The Japan ski and snowboard experience
Some parts of the ‘skiing and snowboarding in Japan’ experience are very different from what people might be used to at other resorts in other countries.
On the slopes, a feature of many resorts here in Japan that may take some getting used to is the constant bombardment of J-Pop (or alternatively 80's UK and US rock-pop) coming from speakers all over the mountain. Some people don’t mind the music, as it is generally light and energetic, however others consider it nothing more than irritating noise that detracts from the experience. Try and think of it as part of the uniqueness of skiing and snowboarding in Japan.
Off the slopes, onsen natural hot springs are popular and should be a part of any day on the slopes. Onsen are a feature of most ski resort towns in Japan, and apparent in the naming of many famous ski towns including places such as Nozawa Onsen in Nagano and Zao Onsen in Yamagata. Onsen are a way of life for many Japanese people, who like nothing better to take away the stresses of everyday life by soaking in a hot steaming bath at the end of a day - something which many foreign residents and visitors to Japan also grow to love. Even better than just taking an onsen is the magic experience of refreshing the tired and aching body in a picturesque snow-surrounded rotenburo (outdoor onsen). With a small towel on your head, of course. And sipping on a glass of beer or a cup of warmed sake (if allowed)…. and looking up at the bright night sky after a hard day pounding the slopes. Taking in the unique feeling of the onsen while on a ski trip is a must for people visiting Japan.
For many Japanese, the skiing or boarding weekend trip is not just about riding the snow - it's also about eating, drinking, having fun with friends or family and the singing karaoke part. It’s all part of the package, and interesting to watch and take part in.
Having said that, many overseas visitors may be disappointed in the relative lack of après-ski scene that they are used to at ski destinations other countries. While this may be changing in some of the popular areas - especially with resort areas that are popular with foreigners - apres-ski is generally not a huge part of the experience here. If you are looking for apres-ski, stick to the most popular and lively resorts.
Most Japanese traditionally people don’t have very long or frequent holidays, so when they do get away they try and pack as much into it as possible. It is often easy to communicate with Japanese people enjoying themselves at a resort - in a hotel, lift, gondola or restaurant, and can be part of the fun of the ski Japan experience. Often, Japanese people are keen to try out the English they have learned and will invite you to join them.
Don't be shocked seeing people drinking multiple cans of beer at 11am and then going straight back out onto the slopes. Just watch out for them when you go back on the slopes, probably best to avoid them!
One of many things that many people love about Japan is the food. If you are on a ski holiday it is no different. Before, during and after spending time on the hill, you can explore the area to find interesting little restaurants and cafés. In a lot of ski areas they have regional specialties such as soba (buckwheat noodles), tempura, udon noodles, oyaki (filled steamed rice cakes) and more. Standard ski resort fare on the mountain is curry and rice, ramen, soba. And of course Asahi or Sapporo draft.