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Published on April 1st, 2013 | by Japan Snowtrip Tips


Planes vs Trains for accessing ski resorts in Japan

Wondering if it`s better to fly or take the train during your snow trip in Japan?  Maybe we can help you decide if the railways or airways are the best way for you.

There are very few instances where a domestic flight in Japan would be a better choice than simply relaxing on the high-speed train. Even if you ride the shinkansen only once during your visit, a JR Pass will save you money, time and hassle on your journey. Shinkansen will bring you effortlessly from downtown Tokyo directly to Japanese Snowcountry in less than 90 minutes for direct gondola access out of the train station. It`s not uncommon to see Tokyo business men start the journey in suits-and-ties and end the journey in neon one piece suits ready for the slopes.

But hopping a quick flight is definitely your most cost-friendly and time-effective option for skiers & snowboarders on a powder-quest traveling long distances between main Island, Honshu and northern Island, Hokkaido. There are currently a few low cost airlines in Japan helpful for skiers and snowboarders offering affordable flights of barely 90 minutes from Tokyo & Osaka connecting with Sapporo. Ticket costs vary, but you can expect fares between ¥5,000-10,000 per person.

Choosing a domestic flight instead of the train during your snow trip in Japan normally only applies to lengthy travel between Honshu and Hokkaido, but there is another scenario where a domestic flight might make sense even for inter-Honshu travel. This situation involves reaching skiing & snowboarding destinations in the far-north of the main Island in Iwate and Akita, Tohoku prefecture (e.g., Hakkoda, Tazawako or Appi Kogen).

Although a direct shinakansen line originating from Tokyo extends almost to the northern tip of the main Island, terminating at Aomori, this day-long  journey requires 8-12 hours depending on train service. Otherwise, the overnight rail option will cost more than booking a ticket on a domestic Japanese airline, so it`s difficult to justify such time consuming, high-cost transit. Low cost flights to Aomori are limited, however, so you might be forced to spend a chunk of money on a flight offered by one of the major carriers, JAL or ANA if low-cost options are unavailable.

In the end, adding at least one flight into your plans if  traveling between Honshu and Hokkaido is the best way to do it. It`ll save you time, hassle and keep you fresh to shred pow instead of dragging because of too much travel time to reach the powdery goods.

Planes vs Trains Japan Snowtrip Tip

Over the river and through the woods, from one Island to the next…

Generally for long distance travel from Honshu to Hokkaido, a low cost flight in Japan is a great way to go. But if you want to experience the amazing cultural offerings (and equally amazing skiing & snowboarding destinations) of the main Island before heading to the far north, we recommend methodically splitting the journey into reasonable rail-linked pieces. First work your way into the Yuzawa or Minamiuonuma snow regions of Niigata for a few days, then to Iwate or Akita for a few more, ultimately connecting to Aomori at the tip of Honshu. From there hop the convenient Hamanasu Express overnight train to Sapporo so you can get a good sleep without losing a powder day due to travel.

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About the Author

is designed to help snowtrippers mix cultural excursions with epic powder submersions in Japan. All content is created by Alpine Objectives LLC owner, Christopher DiSabato, who has more than 20 years of international snowpro media, education and operations experience. JSTT offers honest, original, first-hand insight to help guide you along your journey of snow-driven discovery on Honshu & Hokkaido.

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