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Things To Do In Myoko Kogen
Winter skiing and snowboarding options in Myoko Kogen’s powder snow and the surrounding regions are almost endless. If you are looking for nightclubs and parties Myoko will not be your scene. Instead, it’s all about the riding in Myoko. The area offers some of the most outstanding skiing in all of Asia with an average base of four metres and snow walls sometimes building up to more than three metres high at the height of the season – yet just a train ride from Tokyo.
Yet there is much more to Myoko than simply skiing. Here are twelve things to do in Myoko Kogen you really shouldn’t miss while you’re here.
Twelve things to do in Myoko Kogen
In no particular order…
1. Visit all of the Myoko ski resorts
The mountains in and around Myoko receive some amazing snowfalls in winter (up to 14 metres on average) as moisture is swept in from the Sea of Japan and cooled by the surrounding peaks. The Myoko Kogen Ski Area is made up of nine main mountain resorts: Myoko Akakura Onsen, Ikenotaira Onsen, Myoko Suginohara, Seki Onsen, Akakura Kanko (a.k.a. Akakan), Myoko Ski Park, Madarao Kogen and Tangram Ski Circus, all with their own special distinctive features.
2. Visit a local onsen
Don’t forget an obligatory dip in the onsen hot springs. It is normal practice for guests to explore and enjoy a wide range of hotel onsen during their visit to Myoko. Most hotels usually charge around 500 yen per visit. Put on your yukata and walk around the village between onsen.
Rotenburo are hot springs located outdoors. Many of the local ryokan and hotels have both indoor and outdoor baths and at a few you can enjoy some beautiful outdoor scenery over the snowy mountains and village.
Tsubame Onsen is the local area’s most famous outdoor onsen but is closed during winter.
3. Dontoyaki Fire Festival
The Dontoyaki Fireworks Festival (a little similar to the Dosojin Fire Festival in Nozawa Onsen) takes place each January in Myoko Suginohara Ski Area. The Dontoyaki Festival kicks off when men and women whose Chinese zodiac sign is the same as the new year light a fire. As a way of praying for the well-being of their family, business prosperity, and a rich harvest, participants burn New Year’s decorations and kakizome (traditional New Year’s calligraphy) in the fire. If the flames rise when your kakizome is burnt, it means your handwriting will improve. Mochi, small squares of pounded, chewy rice, is also cooked in the fire, and eating it is said to prevent illness over the next year. Local saké is readily available on this day, and a fireworks show completes the event. See a gallery of the 2014 Dontoyaki Snow Hanabi Matsuri here!
4. Myoko Saké
Saké is the Japanese traditional rice wine which you can drink either hot or cold. Niigata Prefecture is the most famous sake producing area of Japan renowned for the quality of it’s gohan (rice) and mizu (water). Myoko saké is great to enjoy with the local cuisine or for an apres tipple. Local hotels will sometimes put on saké tastings for the guests and there is also plenty of good local saké to buy in the town gift shops.
Also try some of the local Myokokogen beer at the Tatra-kan Beer Hall in Ikenotaira Onsen. The Tatra can additionally provide a huge dinner buffet spread with an option for all-you-can-drink. A shuttle bus runs from Akakura Onsen but needs to be pre-booked.
5. Myoko Ryokan (Japanese Inn)
Traditional Japanese hotels, or ryokan, at Myoko Kogen are a very good option for those looking for quality Japanese service and traditional hospitality in Myoko Kogen.This accommodation usually includes a traditional Japanese dinner with courses, a traditional breakfast, hot springs and a yukata to relax in while you stay. There are numerous Myoko Kogen ryokan and traditional inns from the very old to the very new.
6. Go snowshoeing
You can experience an entirely new facet of nature in wintertime through snowshoe trekking. Myoko Kogen snowshoe tours opens up ordinarily inaccessible snowy inclines and forests covered deep in snow for fun hikes. Snowshoe tours take place in the day or evening. You can even join the Japan National Snowshoe Competition!
More things to do in Myoko Kogen
7. Dawn skiing on New Years Day
On New Years Day you can get up early to see the first sunrise of the year – a traditional Japanese event. Catch the Akakan gondola before dawn and enjoy the pre-dawn drinks at the top of the gondola while waiting for the sunrise.
See a dawn skiing album here plus here’s a great video from Jan 1, 2015
8. Countdown fireworks on the ski slope
There is another fireworks display in early March during Japan’s oldest ski festival at Seki Onsen. Enjoy free fireworks on the snow, some great food and demonstrations of flare skiing.
9. Kamakura Festival
This festival originated as a New Year’s event in which children built traditional Japanese igloos, celebrated the god of water and sang songs to drive off birds. These songs are for driving away harmful birds from the fields to improve the harvest. For the festival each February a large kamakura is built at Akakan Resort. Participants can sit inside to enjoy the snowy ambience and night illumination as well as some local sake.
During some nights in January they also have the Yuki Saka Bar at the same location serving a selection of the finest local sake. It’s 500 yen per drink or 2,000 yen for all you can try. Talk to your accommodation when you arrive for more details or see the Japanese information here.
10. Joetsu Shopping Tour
Need a day off? Catch the train for 45 minutes to Kasugayama and spend a day checking out all the Aeon shopping area – recycle shops, onsen, ski shops, sushi train, department stores, cinema and lots of other great stuff! Get into Destination Myoko Kogen office at Red Warehouse in Akakura Onsen for a map and more info or see a map here.
11. Buy a crepe or a kebab
Local specialties on the main street of Akakura Onsen include the famous crepe shops offering a great sugar hit with various fillings. These are a ‘must do’ of your things to do in Myoko Kogen. For lunch get a kebab in Suginohara or Ikenotaira. Check out other food offerings here.
12. Take a trip to the Snow Monkeys
Ticking off your list of things to do in Myoko Kogen would not be complete without seeing the Japan Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park. It is a popular day trip from Myoko Kogen. Contact us for more details or see some options here.
13. Myoko Sightseeing Train (new!)
In the first car, travellers can take in the superb views while lounging in high-spec chairs and sofas, all facing the stunning mountain and ocean scenery outside of the huge windows. Materials used for the interiors have been sourced locally as much as possible, with the timber coming from Niigata Prefecture, as well as Kawara tile, which is native to the region. The second carriage has been set up as a French restaurant, with delicious meals served up to accompany the vistas.
Bonus! Green Season Activities
Autumn leaves, hiking, cycling, rafting, summer festivals, fireworks, golf and much much more – see here!
Also worth seeing: Check out the best Myoko Kogen pics of 2014/15
With thanks to Matt Hull for providing some of the photographs.
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