Road Trip to Katashina Village: Japan’s hidden ski holiday destination

G'Day Japan! / Road Trip to Katashina Village: Japan’s hidden ski holiday destination

Just a couple of hours outside of Tokyo, a village rich in snow, beautiful scenery and traditional culture awaits you. This village is known as Katashina Village and it’s located in Gunma Prefecture. It’s hard to believe that though it’s just outside of the ‘big city’, Katashina Village still remains fairly unknown by foreign travellers as there is so much on offer. The village has been quietly thriving for hundreds of years, enjoying its heavy snowfall, mountainous landscapes and delicious fresh local produce.

Katashina Village is a mountainous region, located high above sea level. It is the home of three of Japan’s top 100 great mountains: Mt. Hotaka, Mt. Nikko Shrine and Mt. Shibutsu. During the warmer seasons, the mountains are perfect for hiking, tree climbing and exploring the local flora and fauna. In winter, the combination of the location and mountainous landscape turns the village into every skier and snowboarder’s dream location.

Unlike most places in the Kanto region, Katashina Village experiences heavy snowfall in the winter. Dry, powdery snow the comes from the Echigo Mountains will have any powder hound coming back to more. There are five ski resorts in the area, including the Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort and Marunuma-Kogen Ski Resort.

The mountainous landscape doesn’t just provide perfect conditions for the snow, but it is also the reason why Katashina Village boasts such high quality spring water and an abundance of fresh, local produce. This can be enjoyed at any of the village’s local eateries and even better, your feast can be topped off with a nice, relaxing dip in the many natural hot springs in the village.

To get to Katashina Village, you can either take an express bus from Shinjuku to One or take the bullet train into Jomo-Kogen station and then take a local bus into the village. But the best way to get to and explore Katashina Village is by car. Driving takes about an hour and a half from Tokyo city. This way you have the freedom to visit the five different ski resorts, the nine hot springs and the many other things on offer at the village. Read on to find out how best to enjoy the beautiful Katashina Village.

The Ski Resorts of Katashina Village

There are five ski resorts in Katashina Village. There are shuttle buses operating between resorts so, one idea is to do some resort hopping during your stay in the area.

Oze-Iwakura Resort

This is a family friendly resort with unique courses. There are 16 courses that utilise the natural terrain available and skiers and snowboarders of all experience level will have a grand time here. The kid’s school has its own indoor course set up to your kids can safely learn how to ski. The resort has two hotels attached, complete with its own hot spring facilities.

Marunuma Kogen Ski Resort

The best part of Marunuma Kogen Ski Resort are the spectacular, free ride down the 4 kilometre course which you can reach via the Nikko Shirane Ropeway, at 2,000 metres above sea level. The resort has tons of convenient facilities including its own day spa, change room, fast food stalls and free rest area with its own kids space.

Katashina Kogen Ski Resort

The Katashina Kogen Ski Resort is the only skier exclusive ski resort in the Kanto region. Amongst the 11 courses, there is something for every level of experience including the snow escalator, which is popular amongst the kids. It’s also Japan’s only official Miffy themed ski resort with lots of Miffy themed play areas and ski lessons – perfect for a family of dedicated skiers.

Snow Park One Tokura

You can enjoy Katashina’s powder snow in a different way at Snow park One Tokura. This is especially an exciting park for snowboarders, were you can test out your skills on the super halfpipe and parks. There are no other set up like this closer to Tokyo city. There is also a hotel adjacent to the resort for convenience too.

Oguna Hotaka Ski Resort

There are many unique features to this ski resort, starting with the 3,500 metre long cruise course. They offer an early morning session with the ‘smart fast track’ ticket so you can rip up the fresh morning snow. On top of that they’ve got plenty of fun terrains and various kickers and a snow park for you to enjoy. The resort has free, all day parking so you can be on the snow without a time limit.

How to enjoy Katashina Village

The most wonderful thing about Katashina Village is that you can have a more authentic, local experience without the saturation of foreign visitors you experience in other holiday destinations. Where other places are always hustling and bustling, Katashina has a more quiet, simple charm to it that will let you truly immerse in its grand natural landscape and the lives of the lovely locals.

FOOD

Amongst the Japanese people, Katashina Village is known for being a nature-rich area. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to try their locally grown fruits and delicious fresh juice and sweets made with Katashina’s own special produce – the Runner Bean. A visit to ‘Tomorokoshi-Kaido (Corn Street)’ to try Katashina’s super sweet grilled corn is a must too. The village produces some Japan’s more premium quality  Maitake mushrooms, so you’ve got to try a Maitake tempura or a bowl of Maitake-Don while you’re there. The local restaurant, Homitei, is famous for its super sized meals so if you’re up for a good feed or a challenge, visit there.

SHOPPING

The souvenirs you can find in less commercial areas tend to be unique and more authentic than major tourist areas. At Katashina you can purchase delicious treats including Japanese condiments, soba noodles, natto and sweets and breads made from Runner Beans. There are items unique to Katashina like accessories made from charcoal and other traditional craft items.

HOT SPRINGS

There are nine hot spring facilities in Katashina. All nine are high quality, natural hot springs rich in minerals and you can expect a variety of positive effects. You can take a dip for an hour or two on your day trip or, go for a nice long relaxing time after travelling or being on the snow. Hot springs are a great place to meet and really get to know the locals.

TRADITIONAL CRAFTS

You can try out a host of different traditional craft workshops while in Katashina Village. From woodworking workshops where you turn wood and acorns into works of art to workshops for the village’s special traditional craft of charcoal crafting, where you can create jewellery and art out of charcoal as well as various indigo dying workshops, there’s so much to experience.

Access to Katashina from major cities and to ski resorts

Katashina is the closest powder snow ski resort area from Tokyo

Going by train or bus is easy but it’s even better when you take a road trip with a rental car. This way you can enjoy your holiday in a more comfortable and convenient way.

RECOMMENDED CAR RENTAL SERVICES

The great thing about Japanese rental cars is that they are generally fitted with an English car navigation tool so no need to worry about not knowing the roads!

ORIX Rent-A-Car (Gunma,Takasaki Ekimae Rental Site)
https://car.orix.co.jp/

TOYOTA Rent-A-Car (Takasaki Station East Exit Shop)
https://rent.toyota.co.jp/

Non-snow activities in Katashina

Katashina Onsen

The minister of Environment designated this hot spring as one of the country’s national hot spring health resorts.  It is fit with other health and fitness facilities including a tennis court and lodging for training camps.

Hanasaku Onsen

Located at the foot of Mt. Hotaka, one of Japan’s top 100 mountains. This hot spring is a great place to relax and unwind after a hike on the mountain. The free flowing, underground spring water is said to have healing qualities for fatigued bodies.

Hataya Onsen

This hot spring is a local favourite. It was initially founded by a local fisherman who discovered that the hot spring had healing effects to his injuries. It’s located in the southern part of Katashina Village.

Marunuma Onsen

The Marunuma Onsen is attached to a traditional inn on the riverside of Marunuma and it came in first in the category of lakes and marshes of the Best 100 Scenic Spots in Japan.

Charcoal Crafting Workshop

This workshop is popular amongst the visitors to the village. You can learn how to create accessories like necklaces and earrings out of charcoal. Charcoal grilling is a traditional industry of Katashina so this workshop is a great way to get to know the village better.

Indigo Dying Workshop

Indigo dying known as ‘Aizome’ is a form of traditional Japanese crafts. The dye is created with fermented indigo and water mixed with ash. Using the traditional dye, you can create your very own designs in the form of handkerchiefs, T-shirts, shawls and the Japanese furoshiki (cloth wrappers).

Roadside Station Oze Katashina

The Roadside Station is a hub of information and connection. Here you can get information about the village from local guides, eat local food at their food stalls and enjoy the view of Katashina’s rural landscape. But the best feature of the station is definitely the footpath located on the observation deck.

Snow Road Trip Model Itinerary

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