff, but also wanting to snowboarding and being satisfied with the hike, I decided to turn around. The views from my little peak where pretty good! Here is Tanigawa and Naeba. And another shot of Shirane This line of the peak was looking amazing. You can't really make out the mandatory 5 meter air. The only problem is it leads to nowhereland. After a long time taking in the beauty of the mountains I head back for the skijo. Going down I did a little boarding to avoid climbing down the steep stuff. Instead of going straight back I climbed a mini peak from which you can see my climb and my descend. The main line is the hiking line and the less visibly track is my snowboarding line. After climbing the peak I rode down and climbed the next peak over to do what I had originally intended to do. Here are my ultra cool lines coming off the two mini peaks the far left line by its self is mine along with the far right. Did I mention I love trees! This is from a nice little grove on the approach to the far left peak I rode down in the previous pic. I just like this shot A skier heading off into the valley next to the skijo for some BC. A beautiful valley it is! My whole adventure summed up in one photo! The highest peak I climbed in the background with the the first mini peak and my line in front taken from the second mini peak I climbed. My legs were starting to feel like jelly Another great day at Kawaba Skijo with an unexpected new twist!
  19. I did a little snowshoeing at Kawaba today. Really amazing weather. The snow was also pretty good. My best day of riding so far! Mt. Fuji at about 6X I hiked a mini mountain to get some views you can't see from the resort. I put my snowshoes on under this beautiful tree. A couple of shots from my hike up. Mt. Naeba is in the background and Tanigawa is closer but I was really enjoying the ridge on the right. The next few are some close-ups. Those three were close-ups of ridge line. Here is a close-up of Mt. Naeba. Not quite the same as from Kaguragamine, but still nice. The amazing rock face you can see from the resort as well as the peak of Mt. Hotaka behind it. I saw someone riding down from the peak and snapped some photos of them. They are at about 7X Mt. Sukai. Great place for hiking! Mt. Asama and other distant mountains
  20. Beautiful weather from early on this morning both here in Minamiuonuma and also over in Gunma. So I was off to one of my favourite skijos for photos - Tanigawa Tenjindaira in Minakami, Gunma. About 50 minutes drive from where I live. Beautiful clear blue skies. Got on the Gondola at 6am and arrived at the top at 9am. Just kidding. Took some knitting to amuse myself on the ride up. Had a bit of a panic when I was trying to get a shot just beyond a rope. Bending down and my camera bag was open. 2 lens roll out of bag and one of them starts going down a rather steep area. I thought it was a gonner. Went into a bit of a panic and lost my balance in this rather dangerous position. Luckily I didn't slip in the wrong place and luckily the lens stopped and so I was just about able to rescue it. But it took a while to get composure back, pretty scary. You'll see one some of those photos people hiking up. Must say, the thought scares me. I'll just take photos of them! Totally stunning place. I think I said that last year. I just love the scale of the scenery. Unfortunately scaling photos down to small jpgs really takes away lots of the impact of this place. Check out all the 'little people'! Here's a couple larger ones that SJ kindly said ok. http://www.snowjapan.com/e/tenjina.jpg http://www.snowjapan.com/e/tenjinb.jpg If you want to see any others "bigger" let me know which one and I'll save it bigger. In no particular order (sorry so many, need to get some work done!)
  21. onehunga

    Manza Onsen

    I visited Manza Onsen on Saturday 16 Feb. I decided to go for a number of reasons, it's close to Kusatsu where I was staying, a couple of people mentioned it when I did a trip report last year for Kusatsu and the PDF on Manzas English web site mentions an area only open on Saturdays and holidays, which sounded good for some untouched snow. The drive from Kusatsu takes about an hour, unfortunately in winter the only access is via a toll road, at 1020 yen each way it makes the day a bit expensive. The weather was, well shit, snowing heavily with limited visibility and very cold. The cold is why I have no photos to liven up this text. It was just to bloody cold to stop, take off my gloves, goggles and glasses to use a camera. NOTE: please bear in mind when reading about the resort the number 17 and the word days. ie 17 days, thats not the number of days I've skiied this month, not the number of days this season, it's the number of days I've skiied ever. So the little voice in the back of your head should keep repeating, "he's an absolute beginner, what does he know" According to the Manza website (can be reached via http://www.snowjapan...il.php?resid=60), "Manza Onsen is the place. With a base at 1,800 meters, this is one of Japan’s highest resorts and boasts amazing quality snow". There certainly was some amazing snow there on Saturday, I just wish some of it wasn't all over me and filling up the inside of the car every time I opened a car door. The map below is from the English version website, Compare it with the Japanese trail map I picked up at Manza (yes it's a cheese photo as well) On the Japanese trail map the whole Asahiyama side doesn't exist, one of the reasons I went not happening, I thought the Kumashiro trail looked like a good option for a nice ride. Not sure why that side wasn't open, but I couldn't find any evidence of the start of the trail, dispite spending most of the day skiing the Manzayama trail. The visibility though out the day varied from none to almost none, so I can't say much about views or even what the buildings look like. I parked at the bottom ski center, there is a ticket office and ski school, along with a small shop, all in an area no larger than my lounge, downstairs is a small (bathroom sized) change area, a couple of lockers and toilets. There is meant to be a rental place there as well, but I never saw it. One building over is a Resturant, with what looked like the patrol base underneath. The english map shows two other, the japanese one other places to get tickets, if the visibility was better I might have seen the one at the bottom of the manzayama trail, but all I saw was some vague building shapes. From the base you can ski either down to a pair lift or across to a hooded quad. From the top of the quad it was flat across to another pair lift. There was in fact a large flat area there with a resturant out to the right. (nice toilets, spent a lot of time there unfogging my goggles and glasses. I would ride the manzayama trail for three laps, then head over and down to unfog. There was a building with a toilet at the bottom of the manzayama, but it seemed smoking was allowed inside, only went in once and the place stank, didn't return). The flat area made coming down a pain, as you needed to pole across or unclip. From the top of the pair lift you had the choose of coming straight down, or heading over to the right to go down to the bottom of another pair lift ie down the Manzayama trail. This is where I spent most of the day, coming right off the Manzayama pair lift and heading down. the trail appeared to have been groomed only in the middle, leaving knee high powder on both sides. There weren't many people over here, in fact I had the runs to myself most of the day, while the runs that headed down from the top of pair lift 5 where crowded. It appeared that the grooming of all the trails, except Prince trail, had been done only in the middle, leaving lots of powder to the sides. When I eventually gave up, due to my goggles and glasses fogging, at 4:00 there was still large bits of untouched powder beside the manzayama trail. Probably untouched because noone could see it. I thing I did discover is that going from a groomed icy run into knee deep powder at speed is a perfect way to test how good your helmet is What little I actually saw of the resort was good. There are some nice runs, although a few too many flat areas, tree run 4 was good at the top, but as it looped back towards the main area was almost flat, lots of poling, and all the boarders were unclipping. Overall Manza is a nice place, had great snow when I was there, but the cost of the toll road, and the distance it is from the express way counts againest it. It's a Prince resort, so kids under 12 ride free, which might offset the toll enough to make the trip worthwhile, especially if you are there for a couple of days.After a decent snow fall there would be enough there to keep most people happy for a couple of days.
  22. Marunuma Kogen I won a lift ticket last year for White World Ose Iwakura. But I had already written a resort review a few years ago and did not feel that it needed to be updated. Instead, I offer this review of Marunuma Kogen, which boasts of Gunma-ken “super fine snow.” Executive Summary Marunuma Kogen is a medium size resort in Gunma prefecture, perhaps one of the more popular ones. It has a bit of something for everyone, including a terrain park, mogul bahn, and a kids play park, the only thing lacking may be some more advanced terrain. There is even an onsen (hot springs) at the base of the ski area, a perfect way to end the day. The top of the Ropeway offers a fine view of Mount Nikko Shirane on clear days. Trails and Lifts The resort has 13 named ski trails, with the longest run 4 km., steepest pitch 32 degrees, and vertical 610 (from 2000 to 1390 meters). The runs are (un)imaginatively named with colors of the rainbow, Gold, Silver, Rose, Cobalt, Green, Violet, Yellow, Red, Orange and Blue, except for 2 trails, Shirane and Karakura. There are 8 lifts (a couple of them are not operating), most of them pair lifts, with a couple of “super twin” which is Japanese speak for detachable chairlift. There is also a single chair, Lift No. 7, which is only operated on the weekends and national holidays. The Nikko Shiranesan Ropeway is an 8 person gondola that goes to the top of the mountain at 2000 meters. The lift ticket is an IC card which is used to open the automated gates, and moreover, to capture information that can be seen using the Skiline App or online, just make sure to get the number off the card before returning it to get the 1,000 yen deposit back. Beginners For novice or learning skiers, the Blue course serviced by No. 4 pair lift is the place to be, since it is ski only and snowboarders are not allowed. It is a maximum of 13 degrees and average 9 degrees. The Red course off towards the left side is also a nice area for beginners, in order to get to this, it requires a little skating or walking from the top of Lift No. 1. Also since it is out of the way, it is not so crowded, and is a steady 11 to 8 degrees. Although Karakura and Rose runs are marked green on the trail map, they are a little more intermediate, and good cruising runs. Intermediates The sweet spot of the resort is the abundance of intermediate terrain including some nice long cruisers. You can go from the top of the mountain all the way to the bottom for a total distance of 4 kilometers via Karakura and Rose. Or, start with the more advanced runs such as Shirane (maximum 30/average 13 degrees) and Silver (32/17) then cruise on Cobalt (15/10) and Red (11/8) or through the park on Orange (14/9) down to the base. Advanced For advanced skiers and snowboarders, the only way to get to the advanced trails and the top is by the Ropeway (gondola). The challenging terrain would be the bottom part of the Shirane course or Silver. They are marked as max. 30 and 32 degrees, respectively, but are probably flatter, towards the average of 13 and 17 degrees. There is a mogul bahn on the right side of the Chuo lift, as well as a pole course on the Gold run. Terrain Park The terrain park has a variety of small to medium features such as kickers, pipes, rails, wide and narrow boxes, even a drum can. Facilities Base Center Center House has an information counter, ticket sales, changing rooms, cafeteria, etc. on the second floor. There is even an onsen (Zazen Spa) next to the rental area on the first floor, the perfect way to end the day. One good point is that there is a separate special changing room on the third floor for bus tours. There is also a free rest area, as well as some rental rooms. Accommodations and Onsen Chalet Marunuma offers accommodation right at the base of the ski resort, and an outdoor open air bath as well as onsen hot springs. They offer some package deals including lodging, meals, and lift tickets. On Mountain Dining - Restaurants At the base of the mountain, Restaurant Plateau is in the main Center House building, cafeteria style dining with various dishes including soft serve ice cream. It has 240 seats. They stop serving drinks at 4 pm so might want to end a bit early to enjoy that draft beer. (Note to self for future visits, since I settled for can beer which is sold in the gift shop.) Kogen no Eki Marunuma with 170 seats is also located at the base, off to the left near Lift No. 1 and the kids park. They have a special kids menu as well as some family tables that can be used for the day for 1,000 yen with advance reservation. In the center of the ski area, Chinese restaurant Dongfang (Tonfuan in katakana) has the usual assortment of ramen as well as some Hokkaido dishes like soup curry. It is located at the bottom of Lift No. 2, and with 530 seats, it would seem that you would be able to get a seat even at peak lunch hour, especially considering quick turnover. Almost exactly at the midpoint of the slopes, near the bottom of Lift No. 8 and 3, is La Foret, with 260 seats. It did not appear to be operating for business although there was a sign that said that it was open to use the toilets. At the top of the ropeway and at 2,000 meters is Shirane, a cafe/restaurant with a cozy 50 seats, only open on weekends and national holidays. There are various cake sets in addition to the Zekkei (marvelous view) lunch. Access Marunuma Kogen resort is located about 40 km. from Numata interchange on Route 120. That makes for a far drive, but other resorts in the area such as Ose Iwakura, etc. are also about 35 km. from the IC. For people staying at Chalet Marunuma, there is a special bus service available only by reservation. Otherwise, the only way to get there is by car or tour ski bus, although there did not seem to be many buses in the parking lot, unlike many other resorts. Parking There are 4 parking lots, including one that gives priority to those with small children (younger than elementary school). I think there is also a fifth lot which is not normally used. The other parking lots are free, but there is a charge for the central parking lot in front of Center House, 500 yen for regular vehicles. Lift Tickets Besides the usual 1 day, Set 1 day (lift ticket, lunch, and soft drink) and half day/half day set lift tickets, they have a 10 hour and 20 hour ticket which is enabled by the function of the IC card. There is also a 3 point ticket (1 lift requires 1 point, or the Ropeway requires 3 points). Monday is Ladies Day and Friday is Seniors Day (over 55 years old) with a special lift ticket, lunch, and soft drink pack for 2,700 yen. There was a “thank you” (39, san kyu, get it?) from January 7 to 18 weekdays for the same set. There is also a Oyako (family) pack for 1 or 2 parent(s) and 2-3 elementary school children (although 1 parent can only have 2 kids) that requires an application form only downloadable from the website. For some reason you cannot get the form at the information counter. Gaijin Friendly? Trail signs are written in English as well as Japanese. But for some reason, Marunuma does not have any English pages on their web site. Other area resorts, such as White World Ose Iwakura even offer Chinese and Korean in addition to English and of course Japanese. I did not see any foreigners at the resort the one Saturday that I visited, but it was also a relatively uncrowded day. Conclusion: Well worth a visit for a day trip!
  23. Plans to go to Zao for a few days fell through, so we decided to make today an excite Gunma day. As Tanigawa is very popular with climbers and autumn colour seekers, we decided to get up really early and get there before the mad crowds arrived. Even getting there at 7:00am, we had to queue for about 15 minutes to get on the Gondola (which actually seemed to be going a bit faster than in winter, thankfully!) We did ok with weather though it wasn't quite as "sunny all day" as the forecast told us. But the sun came out and there were some nice blue skies on and off up there - though some cloudy looking conditions to the south. (It actually turned out that by 2pm, it was completely grey cloud cover over the mountains). Beautiful it was. As can be seen here: It wasn't even 10am by the time we came down and we were sure glad that we went early. When we arrived back at base station, the queue for the Gondola was over an hour long and cars were queueing for well over 1km on the way to the Gondola car park. Yikes! If you go, I highly recommend getting there very early.
  24. Last weekend we made it into a 4 day weekend and headed to Kustatsu to escape the heat. Once you leave the highway there are electronic signs giving the current temperature, it was so nice to see figures starting with a 1. After a day at Toy World for the kids we went halfway up the mountain, (the top was clouded over) and I walked down following the main ski run. The next day we drove to the top, and joined hundreds of others in walking 20 minutes to see the lake that is the source of the onsen water for the town. Below are a few photos. I tried where possible to take the same shot I did in winter to show the difference. Couldn't get exactly the same shot but tried to get as close as possible. Two views of the slope above main base from the carpark Looking down on main base Looking down on the top gondola station Top of lift 4, looking towards lifts 1/2, with lift 6 tucked away bottom right of slope Looking from top of lift 10 to top of lift 11. Note the water in the way. Lift 10 was working during August, taking hikers up to get a head start on the walk to one of the peaks. (was closed when I was there, was a bit of a walk up) Bottom of lift 10 Looking out towards the heli base, carpark for the walk to the lake can be seen in the middle of the photo Looking down from the top Gondola station, intersection with run from lift 10 at the back middle Looking up at bottom gondola station from main run Main run bottom half, lots of rocks Looking up at the bridge over the road, approx half way down bottom half of run Looking from lifts 1/2 to bottom lift 6, top of lift 4 top left of photo Top of mountain and source of all the onsen water. This seemed a very popular spot. There was a steady stream of traffic up and down the mountain, including a large number of tour coachs. The track up was crowded. There would easily have been a hundred people on the track at the same time as we were there. The trip was fun, dipite the lack of snow :-) and well worth it if you want to escape the heat for a while and visit onsens.
  25. Yesterday my photo assistant ( she is very useful to hold and carry the box ) and I went over into Gunma for a bit of a drive. The idea was to go up to Mt Akagi so off we went. Nice clear skies on either side of the Kanetsu tunnel but once into Gunma proper it was rather hazy. Gunma always seems to be hazy when we go, perhaps just not the best of timing. Anyway it didn't turn out to spoil the day at all. Akagi is to the north east of Maebashi city and basically between Maebashi and Numata. We got off the expressway at the Akagi IC and made our way towards the road that goes up the mountain. On the way we came across masses of sakura trees in full bloom and it turned out that it was a very pretty temple in a beautiful setting with a lovely garden and pond as well. It's name is Sangodera 珊瑚寺 (さんごでら) and as I was hoping to get some nice photos today with my new camera I was very excited to find it. Absolutely beautiful it was and the sakura were in full bloom. A bit more contrasty blue sky and it would have been perfect, but we probably picked the best day of the year to walk around Sangodera.


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