Experience the world at an altitude of 2,000 meters. Shiga Kogen, the ski area covering Mt. Yokote, Mt. Higashidateyama, Mt. Terakoya, and Mt. Yakebitai, has the most amazing, high quality snow, and provides majestic views of “the roof of Japan”, dubbed the Japan Northern Alps, and the ‘Hokushin Gogaku’, 5 peaks that straddle the border of Nagano and Niigata Prefectures. The pick of the view points is undoubtedly from the top of Mt. Yokote ski resort, where, in fine weather you can gaze upon Mt. Fuji to the south and the Japan Sea and Sado Island to the north. Take some time over a cup of tea to acclimatize to the low air pressure at the high altitudes and soak up the beautiful mountain scenery. Every winter, trees on the top of Mt. Yatame become covered with frost；the ski courses running through the silvery frost give a surreal, unworldly feel. On the way back, you could drop by at Mt. Kasagatake, the symbol of Shiga Kogen, and rip down the steep slopes, but we feel that is a bit ‘mottainai’, or a waste of something so precious. Rather, take your time getting down and fully appreciate the gracious views.
Shiga kogen is one of the biggest ski areas in Japan with the total area being approximately 40 hectares, or 100 acres, one of the biggest ski areas in Japan. The 18 ski resorts are Okushiga Kogen, Yakebitaiyama, Ichinose, Takamagahara, Hoppo Onsen, Bunadaira, Giant, Maruie, Biwaike, Sunvalley, Yokoteyama, Shibutoge, Kumanoyu Hotaru Onsen, Kumanoyu, and Hasuike.
One of the most renowned benefits of the Shiga Kogen ski resorts is the fact that anybody can ski or board here, irrespective of your level or age. There is such a wide variety of slopes and terrain, something perfect for everyone! Families in particular rave about being able to spend the day together, easily moving from one resort to another. In such cases, you definitely need to make use of the ‘Key Card’, a common ticket granting access to the lifts and gondolas in all the ski resorts in Shiga Kogen.
For those staying in Okushiga Kogen, located at the north end of Shiga Kogen, take the bus from Hasuike in the morning, ride all day, then take in the sun set over Mt. Yokote at the southern end on the return trip. The free Shuttle Bus service, which connects all ski resorts over the vast highland area, adds convenience as well as some extra time to admire the surroundings. (Services are limited to ski resorts in the Shiga Kogen area only.)
There are many lodgings in Shiga Kogen featuring natural ‘onsen’, or hot spring baths. The area has a long history of hot springs, with records showing local people had developed hot spring baths as early as the 1600s. The hot springs are Hoppo, Kumanoyu, Kidoike, Hotaru, Suzurikawa, Makuiwa, Takamagahara, Shigayama, and Maruike. After skiing or boarding, locals and guests all agree, taking a bath in a hot spring is the best way to soothe your tired body.
Another wonderful feature of a trip to Shiga Kogen is the delicious cuisine. Local foods in the Shinshu area and mountain foods harvested in Shiga Kogen are preserved and used for Japanese, French, Italian, and other cuisines. We recommend visiting information centers or searching online to find out the specialties of each restaurant in the area. For lunch on the hill, try out as many places as you can to get a real taste of Shiga Kogen, from Chinese food to Indian curry, brick-oven pizzas, hand-made bread, and Okomin-yaki, which is a brand-new specialty in the Shiga Kogen area.
## Long History and Rich Experiences The Best Winter Sports Area
The history of skiing in Shiga Kogen started in 1913 when Mr. and Mrs. Kummel brought skis to Kanbayashi Hot Spring. They are said to have skied around farming land and valleys with the austrian-style single pole skis they brought. After that, skiing gained popularity, especially among the youth, and resulted in the establishment of the Shinshu Yamanouchi Ski Club in 1920. In 1928, the club held a Shin-estu ski competition along with other ski clubs from Niigata and Gunma Prefectures. In 1929, Mr. Helseth and a group from Norway visited Shiga Kogen, and skied from Mt. Asahi to Kanbayashi Hot Spring, calling the highland ‘the Saint Moritz of Asia’. From that point, the area underwent rapid development, including the creation of the current Giant ski resort in the November of 1930. The area was given the name ‘Shiga Kogen’ by a group of people leading the development at the time.
The Shinshu Yamanouchi Ski Club later became Shiga Kogen Ski Club, and is primarily involved with activities such as educating athletes and instructors, holding competitions, and running a ski school, and continues to produce many top class winter sports athletes. In the 1970s, when an unprecedented ski boom raged throughout Japan, the community as well as the local government offered to host a range of sporting events, including national athletic meets, national competitions, and World Cups. After wowing all those who took part in such events, Shiga Kogen was appointed as one of the sites for the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games: giant slalom events for alpine skiing at Higashidateyama ski resort, and slalom events for alpine skiing and alpine snowboarding at Yakebitaiyama ski resort. The large number of international athletes and guests earned Shiga Kogen worldwide recognition.
## Explore Wild Forests with a Guide Discover the Unexpected
The Shiga Kogen Guide Association conducts snowshoe hiking tours every year. Visitors can hike through the woods with experienced guides highly versed in local nature. It’s a fascinating opportunity to see local wildlife in its own environment, and to learn how plants survive the freezing winter months. Come take a relaxing stroll around pristine snow fields and get back to nature!
Did you know that Shiga Kogen is designated as an Eco Park and a Biosphere Reserve (BR) under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme? It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, where more than two million people visit annually, while a large area of wild forests remain untouched. This is how man lives together with nature. You will witness real winter in Japan here in Shiga Kogen.