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3 Top Spots to See Snow in Japan Before Winter Starts

These fun Japanese destinations have snow in spring, summer, and fall, so if you can’t wait to see the snow in Japan, luckily, you don’t have to!

The Snowiest Spots in Japan

Travelers from abroad are sometimes surprised to arrive in Japan in the dead of winter only to find that, despite how dearly Japan treasures its four seasons, big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are mostly snow-free. In these parts of Japan, winter mostly brings occasional flurries, and late fall is just a wash of crisp sunny days and chilly rains. But of course, Japan’s four seasons can be found in stark contrast to each other in some parts of the country, and sightseers in search of glittering white snow can certainly find it even before the winter solstice! If you just can’t wait until winter and want to see Japan’s fluffy snow as early in the year as possible, whether you’re hoping to hit the slopes or simply looking to admire the beauty of a blanket of pristine white, we have the snow spots for you!

Before You Go, Get Ready for the Cold!

Even if you’re chomping at the bit to get out there and see Japan’s snowiest scenery, you won’t want to head outside until you’re all ready for the snowy weather! Japan’s summers might be famously humid, but when the temperature starts to cool and the snow begins to fall, the air dries out and things can get pretty rough on your skin, especially if you’re planning on spending the day in the snow. We recommend stocking up on some Japanese skincare first to protect your skin from the cold snowy air! Start with a base that provides ample moisture, like these products from Cre Chez, made in their Mt. Fuji factory. Then don’t forget to apply sunscreen to keep those pesky UV rays away, like these UV care products from Orbis. With the sunbeams bouncing off the brilliant snow and onto you, you’ll want to protect your skin from the intense sunlight! (If you do feel your skin getting red and sensitive from sun exposure, though, you can always try this Body Gel Refresh from Kyoto brand Kotoshina, made with green tea and aloe.) Finally, finish your day in the snow with a moisturizing mask on your face – try one from Nagoya skincare brand Plomb Cellule, or sample the “futuristic” masks from Kisshada. For all your other skincare needs, you can always look at the winter recommendations from the popular Japanese cosmetic retailer Ainz & Tulpe.

And don’t forget to wrap up nice and cozy with a Japanese knit scarf from Nakagawa Masashichi, and some matching mittens too!

① Toyama’s Alpine Route

For the earliest glimpse of some of Japan’s most impressive snow, there’s nowhere better than the city of Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture. As a part of a chain of mountains called the “Northern Alps” in Japan, perhaps it’s no surprise that this area gets snow, but if you’re imagining snow like a dusting of powdered sugar on the mountain tops, you’ll need to go elsewhere. The famous Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a road that carves through so much snow each year that the “Snow Corridor” section is famous for enormous snow walls, which can rise as high as 20 meters (65ft) on each side of the narrow strip of asphalt. Peak tourism season for this snow-piled route is actually in late spring, when the road has been freshly revealed thanks to the work of snow plows operating with GPS, and the Yuki no Otani Festival invites visitors to come and trek along the walls of snow. But the road and its snowy banks are actually open to visitors from mid-April until the end of November, when the new winter snow comes down too heavy to clear away, and the road closes for the season.

Tateyama Snow Corridor (雪の大谷)
11 Bunasaka, Ashikuraji, Tateyama, Nakaniikawa District, Toyama
Official Website (jp)

② The Mountain Peaks of Nagano

Running down from a northern point in Niigata, the “Japanese Alps” form a snow-capped spine of rocky peaks through Nagano, turning the central-Japanese prefecture into a hotspot for hiking and winter sports. Despite being at a latitude only about 100 km (62 miles) north of Tokyo, the high altitude of Nagano’s most popular mountain-top destinations means that snow comes much earlier and much heavier than some of the surrounding areas, and nowhere is that as clear as Shiga Kogen. This resort area in the mountains is at the center of Joshin’etsu-kogen National Park, but it’s also home to Japan’s highest ski run, and the local ski season is notoriously long thanks to snow that starts falling as early as mid-October on cold years.

Of course, Shiga Kogen Ski Resort is a great place for winter sports thanks to the area’s famously dry and fluffy “Japan powder snow,” but snow-seekers also come for snowshoe hikes through pristine snowfall, ample ammo for snowball fights, and even steaming hot outdoor onsen surrounded by blankets of freezing cold snow. (This is also the area where you’ll find Japan’s famous snow monkeys who spend their days in the hot springs.) The area becomes a winter wonderland long before the official start of winter!

Shiga Kogen Ski Resort (志賀高原スキー場)
7148 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano
Official Website (en)

③ Along the Tadami Line from Fukushima to Niigata

For the past 80 years since its opening in 1942, the Tadami Line has run the 135 km route from Aizuwakamatsu Station in Fukushima all the way to Koide Station in Niigata, stopping 37 times along the way. Each of the stations has its own charms – there are shops selling steamed red bean buns, art museums showing off Japanese block prints, shockingly beautiful river dams, and even naturally carbonated springs bubbling with drinkable soda water. But the real draw is all the scenery along the way! Along the tracks, snow tends to start falling anywhere between mid-October and mid-November, and from autumn onward the Tadami Line passes through glittering icicle-encrusted woods and across picturesque river valleys, meaning you don’t even have to go out in the cold to enjoy the beauty of this early snowfall!

Aizuwakamatsu Station (会津若松駅)
1-1 Ekimaemachi, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima
Tadami Line Official Website (jp)

Don’t Miss This Unseasonal Snow!

Once the weather starts to turn chilly, sometimes it seems a little unfair that we have to wait until winter for the snow to fall. (In many parts of Japan, you can’t even count on the snow to fall every year!) Fortunately, we don’t have to wait! From snow walls that stay frosty throughout the spring and summer, to ski slopes and scenic forests that see their first blanket of fluffy snow in the middle of autumn, Japan offers up plenty of gorgeous spots to anyone looking for unseasonal snow. Just don’t forget your umbrella on your next snowy outing – in Japan, they’re standard!

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