Ski or just chill out.
Skiing is usually the number one reason for Australians to visit Japan BUT as the non-skier in our family I think I have enjoyed and explored a lot more of Japan than the skiers of the family so there is plenty to do for the non-skiers if you want to be out and about in the snow.
During February Otaru holds its annual Snow and Light festival along the old historic rail line and the beautiful canal where tourists flock for the week long festival. Sapporo also holds its annual Ice festival where thousands of tourists spend a few hours wandering the city centre where huge ice statues have been carved, (Japanese food stalls serve hot food to the freezing tourists) and the best of the snowboarders and acrobatic skiers highlight their talents to the crowds. It is well worth braving the cold to enjoy this festival!
Summer in Japan….We recently had our first summer visit to Japan where we were expecting to be a little disappointed (after the spectacular winter wonderland scenery of our winter visits) but we soon discovered why the Japanese flock to Hokkaido and especially Otaru over the summer (making this time of the year the peak tourist period in Hokkaido)
The weather is surprisingly warm and humid, the forests are lush and green, and there is a huge coastline to explore (instead of solid ice ocean shoreline we had seen touring in winter blizzard conditions).
Otaru was a rich historic trading port with many late 1800’s banks and wharf buildings which today have been converted to hotels, breweries and some of the best seafood restaurants we have eaten at. The local port (which can just be seen from a few windows of the house and the back yard) is where the Japanese tourists get to experience a taste of Venice meandering the waterfront canal on Japanese inspired gondolas.
There is a lovely mix of Japanese tourist stores, glass art studios, chocolate factory, candle makers, potteries, vintage/antique stores and cafes.
Mt Tenguyama is at the backdoor of the house which is a winter downhill ski resort with a ropeway (30 person gondola) and 3 chair lift overlooking the beautiful Otaru city and ocean port from the bottom and top of the ski runs. On a sunny day the view from the top is spectacular and the ropeway is open ALL year for sightseers. The summer walks up to the top of Tengu through the lush Silverbirch forest are beautiful and a really good work out or you can opt to take the ropeway to the top and walk back. Over summer a bob sled course, a mini zoo, the ropeway cafe and the ski museum attract the tourists. At the base of the ropeway there is the world reknown ‘Otaru Glass Studio’ and the best Curry you will find in Japan at our friendly ‘Celan Curry House’.
A visit to Japan would never be truly experienced without a soak in a traditional onsen, which can be found ALL over Japan either within a 2-5 star hotel, health and wellness centre and traditional local bathhouse.
A daily onsen after skiing (and shopping) is a must for our family and a wonderful way of catching up on the social side of the days happenings!