Written by Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan
While there won’t be many Australians on the Japanese snow fields this season, put it on the list for the end of next year.
Two hours from Tokyo on the Tobu Railway, Nikko is nestled on the edge of Nikko National Park. Besides the powder and easy slopes for the first time skier, there are frozen waterfalls, snow sculptures and even an outdoor Samurai village.
Nikko’s iconic Kegon Falls stand at almost 100-metres. The waterfall has a proud title as one of the three most beautiful in Japan. The waters from the neighbouring Lake Chuzenji usually flow from the peaks of the cliffs, but in winter the waterfall freezes over, creating a unique spectacle of ice.
Visitors can see the frozen waterfall up close from the observation deck, or even take an elevator to the basin to look at it from below. Walking distance from the falls are quaint cafes and restaurants for the ever hungry children.
Nikko Yumoto Onsen Ski Park is a small ski area located west of Nikko City. It features 4 slopes, which are all wide and gentle, making it a suitable option close to Tokyo for families with small kids who are beginners. The park has a free entry kids play area, allowing smaller children who can’t ski yet to try their hand at sledging and tubing. Nikko Yumoto Onsen Ski Park is also equipped with rental stores for gear and attire.
The ski season usually starts in late-December until the end of March, with Nikko’s temperatures being the best for winter sports in January and February.
Around thirty minutes from Kegon Falls is the small hot springs town of Yumoto Onsen nestled deep within the mountains of the national park. Every winter the town comes alive in celebration of the Yumoto Onsen Yukiakari Snow Festival with over 500 miniature kamakura (igloos) filling Yumoto Park. After dark, the igloos are lit up with coloured lights setting the scene for winter magic. The festival also includes an ice-sculpture competition, calling sculptors and even chefs from all over the country to compete for the best frozen artwork. The sculptures glow like crystals when they are lit up.
The Yumoto Onsen Yukiakari Snow Festival is usually held in early February for around two weeks.
The Tobu Railway offers special discount passes only for foreign visitors visiting Nikko from Tokyo which include a round trip from Asakusa in Tokyo to Nikko, as well as unlimited travel on trains and busses in the Nikko area.