It rarely snows in Tokyo but you can enjoy winter sports in the neighboring areas including Nagano, Yamagata and Gunma. Using bus tours is very handy to get these places. Most of these places are located near hot springs. Enjoy winter sports like local Japanese people do.
Winter sports in Japan
Skiing and ice skating have been the two major activities in Japan. Snowboarding has been also popular since the 1990s. In snowy regions such as Tohoku, Shinshu and Hokkaido, pupils of elementary and junior high school learn skiing and ice skating in P.E. Recently, figure skating competitions have been gaining popularity and the TV programs featuring the world championships mark high television ratings.
For skiing and snowboarding, the areas located within a two-hour drive or train journey from Tokyo are very popular. For example, Minakami Plateau of Gunma, Kiyosato of Yamanashi, Gotemba of Shizuoka and Echigo-Yuzawa of Nigata. Hakuba of Nagano and Zao of Yamagata are a little far away from Tokyo but you can enjoy powdery snow there. They are also known as hot-spring districts. Niseko of Hokkaido where you can enjoy skiing on quality powdery snow is also popular among foreign visitors.
You can enjoy ice skating even in big cities. Ice rinks which open throughout the year are available in several places including Takadanobaba of Tokyo and Yokohama of Kanagawa. Some places open outdoor rinks from December to February. Rental skate shoes are available at those rinks and they often ask people to wear gloves to avoid injury. In most ice rinks, people can only skate in one direction and going against the direction is not allowed. Let's skate while abiding by the rules.
Unique winter sports
Some ski resorts have a dedicated slope for snowmobiles. You can enjoy riding on a dog sled led by Alaskan Huskies in some places in Minakami of Gunma and Hokkaido. People enjoy racing and they offer a trial ride for beginners as well. Besides, you can also enjoy cross-country skiing and Telemark skiing in the middle of nature.
Snow-shoe trekking and backcountry skiing
Snow-shoe trekking is something easy to do for children and elderly people, and you can enjoy the forest covered in snow. Backcountry skiing, in which you climb a mountain carrying your skis on your shoulder and ski down untouched snow rather than ski slopes, is getting popular. Pay extra attention not to lose your way in backcountry skiing.
How to enjoy winter sports in Japan
Ski resorts often offer rental skis and snowboards as well as a set of ski wear. Some ski slopes are exclusive for skiers and snowboarding is not allowed. So you need to make sure of it in advance. Many budget ski bus tours including ski pass, rental ski gear and lodging depart from Tokyo. Some of them leave Tokyo late at night and you can use your time efficiently.