HIKING, MT. FUJI, HOT SPRINGS AND WINTER SPORTS IN JAPAN


JAPANESE PUBLIC BATHS

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In the old days, many homes didn't have bathtubs or showers, so people bathed at public bath houses (sentos), which were a fixture many neighborhoods and places where people gathered and socialized. Some of the larger ones were decorated with large paintings above the tubs, often depicting Mt. Fuji or some other mountain scenery to create a sense of spaciousness.

Many Japanese take three or for long soaks interspersed with cool showers or breaks outside the bath. The water in a Japanese public bath is typically around 101 degrees F to 105 degrees F, hot but not scalding. Many Japanese baths have special filter systems to keep the water clean.

The first public bathhouses opened in early 17th century. Male customers often played board games, ate sweets and had their backs washed by women called yuna while sitting in the bath. The back washing led to prostitution and brothel-bathhouses were banned in 1657 but continued to exist.

These days most people bath at home and and public bath houses have largely disappeared. The number of bath houses in Japan has declined from 23,016 at the peak of their popularity in 1964, when around 93 percent of the population regularly went to baths, to 8,422 in 1999, when 93 percent bathed at home and didn’t go to public baths. There are even fewer today.

In an effort to remain afloat, bath houses in urban areas are trying to attract joggers and bike riders who can’t shower at work. Some public baths in Tokyo have begun offering magic shows for the naked bathers and Internet access with waterproof PCs.

An inn in Yugawara in Kanagawa Prefecture allows dog and ferret owners to take bath with their pets. Cat are generally not allowed because they are afraid of water. The fees are between $10 and $20 for half hour bath. The bath is cleaned after each appointment.

Websites and Resources

Hiking, Mountaineering and Parks in Japan: Books Hiking in Japan by Paul Hunt (Kodansha, 1988); Lonely Planet’s Hiking in Japan and 100 Famous Peaks in Japan by Nihon Hyaku Miezan. There are dozens of guides in Japanese. Websites: Hikes in Japan Japan Hike ; Japan hiking links Trail Data Base ; Chris’s Hiking blog Chris’s Hiking blog ; One Hundred Mountains Blog One Hundred Mountains Blog ; International Adventure Club iac-tokyo.org ; Outward Bound Japan feis.com/obs ; Outdoor Japan outdoorjapan.com ; Ogawayam Rock Climbing Site ogawayama.com ; Hiking Mountains in the Kansai Area Kansai Hikes /bencamenen.ifrance.com ; Japan Newbie japannewbie.com/ ; Kansai Outdoor Club konnichiwamapper.com

Mt. Fuji: Good Photos of Mt. Fuji at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; Mount Fuji Guide mountfujiguide.com/; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Picture Tokyo picturetokyo.com ; Wikitravel Wikitravel ; Sacred Destinations sacred-destinations.com ; Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Fuji Volcano /hakone.eri.u-tokyo.ac.jp ; 1707 Eruption PDF airies.or.jp ; National Geographic article news.nationalgeographic.com ; Getting to Mt. Fuji: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Maps and Links live-fuji.jp ; Maps: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO ; Climbers.org climber.org

Bathing Customs Rituals and Etiquette at Japanese Public Bath Fabulous Travel ; Bathing Etiquette sentoguide.info ; Japan Visitor Japan Visitor ; Japanese Design on Baths japanesehomeandbath.com ;

Onsens in Japan: Book: A Guide to Japanese Hot Springs by Anne Hotta (Kodansha, 1986) and Japan's Hidden Hot Springs by Robert Neff (Tuttle, 1986). Websites: Good Bath Photos at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; Good Onsen List with Pictures Japanese Guesthouse Onsen Guide Hot Springs Michelin ; Japan Spa Association Spa.org ; Onsen Express onsenexpress.com ; Secret Japan secret-japan.com ;

Mixed Sex Baths Onsen Map with Mixed Sex baths Secret Onsen ; Sukayu Spa (near Aomori) is famous for its 1,000-person mixed-sex cedar bath where both men and women bath naked together. Websites: Secret Japan ; Onsen Express Onsen Express . Kuroneiwaburo is a public open air mixed sex bath with stunning ocean views in Higashi-Izucho, Shizuoka Prefecture about an hour and half from Tokyo . In 2008 it welcomed about 30,000 male bathers and 17,000 females. Website: bousui.com/hotsprings bousui.com/hotsprings/

Black Sand Beach Baths Sand Bath site Hakusikan Ibusuki City site Ibusuki City Frommers Frommers.com Map: Ibusuki Iwasaki Hotel ibusuki.iwasakihotels.com Beppu: Beppu City official site Beppu City Beppu Tourism Association Welcome to Beppu Map: Beppu City official site Beppu City Info Mao Japan Info Map Japan ; Beppu Tourism Association Welcome to Beppu

Hot Springs Around Tokyo include Kamata Onsen (Kamata station on the Keihin Line); Soshigaya Onsen (Soshigaya Okura station on the Odakyu Line); Azuba Juban Onsen (Azabu Juban station on the Nanboku and Oedo Line); and Seta Onsen (Futako Tamagawa station on the Tokyu Denen Toshi Line). Most of these are not true hot springs in that they draw up water from cold springs and artificially heat it. Most have saunas and a variety of therapeutic baths. Websites: Secret Japan secret-japan.com ; Sunny Pages sunnypages.jp ; Kusatsu Onsen Kusatsu Onsen site kusatsu-onsen.ne.jp

Links in this Website: SPORTS AND PETS IN JAPAN (Click Sports, Recreation, Pets ) Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RECREATION IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; HIKING, MT, FUJI AND HOT SPRINGS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RECREATIONAL GOLF IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; GARDENS AND BONSAI IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; KARAOKE AND FIREWORKS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; THEME PARKS AND ARCADE IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS AND ADVENTURERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan

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bathing etiquette

Onsens, Japanese Hot Springs

An onsen is hot spring spa that is sought during a vacation or weekend trip as a place to escape and relax. Japan has 19,445 thermal resorts and spas, known as onsens, scattered across the country and they welcomed about 130 million people a year. There used to be more. In 2002, there were 22,127 of them. Many of them offer mineral baths, health activities and massages. Unlike European spas people generally don't drink the water but bath in it (but some places do encourage visitors to drink it to). Many offer accommodation and meals.

Hot springs have long been thought to have healing powers, There are stories of samurai bathing themselves after battles and farmers seeking them to cure their cuts and sore muscles, In the 19th century one the main goals of some early train lines was to make hot springs more accessible to the cities.

There are two kinds of baths: notenburo (“indoor baths”) and totemburo (“outdoor baths”). Here are also baths only for men (otoko-yu), only for women (omna-yu and mixed gender ones (konyoku). The Japanese have a n expression for the social boding that takes place in a bath: hadaka no tsukiai (“naked companionship”).

In the old days, men and women went nude in the mixed sex baths. That is no longer the case. Most of onsens have segregated indoor and outdoor baths for men and women. Some have a large outdoor bath (rotenburo) where men and women can bath together in bathing suits or with a towel wrapped around them. But as a rule swimsuits are considered unsanitary. For more on mixed bathing see below.

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Ryokan onsen

Onsen Offerings

Onsens offer a variety of baths and bathing experiences: individual, communal, inside, outside, mixed or single sex baths, cold baths, hot pools surrounded by trees and rocks, warm water swimming pools, black sand baths, mud baths, baths of graded temperatures, mineral baths, waterfalls, walking pools, cold pools, jacuzis, steam rooms, swimming pools with water slides, outdoor pool with bars, baths scented with small floating bags of citron and orange peel, and herbal baths.

Some onsens have baths that contain salt imported from the Dead Sea, allowing bathers to bob and float as of they were in the Dead Sea. Others have radioactive water with radon that is supposed to improve your health. Contradicting what many people think, one study in Japan found people who lived around a hot spring with high levels of radiation have lower cancer rates than the general population. Some go to great length to get their water. Some of Tokyo’s 144 hot spring wells pump from depths up to 1,700 meters underground

Some baths have mineral waters that purportedly treat a host of illnesses. Some of the baths have clear water. Some have a reddish tint. Others are grayish. Each bath is said have curing powers for a different ailment. These baths often have the mineral content listed and the ailments that each mineral treats. Some of the nicest onsens have huge painting in the dressing rooms and feature cypress wood baths that give off a pleasing aroma when filed with hot water.

Some places have saunas. In November 2008, people from 57 countries took a sauna together at Ritsuneikan Asia Pacific University in Oita Prefecture to break the record for people from the most different countries taking a sauna at one time. The previous record of 50 was set in Niigata Prefecture in 2007.

Mixed Sex Bathing in Japan

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Mixed sex bathing was the norm in the 19th century. The first European arrivals were shocked by the custom. At that time they believed that bathing was harmful to health. Missionaries who tried to convince new Christian converts to stop bathing had little success. Mixed sex bathing endured to the 1950s, when female legislators in the Diet insisted on laws that segregated the sexes at private baths.

The majority of spas and public baths in Japan today have separate baths for men and women. But not all of them. The Sukayu Spa (near Aomori) is famous for its 1,000-person coed cedar bath where both men and women bath naked together. People who are shy about their bodies can hide their private parts with a towel but the majority of people are naked and they seem more interested in enjoying the soothing water than looking at the naked bodies around them. Sukaya has permission from the government to be coed.

All prefectures prohibit mixed-sex nude bathing among participants that are not related. But the rules vary. Of Japan’s 47 prefectures 35 allow “family bathing.” Among these, Fukuoka Prefectures allows “couples to use their facilities.” Kagawa Prefecture states family baths are “not for the unspecified majority, and those exempt from the mixed-sex category.” Twelve prefectures do not allow family bathing.

“Private bathing” was introduced in the mid 1990s and is offered by many onsens. Under its terms, groups can rent out of “private bath” much as they do a private dining room in a restaurant. The baths are intended to be used for family baths but sometimes they are used groups of adults or people who claim to be family members but in reality are not.

In some other places mixed baths are making a come back and they get a surprising number of women. Although some of them complain about alligators (men who cruise around they baths with their eyes just above the surface of the water, checking out women’s bodies).

In any case, cleaning women going about their chores and little girls with their fathers are common sights among the naked men in men's dressing rooms in gyms, public swimming pools and public baths. A New York Times reporter recounted one episode in which an American wearing his underwear was told to remove it by a woman worker before he stepped into the bath. The reason for this was that the cleaning women had a job to do (keeping the dressing room clean) and she had to go about her duties even if it meant telling a man she didn't know to expose his private parts.

Researchers Study Whether Dogs Like Hot Springs

In January 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Are hot-spring baths as relaxing for dogs as they are for humans? A research team from a professional training college in Okayama City is looking into the matter. Dogs unaccustomed to bathing in hot springs do exhibit signs of stress, but appear to relax again as they become more familiar with the activity. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, January 8, 2012]

Okayama University of Science Specialized Training College, a vocational training school for animal health technicians, conducted the study at Yubara hot spring in the city of Maniwa, Okayama Prefecture, from May 2010 to October 2011 with help from the Maniwa City government and an association of inns and hotels in the former Yubaracho area, now in Maniwa. The group intends to study better ways for dogs to bathe in hot springs. [Ibid]

The study group placed seven dogs, including border collies, in a dog-only hot spring facility for 15 minutes to measure changes in body temperature and amylase concentrations in their saliva. Amylase, a digestive enzyme, was used as a barometer to gauge stress. They found that the dogs' body temperatures rose by 0.2 C while bathing in the hot spring, and that their bodies would retain heat for one hour after bathing. When the dogs were in the bath, amylase concentrations increased to about twice their pre-bathing levels, but returned to normal levels 15 minutes later.But once the dogs got out of the hot spring, amylase concentrations were triple that of normal levels, returning to normal after 50 minutes. [Ibid]

The research team believes the levels first rose because the dogs were bewildered by a new environment, dropping once the dogs became familiarized and relaxed. The team also believes the dog's stress levels increased after bathing due to the noisy hair driers researchers used to dry the dogs. Naoko Minami, an animal health technician and an employee at the vocational training school, said, "We still can't explain clearly the effect of hot spring water on dogs, but [we can say that] it's best to bathe dogs in a hot spring at times when they feel less stressed." Minami advised bathing dogs in hot springs after a 30-minute rest period, as a lengthy car drive to a spring can be burdensome for dogs. [Ibid]

Onsen Accommodation

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19th century ryokan
Onsens usually offer accommodation and meals. Ends to themselves they usually have several baths and are popular weekend trip destinations, particularly for women. Many resemble large hotels and have indoor baths. Other are more like country inns and have indoor and outdoor bathing facilities. Some baths are reached only after taking a hike through the mountains.

Some are quite luxurious: filled with artworks and an army unIformed employees relentlessly saying “excuse me” and “thank you” for this and that. Prices range from $70 to $500 per person per night, including a large dinner and small breakfast. Day trippers who don’t spend the night are charged between $5 and $10.

The room are often simple Japanese-style room with tatami mats and a low table and futons that are unfurled at night. The meals are set and offered at a specific time. Often times onsens meals are served in the guest’s room. They often contain a variety of vegetable, pickle and fish dishes, served artistically in small amounts.

Many onsens have transfer service from the trains stations. This is usually in the form a small van that picks up guest outside the station and take them to the mountains where the onsen is located. Once guest arrive they shed their clothes and put on bathrobe-like yukatas and are given towels. Many onsens in the mountains have hiking trails around the facility. Guests squeeze in hikes between meals and baths. Many are open late into the night and allow guest to drink sake while they are taking a soak.

Onsen Troubles

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19th century hotel
A study found that even though most onsens claim to be natural hot springs, 70 percent use water that is pumped up from underground. Only 30 percent were real hot springs in which natural water bumbles to the surface. So much water is in being pumped from underground there are worries it may dry up hot spring water supplies.

In one survey a third of the onsens admitted they diluted the hot spring water with tap water. Half said they recycled water through filters and 40 percent failed to respond. Other studies and research have uncovered onsens that had water trucked in from other places, or ran it over mineral ores so it could be labeled as mineral water. Others have dangerous bacteria. At one Onsens in Miyazaki Prefecture, 295 bathers became ill and seven died from a mass legionella infection caused by contaminated water.

In 2003, it was revealed that one onsen famed for its milky-white water added a powder to the water to give it the milky color. Further investigation found that several other onsens used similar tactics to give their water unique colors or characteristics. In some cases the onsens originally had uniquely colored water but after supplies began running low additives were added out of fear that tourist would no longer come. In recent years an effort has been to regulate the onsen industry so that onsen live up to their claims. Some that has added tap water ir run misleading ads have been criminally charged.

Revelations of water tampering have hurt an industry that was already in a state of decline. Some people with reservations have called and demanded their money back. Onsens that didn’t tamper with their water have been hurt as much as those that did. A couple onsens were shut down after police raids. Onsens are currently closing at a rate of 100 a year.

Spa and Onsen Accidents

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hiking on Fuji-san In June 2007, a large explosion at the Shiesa spa facility in Shibuya ward in downtown Tokyo killed three spa employees and injuring eight other people. The blast, caused by the ignition of natural methane gas, blew off the roof and obliterated the building that housed the spa and seriously damaged other building in he neighborhood.

The explosion was blamed on a faulty design of the gas separation system and the failure to install methane detectors and air inlet ducts, thus allowing natural gas from spring water to collect in the basement of the spa, where machines pumped water from a source 1,500 meters underground and separated methane from the water. The spark or heat that ignited the gas is believed to have come from a water pump. The spa and contractors that built the gas separation system were found guilty of negligence.

Three employees of a construction company and an operator at the spa were charged with negligence. The construction company employees failed to notify the operators of problems with the systems and the operator failed to take adequate safety measure such as installing a gas detector for the facility.

In a freak accident in December 2005 all four members of a family were killed by hydrogen sulfide gas outside a hot spring in Yazawa, Akita Prefecture. Two boys in the family were playing frisbee and one them fell into a two-meter wide, 1.5-meter-deep sinkhole that had filled with the poisonous gas, which had been emitted from the hot spring and sunk and collected in the sink hole. When the boy’s brother arrived to help he too was overcome by the gas. The same fate occurred the father and mother. The father managed to drag one of the boys out of the hole before he was overcome by the gas and died. The boy died in a hospital the next day.

Hiking in Japan

Some link the hiking and climbing boom in Japan to the 1964 book 100 Famous Japanese Mountains. Many Japanese have the goal of climbing all 100 peaks named in the book in their lifetimes.

Climbing Mt. Fuji

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Fuji-san
About 300,000 people make the ascent to the 12,388-foot-high summit of Mt. Fuji every year. A record 305,000 people climbed it in 2008, with 30 percent of them being foreigners. Most of these people do it in the climbing season in July and August, when about 5,000 people a day reach the summit. So many people do the hike at this time that parts of the trail are as wide as a two-lane highway, traffic jams form behind slight obstacles, and hikers that slip sometimes take out a dozen or so other people domino-fashion. To avoid the crowds do the hike in late June or early September. The only problem is that some huts are closed and there is less public transport at these tomes.

The summit of Mt. Fuji is a harsh, lava-strewn place with a simple wooden shrine and a handful of stone shelters used for protection from wind and cold and foul weather. Most of the climbers do the final ascent in the wee hours of the morning so the can arrive at the summit before dawn and shout "banzai" when the sun comes up and are rewarded with vistas of the deep green valleys and floating white cloud formations called unkai ("cloud sea"). If you are on the summit at sunset you can see Mt. Fuji’s shadow spread across the countryside.

Overuse has definitely taken its toll on Mt. Fuji. Exhaust from the cars and buses that ascend the mountain have killed trees, human-induced erosion has scarred the slopes, and even though the majority of hikers are very careful not to litter, the sheer numbers of them cause heaps of rubbish sometimes pill up around the trash cans.

In response to criticism about the trash, regular crews clean up trash along the trails and eco-friendly toilets have been installed. Some of the more advanced ones cost $40,000 and incinerate the waste, leaving behind ash that is brought to the bottom of the mountain. There are also some biological toilets that use microbes break down the waster but there capacity is limited.

Trails on Mt. Fuji

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hiking on Fuji-san
Most hikers begin their trek from the end of the road and the souvenir city of Kawaguchi. The trail up is very steep and often requires the use of you hands to climb steep sections of rock. Towards the top, the altitude takes it toll and many hikers get very tired and have to stop frequently to rest. There are no sections with cliffs so people with fear f heights don’t have to worry. There is a separate trail for downhill hikers. It is on loose sand and cinders, which is very slippery. Hikers generally fall on the bum at least once. The pounding takes it toll on the knees.

Many hikers begin their hike around 10:00pm to midnight and try to reach the summit in time for sunrise, which is usually between 4:30am and 5:30am in the hiking season. You don’t want to arrive too early or you freeze you ass waiting fr the sunrise. You don’t want to be too late and miss it. Many foreigners find the sunrise ritual to be overrated and recommend hiking up and down in the daytime.

There are one-room substation set up periodically on the trails where hikers can buy snacks, ramen, takes a rest, sleep for the night or get a seal burned into their walking stick, signifying that they got this far (the majority of the hikers have walking sticks as well as special hiking outfits). At some of the stations are mountain huts that charge about $36 a night to sleep on mattress on floor covered by other doing the same, Some people spend last night or a few hours here before making the final push to the summit at around 3:00am.

The sunrise viewing area is on the northern side of the crater. There are snack bars and souvenir stands here. The Mt. Fuji Weather Station is on the southern edge of the crater is the actually summit of the mountains. It takes about an hour to walk around the crater. Being at the summit at dawn is imperative for getting a good view before the clouds roll in. Many people hike the entire route at night. Beginning at fifth station of the Lake Kawaguchi Trail around 10:00pm and taking their time and stopping frequently so they don't reach the summit too early and freeze while waiting for the sun to come up.

Warning and Rules on Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji is just high enough so that some people may experience some altitude sickness as the reach the top. Some climbers of Fuji carry small oxygen tanks with them. Dizziness and nausea are the first signs. If you have problems descend below the 8th station.

The weather is very changeable so hikers should be prepared for rain, cold, wind and possible snow. In the summer, the temperature difference between the base and summit is 20̊C. Before dawn the mercury often dips below freezing at dawn and can seem much colder when nasty winds kick up. Gloves, thermal underwear, rain gear, long pants, thick socks, warm hat. sweater and a jacket are essential. If the weather get really bad take refuge in a mountain hut.

Be prepared for crowds and bring enough food and water. Water especially is a problem. There are no springs or streams along the hiking routes. This means you either have to carry water or buy it at inflated prices of around $4 per half liter. If you hike at night make sure you have a flashlight and extra batteries.

Winter Sports in Japan

The popularity of winter sports in Japan is substantiated by the country’s distinction of being the first Asian country to host the Winter Olympics (1972). Further proof can be found in its role as host to both the first and second Winter Asian Games (1986 and 1990). To these, of course, the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano can now be added. [Source: Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan]

“Japan’s climate, above all, permits a thriving winter sports season. Winters are governed by the coldest air mass in the world, the Siberian air mass. The frequent approach of cold fronts from the Asian mainland causes Japan to experience much lower temperatures than European regions at the same latitude. Tokyo, at 35̊ north latitude, has an average January temperature of 4.7̊C, as opposed to the similar 4.2̊C January average in London, located at 51̊ north latitude. As the Siberian air mass approaches Japan, it picks up moisture from the Sea of Japan. As a result, regions facing the Asian continent often receive heavy snowfall. Joetsu City in Niigata Prefecture recorded 232 centimeters of snow in one day during 1986— enough to bury a one-story building. This presents a startling contrast with the Pacific attracted Ocean side of the archipelago, which tends to be quite dry and receives much less snow during the winter. [Ibid]

“Another factor that enhances the winter sports environment is that four-fifths of Japan’s land area is composed of mountains. The Japan Alps —a range that is divided into Northern, Central, and Southern sectors— runs down the central part of Honshu, the largest of the four Japanese islands. Many peaks in the Japan Alps are over 2,500 meters high and are covered with snow during the winter. Since these areas can be reached easily by the rail and highway network from the three major population centers in Kanto, Chubu, and Kinki (with Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, respectively, at their centers), it is natural that these areas are among the most popular for winter sports. A skier, for example, can board a Joetsu Shinkansen (bullet train) on a brisk and sunny day in Tokyo, and in just over one hour be at a resort in Niigata Prefecture or Nagano Prefecture where there are two to four meters of snow. Depending on the region and prevailing weather conditions, it is usually possible to ski from December through the beginning of April. [Ibid] In the Nordic combined event, the Japanese team won consecutive gold medals at the Albertville Games and the 1994 Lillehammer Games, and Kono Takanori won an individual silver medal in that event at the 1994 Games. For women’s freestyle mogul skiing, Satoya Tae won a gold medal at the Nagano Games and a bronze medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Ski Resorts in Japan

Most of the major winter sports areas on the island of Honshu are easily accessible by railway and are outfitted with chairlifts and night illumination. A large number of ski grounds are located along the Joetsu line, which terminates in Tokyo. These include Tsuchitaru, Nakazato, Iwappara, Yuzawa, Ishiuchi, Shiozawa, Urasa, Koide, and Ojiya. Sugadaira Ski Grounds is a ski resort located along the Shinetsu line, between Mt. Azumaya and Mt. Neko. Zao, a resort on the border of Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures, has the reputation of being the largest and best equipped ski area in the Tohoku region. It is also famous for its “snow monsters,” ice-covered pine trees that make for stunning winter scenery. [Source: Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan]

“Hokkaido’s northern latitudes permit skiing from early December to late April. Most of the ski grounds provide a variety of slopes that offer not only challenges to experts, but safe skiing for beginners. Many of these ski facilities are located close to Hokkaido’s major cities. Skating can be enjoyed at many lakes and outdoor rinks, and also in some urban areas. Hakone, a recreational area near Mount Fuji, offers good skating facilities. It can easily be reached from Tokyo by train in less than two hours. [Ibid]

“A winter vacation at a Japanese resort area means more than just sports. Like so many other aspects of modern-day living, the pace of recreation in Japan has accelerated and the ways in which people enjoy winter sports have changed. Previously, this would have involved staying in a ryokan (Japanese inn), or family-run bed-and-breakfast, and enjoying pleasures such as hot springs, the beautiful landscape, and of course skiing. Recently, however, there has been a surge in the number of ski resorts that have large hotels offering a wide range of facilities, and now there are a great many more things to do than just ski. They feature a variety of restaurants including those with Japanese, Chinese and European cuisines, golf courses, shopping malls and beauty spas… these days, winter resorts offer much more than sports. [Ibid]

“The availability of domestic package tours that include transportation, hotel, meals, ski lift tickets, and so on, has made the business aspect of winter sports much more competitive. To kindle consumer interest, resorts have responded by promoting discount packages and offering new styles of skiing, such as freestyle and Telemark skiing. The popularity of snowboards has grown so rapidly that nearly all ski areas in Japan now permit snowboarding. This has required the adoption of additional safety measures. As they have changed to better suit modern life styles, in recent years ski resorts have seen a huge rise in the number of customers from abroad as well as those from Japan. Hokkaido, which is known as the biggest winter resort area in Japan, saw a 500 percent increase in overseas visitors in the 10 years through 2006 as it gained recognition as an international ski resort destination.

Image Sources: 1) ukiyo-e by Torii Kiyonaga 2) 3) 4) 8) JNTO 5) 6) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education Andrew 7) 9)Gray Photosensibility

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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