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Winter Highlights: Snow & Ice

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Most winter weekends you'll find American Bill Sullivan out on the snow slopes, so you can take it from him when he says that Japan has "plenty of resort areas that will surprise and even blow away any hardcore skier or boarder."

Where, exactly? "Well, considering the constant cold air mass blowing from Siberia and China, and the incredibly rugged terrain, you can guess at the very wide range of conditions available." In other words, you can expect fun and thrills on mountain slopes all over Japan. But to get you started, here are just three great destinations for the winter visitor.

 HAKUBA   (Nagano)  
Hakuba is one of the most popular snow resort complexes in the nation. A young crowd, great snow even in early spring, and easy access from Tokyo.

 NISEKO   (Hokkaido)  
Uncrowded slopes, an incredible view of a perfectly shaped volcano from all points, and super long runs. For Bill Sullivan, this is "Hokkaido Heaven."

 SHIGA KOGEN   (Nagano)  
Not too far from Tokyo. Anyone, from expert to beginner, will find fun and challenging terrain with easy access between.

 APPI KOGEN   (Iwate)
One of the most modern of resort areas. The snow is incredible, and it's less crowded than some areas with easy reach of a big city.

For full details about every aspect of Japan's snow resorts and how best to enjoy them, visit Snow Japan.

Even if you've never been to the mountains before, Japan's ski resorts offer the visitor a tremendous assortment of entertaining activities, ranging from snowmobile "banana" rides to inner tube chutes, ice fishing to heated wave pools. And maybe the very best way to finish an active day is to relax in an open-air hot spring bath, admiring the winter scenery. Read on at
Outdoor Japan

For a totally different take on winter, Sapporo hosts the unique Snow Festival, when the city is transformed into a fantasy land of snow and ice sculptures. By the time that comes around in February, maybe you will already have enjoyed your hatsu-suberi....