Kita Shiga Kogen
Witness the “sea of clouds” and hit the slopes in Nagano.
Kita Shiga Kogen is an up-and-coming snowy holiday destination, located about 250 kilometers away from Tokyo in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. This area is blessed with beautiful powder snow for great snowboarding and skiing and plenty of snow resorts that are typically lower cost than the other surrounding and more well-known resorts.
But if you make a trip here even in the offseason — yes, it has a summery side, too — you’ll find a wealth of scenery and outdoorsy fun.
Winter fun at Ryuoo Ski Park
Ryuoo Ski Park is best known for having one of the world’s largest ropeway gondolas, which can carry 166 people up to the summit of Mount Ryuoo at 1,930 meters.
Fluffy powder snow up top and spacious beginner terrain down below make Ryuoo Ski Park popular with the locals, though you won’t bump skis with many foreign tourists who are more likely to head to nearby Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen. Skiing and snowboarding are both welcome. In fact, Ryuoo was among one of the first resorts in Japan to allow snowboarding. Night skiing and boarding are great ways to fill the evenings as there’s not much by way of nightlife!
With the Mount Ryuoo summit, named Sora (Sky) Terrace, having such outstanding scenery, the ropeway was made available year-round.
Sora Terrace in the clouds
Witness the natural phenomenon that the Japanese have dubbed unkai, or the “sea of clouds.” After reaching the summit when the conditions are right (usually dry, clear weather), you’ll see the sea of clouds unfolding before you as if you were up in the heavens.
The fantasy-like view is even better if you stick around for the sunset as the light sinks away into the amass of puffy white.
With cool temps at the summit, the Sora Terrace, which also has a cafe, is a highly recommended chill zone during the hot summer seasons.
Spring, fall and summer at Kita Shiga Kogen
While winter is magical in Kita Shiga Kogen, the other seasons provide a variety of other scenic experiences. Guided forest trekking will reveal stunning foliage in autumn. Follow it up by relaxing at Maguse Onsen — an outdoor hot spring bath overlooking Nagano City and the Japanese Alps beyond.
Other activities include fishing in the local ponds and then cooking and eating your fresh catch right after. If that’s not enough, try all-you-can-eat fruit picking that includes blueberries, peaches, cherries, grapes and more, depending on the season.
Don’t miss out on the Japanese pastime of “forest bathing” at Kaya no Taira Kogen, flatlands rich with virgin beech trees that are 200-300 years old. Soba-making is one of the most popular experiences to do in Nagano (a prefecture famous for its delicious soba) and is a fun way to see how this classic dish is made and enjoy a beautiful lunch at the same time.
At the Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art close to Iiyama Station you can learn about the lives of Japanese people during the Showa era through beautifully handcrafted dolls.
T Hotel Ryuoo is a convenient and comfortable base for exploring the Kita Shiga Kogen area. Newly renovated, the hotel boasts western-style rooms and facilities, with a fantastic restaurant overlooking the Nagano mountains.
Leave behind the constraints of city life for the adventurous Kita Shiga Kogen to liven up your cultural experiences in Japan!
This article was sponsored by T Hotel Ryuoo.