Did you know you can pick up snow camp brochures at your local public library and your kids’ public schools. One highly recommended annual camp is called the Snow Camp in Shinshu. Your kids don’t need to be accompanied at these camps but they need to be able to speak Japanese. If you visit the Snow Camp in Shinshuwebsite it actually features many campsites and nature programmes in Nagano prefecture, and not just snow camps. But the most popular and well known ones are probably the three-day kids-only camps in the Shirouma area. The website is Japanese only, and caters only for families who would like their kids to have more Japanese language exposure or whose kids already speak fluent Japanese. However the camps are considerably cheaper than the ones run for international families. They also offer a variety of snow-related hands on activities, not just skiing. There is usually transportation from a central location.
Living in Japan, you’d have heard time and again about powder snow…but just in case you don’t, the definition of powder snow is simply “freshly fallen, uncompacted snow.” The density and moisture content of powder snow can vary widely. Snowfall in coastal regions and areas with higher humidity is usually heavier than a similar depth of snowfall in an arid or continental region. Light, dry (of a low moisture content) powder snow of the kind found in Niseko, Hakkoda and many other alpine slopes in Japan is highly prized by skiers and snowboarders. It is often found in the Rocky Mountains of North America as well. I thought to post some information for those interested in trying out some snow camp facilities for their kids.
Here’s a lineup:
School Centre & Cafe in Hakuba offers many exciting snow programs for kids such as 4-day ski-wees lessons (5-14 yr olds), snow rafting, freestyle ski school program called the Weekend Free Ride Camp, snowshoe trekking, snowmobiling. Younger siblings who don’t or aren’t ready to ski can make use of the nursery or kids room. Parents who can already ski can spend their time cruising or skiing the mountain slopes with a guide. Private lessons go for between 5,000 to 6,000 people depending on the numbers. International atmosphere.
Northstar Outdoor Adventures has winter camps that come highly recommended by our members. Winter camps have featured snowboarding at Northstar in Nagano Prefecture in the past. Busing from Tokyo is provided. Says an e-community member: “My daughter has been to the camp several times before (for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and for hiking in the Alps during the summer), and she has had a great time. She has met other homeschoolers there, as well. The staff includes both Japanese and North American counselors. The cost is 29,800 yen including transportation from Shinjuku; the cost is less for people who get there on their own (about 22,800 yen). Incidentally, at other times Northstar is operated as a lodge. So if the camp doesn’t work out, you could always go as a family, rent a room at the lodge choosing from one of their programs, and go skiing / snowboarding / snowshoeing, etc.” For more details, take a look at the North Star website or Outdoor Japan’s page.
English Adventure offers its Annual Winter Ski Camp and ski programs with pro instructors and the English Adventure staff. Learn about nature with a winter walk and nature games. All in English. See here here for more details and information about the activities. Its regular website URL: http://www.english-adventure.org/index.php
Apart from the camps listed above, there are hundreds of camps conducted in Japanese.
Winter camps are offered by: Alps-kodomokai, Chiba Shizen Gakko; Tokyo YMCA Wellness (usually offers ski camps (as well as summer camps ) during winter to spring. Their homepage’s winter activities don’t seem to be up yet, so watch their space for future activities. 7 Kanda Midoshirocho, Chiyoda-ku. Phone: 03-3293-7015
Not actually a new resort, but refurbishing or restyling of the ALTS Bandai resort. What’s newly constructed are the five free style parks added to the resort … including the newly opened Burton Progression Park (see photo) that is touted as the mecca of snowboarders, plus new cross country skiing field (see mountain trail map). The resort now appears to offer a comprehensive deal for family-oriented snow fun. The place seems to have everything: boardpark, small jumps, big jumps, kickers, moguls, variety of slopes, narrow runs, semi-wide runs, multiple restaurants and some English speaking staff. Not forgetting the indispensable child and baby-minding facilities, play and napping rooms. Spas and hotsprings, like everywhere else in Japan of course. But what it really boasts about is its 30km slope with a total of 29 variety of courses (see photo here ) … it is the longest slope in Japan. Ski and snowboarding lesson packages are offered for kids in English too (see ALTS Snow Academy page).
Likely to be a hit with any kid is the Adventure Kingdom, opened in 2008 with activities that include winter activities using carts, banana boats, air boats, tubings, nomadic camping tent, and experience making hot chocolate, smoking foods, and making nature crafts, ponyriding in the snow, snowmobile rides. The outdoor hotsprings or indoor hotspring baths sourced by natural hot spring waters from Mt Bandai Hoshino hotel or Bandai onsen resorts. Resort or onsen hotel accomodation options or budget room-share bunkbed style accommodation at 2,480 yen. Refer to this page for more info on their facilities. Access: By Tohoku shinkansen from JR Tokyo station to Koriyama station and then by shuttle bus to the resort. See other access options at this page. Phone : 81-242-74-5000
Ski Hakuba! Evergreen Outdoor Center URL: www.evergreen-hakuba.com is offering ski lessons backcountry guiding packages. 3 hours away from Tokyo. Ph: 0261-72-5150 Stay at the Sierra Resort Hotel Hakuba 0261-72-3250. Also at Hakuba, if on your own, you might like to book for the family, accommodation at Morino Lodge/Wadano Lodge or Maki Cottage options. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
You might also like to try booking accommodation at Keep’s Seisen Ryo. KEEP is an unusual Christian and environmental initiative. It operates Seisen Ryo as the centerpiece of KEEP. Opened in 1938 as a lodge and campground for youth empowerment in Kiyosato, Seisen Ryo serves as a conference and retreat center for individuals and groups. Seisen Ryo is centrally located within a short walk of any of the six hiking trails around the area.
3545 Kiyosato, Takane-cho Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi-ken 407-0311 Japan Tel: 055…Fax: 0551-48-3575 E-Mail: email@example.com
Just across the road from Seisen Ryo, the Yatsugatake Nature Center offers interactive exhibits about the flora and fauna of the Yatsugatake Highlands, the local culture and history of the Kiyosato area, and information about the hiking trails in the area. Mountains surround the area, with the Yatsugatake Kogen Prefectural Park to the north, Mt. Fuji and the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to the south, the Southern Alps National Park to the west and the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park to the west. Campers and visitors alike can spend time in Seisen Ryo’s coffee shop and restaurant. Seasonal overnight packages are offered with workshop themes such as country furniture building, nature photography, owl watching, or skiing packages with nearby Sun Meadows Ski Resort. Seisen Ryo also hosts public music concerts and other special events throughout the year. See a photo of Keep’s lodgings here.
Other ski school options to check out:
Niseko International Snowsports School See in particular their group lessons and their NISS Girls’ Know How Program that has flexible start times and is designed to suit your own team. Simply get up to six of the girls together, for five days, that ski, ride, think and learn alike. Contact the booking team to confirm your “NISS Flexi Week“ program start dates. The programme offers five fun educational days and starts from Hirafu or Hanazono, includes two educational video days, technical evening and crescendos with complimentary champagne and is led by by a highly qualified male or female instructor depending on your choice.
Naeba Ski Academy for lessons with a family of former ski Olympians.
Visit our list of ice skating rinks at our School’s Out page.
For Tokyo’s ice skating rinks, Tokyo Families has these listings and pages; Meiji Jingu Skating Rink; Kodomonokuni ice skating rink; Kanagawa skating rink (this rink frequently offers scheduled free lessons for kids).
Akasaka’s outdoor skating rink opened on 6th Dec 2008. For more info, refer to the website:www.sacas.net/eventGo to the ice rink at the Red Brick Warehouse (Akarenga Soko) for a picturesque venue indeed, dating to 1911 Taisho Era (1912-26). The warehouse sits on the waterfront at Yokohama. The rink is open until Feb 15 and costs 00 yen for adults (400 yen for children and 300 yen for toddlers) plus 500 yen per person to hire skates. At Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo Nerima ward a temporary outdoor rink has been set up. It’s 24 meters by 42 meters (about the same size as the Akarenga rink). Admission to the park is 1,000 yen (500 yen for children), getting onto the skating rink costs another 500 yen per head, and hiring skates is 600 yen per pair.
Meijijingu Gaien near Sendagaya Station, is an indoor rink that offers year-round skating.
Shinyokohama Skate Center– another indoor rink offers year-round skating.
For first-timers in Japan, though these aren’t ski activities, you might be interested in the homestay and J-conversation winter programs offered by Geos.
Heading for Hokkaido
If Hokkaido is known at all overseas, it would be as a popular destination for skiers looking for some of the world’s best powder snow. Beware…you can’ t make a good snowman with powder snow. The microclimate on the island of Hokkaido, which has less rain and heat than the rest of Japan, ensures optimal snow coverage for intense skiing. Try Rusutsu Resort ‘s many snow activities or Kid’s Adventures program.
Announcement: One of the most press-touted camps for families seems to be undergoing restructuring: Arai Mountain & Spa Myoko in Niigata that featured a huge range of lodgings from basic cabins to a gorgeous hotel with many kinds of themed activities held on an entire mountain top.
Local magazines can give you the latest on snow and ski resorts. If you’d like to do detailed homework and can read Japanese, then try these family-friendly publications:
If you need more help on planning a snow vacation in Japan, read this article Cyberia: We Ski Web Ski, it’s old but still has good tips. As for web resources, try the JTNO’s webpage and their Skiing in Japan guide or their skiing in Hokkaido guide for winter ideas. Other great websites for info are Snow Japan, Hakuba47, and Ski Japan. For other ideas on where to go for winter activities, refer to Outdoor Japan’s Family Snow Zones by Angie Takanami and also by Tokyo Families’ which has these suggestions: Club Med Sahoro; Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort; Snow Town Yeti; Grinpa Land; Snova Shin Yokohama. You will also find useful the snow reports at Ski Specialists’ site.