The Best Kept Secret I Found

Yomase and X-Jam Takaifuji Ski Resorts


A little gem in Yudanaka

I think I should keep this to myself really… So little known that in fact they are not even on TripAdvisor!

Forget about skiing in Hakuba or Niseko if you are interested in,

  • Less touristy
  • Less crowded
  • Wide open trails
  • As much snow
  • Real (Run-Down) Japanese atmosphere

It is said to be around 500 ski areas in Japan. I’ve only been to maybe 2 dozens of them.

One of the best experiences I’ve ever had was at Yomase and X-Jam near Yudanaka.


What made it so awesome?

I may be repeating myself but, these are the reasons.

  • Nice wide open trails
  • Good variety of incline of slopes
  • Speed
  • It’s wide across mountains
  • Good view
  • Quiet


Where is it?

Here’s the google map for you.

How much for Lift Passes?

Here’s the Link to their English website for you.

So there are 4 small resorts next to each other and makes sense that you buy the pass to have all the access to every chairlifts.

Those 4 resorts are,

  • Yomase
  • X-Jam
  • Yamabiko No Oka
  • Kijima Daira

There are also 3 resorts access pass available as well but the price difference for an adult pass as of Jan, 2017 is only ¥200 so I will talk about the full, 4 resorts access pass here.

It’s named “Mt Kosha” Pass

Adult: 1 day – ¥4100, 2 days – ¥7100, 3 days – ¥9700


Your Challenges

The only downside of this is the transport.

As the time of writing, there is only one way to get there if you don’t have own car.

There is a irregular shuttle bus departing Yudanaka Station at 9am.

It’s not daily, and seems only during the weekends from Mid Dec through to End of March.

I couldn’t find the English version of their timetable, unfortunately.

Let me know if anyone needs it then I’ll translate that for you.

Hopefully there won’t be too many people at my favourite spot from here on.

Nah, I know not many people read this blog anyway!

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Hito Ga Hotondo Inai 人がほとんどいない = There are hardly anyone around

Listen and practise!


Shiga Kogen 志賀高原

The largest ski area in Japan

Looking afar towards Shiga Kogen from Yomase, Mt Kosha. In there right centre, Yokoteyama and in the left centre, Oku Shiga Kogen Ski Area

So in this map, “Shiga Kogen Ski Area” covers from,

Yokoteyama Shibutouge in the south to Oku Shiga Kogen in the north.

So some locals here say that Shiga Kogen is the last secret in terms of skiing destinations within Japan, that has been kept to Japanese for a long time.

This place hosted some of the competitions during the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998.

And also some of the locations were used for the mega hit Japanese movie themed on young city people going to Shiga Kogen for skiing and love story revolved around in it.

But in these days everyone all over the world is quickly finding out of its existence and reputation.

But, at the same time, for some reasons that I don’t really understand, this area does not seem to be too pro-active nor positive about opening its doors to the world.

That fact is causing lots of overseas visitors with lack of information about the area as well as inconvenience throughout their experiences when you are there.

So my aim here is to give you the very basics of this place.

Here are some useful links:

Shiga Kogen English website

Reviews on TripAdvisor

Despite the facts I mentioned above, overall, visitors in the past were having good times by the look on their reviews on TripAdvisor.


  • The largest Ski Area in Japan, 425ha or  just over 1000Acre
  • Total lengths of trails = 80000m
  • Total of 50 chairlifts and gondolas
  • 19 resorts, 16km wide
  • One pass to go through all the resorts
  • The elevation between 1300m – 2300m
  • Usually open from early Dec – Early May

How to get there:


There isn’t a shuttle services or anything organised by Shiga Kogen as the time of writing in Jan, 2017. That means you have to catch one of those public buses as described below.

Buses: Nagaden Bus from Yudanaka Station

There are only 3 buses in the morning that depart from the station.

7:40am, 8:20am and 10:15am

yudanaka-bus-timetable4-001Fare: ¥1100

Duration: 30-60 min depending on which resort you want to get off

At the same time, there are lots of hotels and as such within Shiga Kogen so it may be a good idea to find a room on the mountain if your focus is to spend as much time on the snow as possible.

Once there:

They have a RFID system, that means you use a crd to have an access to any lifts on the mountain. Once you’ve paid for all mountain pass, you can go through any lifts within Shiga Kogen.

At the time of writing, the lift pass for all mountain is:

Adult:¥5000, Student: ¥4200 (I believe you need to show your Student ID), Child: ¥2500 (0-12yo)

There are some English-Speaking ski schools/rentals and accomodations, in particular Oku-Shiga way.

Hopefully you’ve got a good momentum going to find out about Shiga Kogen.

Let me know by commenting if you have anything in particular that you want to find out, I will do my best for you.

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Docchi No Sukijyou Ni Ikimashouka? どっちのスキー場に行きましょうか? = Which ski field should we go?

This is a tough one! Listen and practice!

Shiga Kogen Beer 志賀高原ビール

A local craft beer brewery in Yamanouchi Area



So Shiga Kogen has once won a prestigious status amongst all the domestic ski resorts because,

  1. It hosted some of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics races
  2. Being one of the largest area for skiing with 19 resorts combined
  3. The location was used for filming a hugely popular movie in the 80s, when skiing was so popular

With that prestigious name as the brand, Shiga Kogen Beer has been around for quite many years.

Tamamura Honten 玉村本店 is the brewer of that legendary beer, based in this region, Kutsuno right across Shibu Onsen.


Duration: 2 hours round trip on foot from Yudanaka Station, including the time to enjoy a pint of beer

Tamamura Honten

Tamaura Honten is originally a Sake maker, founded in 1805, and have been producing Sake for more than 200 years at the same location!

Then in 2005, they have started brewing beer and selling those, which became “Shiga Kogen Beer”.

Also, apparently this region once produced hops to make beer until 1950s.

So using local pure water, locally grown hops with the knowledge and Sake making kind of started this beer.

Tamamura Honten Website (Unfortunately available only in Japanese)


The Location 

It’s only 10 min walk from Shibu Onsen, up on the hill of Kutsuno, you can get to their main store.

First you will come across this brewery after walking a gentle uphill.


You keep turn left on the street and go further 30m or so then you’ll find their main office/store/gallery on your right.

Once inside, you’ll find retail section, a bar counter, and the gallery upstairs.


They have Sake and Beer tasting. When I went there a pint of beer on tap was ¥648.

I tried their IPA, Indian Pale Ale, on tap and that was beautiful.

Where else do you find their beer?

As far as I have seen, there are numerous local restaurants and liquor stores around Yudanaka who stock this brand. It shouldn’t be too hard for you to find.

usually the bottle is for ¥600, which is reasonable for a craft beer I think.

They do have an online store too. However, they seem to have the Japanese site only and it will be a good challenge to navigate through for purchase if you don’t read the language.

Give me a private mail if you need help. See what I can do.

If you like fresh beer and the smell of brewery, 2 hours well spent!

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Biru Wa Oisii Desu ビールは美味しいです = Beer tastes good!

Who can argue with that! A Killer phrase to learn!



Ryuoo Ski Park 竜王スキーパーク

Ryuoo Ski Park Up Close


Today’s Phrase

Ryuoo Ski Park 竜王スキーパーク = Pronounced as more like Liu-Oh

I know this is very hard for lots of people, but you gotta try!


What kind of mountain is Ryuoo?

This mountain/resort is made up with 2 parts.

Valley Area and Skyland Area.

And they are connected by Ropeway and Kiotoshi courses in between, being a very steep terrain only ideal for advanced skiers and snowboarders.

Also, Kiotoshi 木落し stands for “Tree Falling“, meaning “So steep that even trees fall off the face” (My translation)

Please be aware that these Kiotoshi courses tend to open up well into January due to the nature of the terrain hard to accumulate snow.

Valley Area – Lower part


6 Chailfts, wide open long trails, mostly gentle incline.

Along V2 Lift you have some more speed with steeper terrain.

There are some “Ungroomed” space left near V2 Lift and V10 Lift for you to enjoy some powder.

The Top part of Valley Area has V5 Lift with steeper runs, but they don’t seem to open early in the season.

The reasons being,

  1. Steeper so no groomer vehicle goes there
  2. Therefore in need of wait for the accumulation of enough natural snowfall for safety

Skyland Area – Upper Part


2 Chairlifts, 3 Trails

The view from the upper part, (The highest point being at around 1930m or over 6000 feet) Skyland Area is superb on a clear day.

Also being higher in altitude, the snow tends to be drier and softer than Valley Area most of the times.

At the same time the temperature is a lot colder than what it is at the lower part of the mountain so be prepared to get in colder climate.

Oh and quite often it’s in the clouds with lower visibility.

The terrain is definitely for beginners to intermediate.

There are 2 restaurants, right above the top ropeway station at at the very top of the mountain off S1 Lift so you have somewhere to rush in if it’s too cold for you.

At those restaurants, mainly you find Japanese food like Japanese curry and ramen and so on.

Some Useful Links

– Link to their English Website

– This is the link to one of my past related post Let’s go skiing!

The Location

Free Shuttle

They run every 1-1.5 hour between Yudanaka Station and Ryuoo Ski Park.

It only takes 15-20moin to get to the resort.

The first one top depart Yudanaka is just after 9am, the last one to depart Ryuoo is just after 5pm.

It departs from right in front of Yudanaka Station.

Lift Passes

Half Day: Morning 8am-1pm, Afternoon 12pm-5pm, Adult ¥3400, Kids (4 y/o to 12 y/o) ¥2200

1 Day: Adult ¥4500, Kids ¥2900

2 days: Adult ¥8000, Kids ¥5100


Half Day: Morning 8am-1pm, Afternoon 12pm-5pm, same as the lift passes, Adult ¥3500, Kids ¥2000

1 Day: Adult ¥4000, Kids ¥2500

2 days: Adult ¥7500, Kids ¥4500

If you are staying in yudanaka, one idea is to go see the guys at Yudanaka Rental/Info Centre right behind Goen restaurant.

You can get yourself set up with gear even the day before you head up the mountain.

That’ll be a good time-saver for you to be prepared the day before, rather than rushing for everything in the morning, with a possibility of waiting if they get busy.

I hope you will enjoy your time up on this mountain, and snow too!

See you next time.




Obuse town 小布施

A little excursion away from Yudanaka


In my opinion, you need half day (2-4 hours) for this.

Where is it?

Obuse 小布施 is a very small town, 10km Southwest of Yudanaka.

How to get there?

It’s 20min train ride on an Express Train from Yudanaka.

Fare= ¥690 (¥590 Normal Fare + ¥100 Express Train Fee)

There is an express train, either Snow Monkey スノーモンキー or Yukemuri ゆけむり pretty much every hour from Yudanaka Station.

Here’s the Link to Nagaden Timetable

Things To Do

This is a very small town with many traditionally-built wooden houses confined in a small area.

Also famous as a region to produce chestnut, Kuri くり in Japanese. So you will see lots of sweet shops used locally produced chestnuts.

Also, I found 2 Sake Breweries in this town if you are into it.

Masuichi Ichimura 桝一市村酒造場

Inside they have a small bar counter where you can try their sake.


Matsubaya Honten 松葉屋本店 (Their website is only in Japanese)

This place was purely for retail and didn’t see any tasting area nor service.


There was also a wine shop called “St Cousair” where I could try bit of wine tasting for ¥400/glass. I tried a white wine called, “Niagara Blanc” which is very sweet and muscat like. In here they also sell lots of Tomato based products, spices, cheese pasta and jams.

I think the owner has been heavily influenced by France/Italy and you can easily see that once you go inside.

St Cousair (Their website is in Japanese only)


What I have been told is that in Nagano there has been a surge of new vineyards for the last 10-20 years.

In the past it was too cold to grow grapes in this part of Japan, but along with Global Warming and improvements on modifying grape seeds there has been multiple small vineyards springing up in this region.

You’ll never know, Nagano could be a major destination for wine tourism in near future.

So if you have a bit of time available in your hands, a little break from skiing or snowboarding, or on a rainy day, it could be an option to explore a bit more in this region.

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Osake Wa Oisi Desu お酒は美味しいです=Sake tastes good.

Yes that’s so true! Keep trying!

Zenkoji Temple 善光寺

Must-See temple in Nagano City


When you are in Nagano City, this is a must-see temple in this town.

As the map below shows, it’s 30min walk from Nagano station. Pretty straight forward to get there, with lots of signs on side walks pointing the direction towards there.

There are nice cafes, souvenir shops and so on along the way so it will be a nice pleasant walk for you.

There are also buses to take you there too if you would prefer that way.

Zenkoji Temple 善光寺

Here’s the Link to TripAdvisor Review.

It says “#1 Attraction out of 113 in Nagano City”.

So I’m not the only one saying that.

For ¥500, you can also go inside the main temple building and some other places.

The Difference Between Buddhisma and Shinto in Japan

Buddhism was born in India then brought to China then imported and introduced to Japan in the 6th century. Temples are for Buddhism.

Shinto is a native belief of Japan, I don’t even know how long there has been within Japanese culture… Since… Ages ago. Shirines represent Shinto.

Realistically these 2 different beliefs have been happily married and morphed into one, and engraved within Japanese culture so it is quite often very hard for Japanese people themselves to disguish these two.


Its history seems a little obscured by the long history since the origin.

Here’s the Link To Wikipedia in English for those who love to find out about this place more.

Basically it was originally built in 644AD in a lot smaller scale.

Then through centuries of wars it went through getting burned down so many times, the present structure was rebuilt 1707 and been there since.

Yes, in Medieval Age there were lots of wars in Japan for power and land and food.

Important Tip for visiting temples and shrines in Japan

It is highly advised to do a bit of homework or research to learn the history of what entails to the place you are visiting. Especially when you visit temples and shrines, they will be just another “Wooden Structure” if you don’t know the stories behind them.

I had a few occasions in the past personally, feeling like I’m just looking at another temple or shrine when I didn’t know the history behind them.

Quite often, there are some powerful warlords who built or had influences on the beginning, wars amongst clans and so on.

Anyway, when you are there keep your eyes on

1, Traditional Japanese wooden structural engineering
2, Tidiness and neatness of the surrounding garden
3, How Japanese people behave within these tradional places

Hope you will enjoy your experience there!See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Nihon No Otera Ya Jinjya Ga Daisuki Desu 日本のお寺や神社が大好きです = I love Japanese temples and shrines

Keep on Trying! People will be impressed!

Nearest Onsen from Yudanaka Station

Kaede No Yu 楓の湯

In Yudanaka, this is the closest Onsen to the station.

It actually sits right behind the station.

Entry Fee: ¥300 for Adult, ¥150 for Kids (Up to 12 years old I think)

Open:  10am – 8:30pm

Closed: The 1st Monday every month

So once you walk in, there is a locker for shoes.

The you’ll find a touch-panel ticketing machine.

You buy a ticket and then give it to someone behind the counter.

(I’m pretty sure you can hire a towel but I forgot to check how much that is. It should be around ¥300 I guess)

Once you walk through the door you’ll see Womens first with red curtain, then Mens at far end with green curtain.

It was very busy when I visited around 3pm, with old locals as well as tourists inside.

Once inside Mens (Or Womens), you will find lockers where you can keep your cloths and valuables in.

You need one ¥100 coin to keep it locked. But it will be refunded when you come back to get changed.

Put ¥100 coin in, lock it and keep the rubber with the key to your locker around your wrist.

This refundable coin lockers are very common at Onsens or Swimming Pools throughout Japan.

You can also read my old article regarding around Onsen Etiquette here.

I’m pretty sure you understand my situation that I couldn’t really take photos once inside where lots of people get undressed. I could be jailed for that…)

So this place is highly recommended to soak your cold body in hot water when you have an hour before you leave on a train to Nagano or something.

Get amongst real Japanese culture while you are there!

See you next time!

-Today’s Phrase- 

Oyuni Tsukaru Maeni Karada Wo Arau お湯に浸かる前に体を洗う = Wash your body before you soak in hot water

Very important to wash your body first in Onsen!

Let’s go skiing! (or snowboarding if you like… I’m a skier…)

The closest ski resort from Yudanaka

So, let’s say, you’ve got 2-3 days booked at an accommodation around Yudanaka.

Realistically you need half a day to go see monkeys.

You happened to be here during winter months.

What else would you do?

I definitely would go skiing or snowboarding!

From Yudanaka, the closest resort, technically, is Ryuoo Ski Park 竜王スキーパーク

This is the link to their website. At the top right on their main page, you find the language choice icons.

I’ll show you where that is on Google Map.

It’s 15-20 min drive or on the bus.

They have free shuttle services throughout the day during the season.

1, Their season usually is between late November through to Early May. Of course it is depending on the snowfall each year.

2, Their free shuttle normally leaves around 9 am to begin with, then the last bus leaves the resort after 5pm. For more information, please visit their website through the link put above.

Another drawcard of this resort is their plans dedicated to non skiers and snowboarders, or a family who are looking for fun to have together.

They have 2 plans or activities called, “Snow Landscape Plan” and “Adventure Park”

  • Snow Landscape Plan – This is the plan for those who’d like to visit their “Sora Terrace”, situated at 1770m above sea level with magnificent view of the nearby basin and The Japanese Alps afar when it’s clear. Once you’ve arrived at the resort, they take you up to the bottom ropeway station on a “Snow Vehicle” which resembles a tank for 10-15 min ride. Then you can take 8 min ropeway ride to the top where the terrace is, with a restaurant is just above you to stay warm on a cold day.
  • Adventure Park – This is where you can have fun playing on the snow doing stuff like, Tubing, Sledding or Tobogganing, Snow rafting and so on. This is ideal for those who wouldn’t want to go on skis or snowboard but still want some action for adrenalin rush. However, this park will start its operation once they’ve got enough snow to manage all activities safely. So you want to check its condition first before you get too excited about it.

They also offer ski or snowboard lesson in English and Chinese for those who want to give these sports a go or are eager to brush up your skills.

Anyway, I hope you will enjoy your experience regardless of your choice of how.

Make sure to drop into an Onsen and soak it up for your tired muscles to recover for next day!

-Today’s Phrase-

Ski Wa Totemo Tanoshii Desu スキーはとてもたのしいです = Skiing is such a fun!

Yeah skiing is awesome, make sure that you can say this!

Jigokudani Snow Monkeys

The biggest attraction in Yudanaka area

Snow Monkeys!

It is amazing to see a lot of people from around the world to go see these monkeys.

They are;

  • Half wild
  • Their habitat is the northern most in the northern hemisphere
  • These monkeys are endemic to Japan
  • Often you see them chilling in hot water during winter months
  • And, of course they are cute, at least they look cute

You can see them at the Snow Monkey Park, 10min bus ride from Yudanaka Station, then about half an hour gentle walk through the  nearby forest.

Apparently they featured on LIFE magazine in the 70’s too.

Yes they are definitely as popular as Hello Kitty, Ramen or Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku.

But since they are not pets, there are certain things you are asked to do when visiting the monkey park.

  • Do not to try to touch them
  • Keep some distance to them
  • Do not show food or feed them
  • Do not use special equipments when taking photos of them

Here’s the link to their Offical Guide with more details of Dos and Don’ts.

Well enjoy your time at Jigokudani!

-Today’s Phrase-

Osaru san wa kawaii desune おさるさんはかわいいですね = Monkeys are cute, aren’t they?

Listen to this and practice. You’ll be a hero!