Getting to Japan

Getting to Japan

Flying to Japan

For advice on travelling to Japan, see our pages on getting to Honshu and travel to Hokkaido. From some countries it's quite difficult to get direct flights into Sapporo in Hokkaido, with flights generally going via Tokyo or another Asian city. Use one of our recommended flight aggregators to search and compare flights to Japan.

Particularly if you're flying with Singapore Airlines, you might want to consider a Singapore stopover. Or if you're flying into Tokyo, you might want to check out this frenetic city for a couple of days.

Be mindful that some flights into Narita airport are now arriving at Terminal 3. You’ll need to collect your luggage and head to Terminal 2 via a shuttle bus (or 15 minute walk) to find hotel shuttles, buses and trains.

Travelling to the Japan Resorts

How you choose to travel around to get to the Japan snow resorts may depend upon your budget, your time availability, and the size of your luggage, and whether you need the convenience of being dropped at the hotel door.

For Hokkaido, check out our travelling around Hokkaido page which includes information on the Hokkaido ski buses.

Keep in mind that Japan has some great luggage courier systems if you don’t want to cart your baggage on trains, buses or in taxis. You can send your luggage between the airport and your ski resort hotel. It usually takes about 24 hours, so this service is particularly useful for travellers who are combining a ski holiday with a trip to Tokyo or Kyoto. Courier services cost about ¥1,500 to ¥3,000 per piece depending on the size and distance of travel. Kuroi Neko (the courier service with the cat logo) is one example of a reputable company. 

Using Trains to Get Around
Trains are a fast, convenient and enjoyable way to travel around and to get to many of the Japan ski resorts. Train travel is also a great way to get into the culture of Japan. See our Japan rail travel page for more information. Use Hyperdia to search for train routes, schedules, and fares.

Using Taxis to Get Around
Taxis are readily available in cities and large towns and are reasonably priced. Taxis are generally small sedans, so fitting in a large ski or snowboard bag may require some problem solving. Some taxis may have roof racks and they might only have small straps to affix skis, but not large ties to secure a big bag to the roof. It’s probably wise to pack your own octopus straps, or take your skis/snowboard out of the bag to fit them inside the taxi.

Uber in Japan has only got as far as Tokyo, and only in a limited fashion.

Driving Around Japan
Driving around the ski resorts in Japan is reasonably easy because you can get a rental car with an English GPS (or mostly in English). All you have to do is enter the telephone number of where you want to go, and the GPS gives you options of routes including those that avoid the tollways (which can get rather expensive if you drive long distances). Also most of the road signs are in English so navigating is surprisingly easy.

Cars drive on the left side of the road in Japan and road rules follow fairly typical international standards. Speed limits are often very slow, but the locals seem to just ignore the signs and drive much faster (it’s possibly the only rule the Japanese don’t follow!). Driving in Japan is nothing like the crazy driving in some other Asian countries such as Vietnam or India, so don’t use your horn unless absolutely necessary.

In order to drive and rent a car in Japan, you require an international driving license which you’ll need to organise through an automobile association before you go to Japan. These licenses are only valid for 12 months.

The rental cars from most snowy cities will have snow tyres on them and many of the cars are AWD or 4WD, even the compact cars in Hokkaido, so chains generally won’t be necessary. Of course, usual caution when driving on snow-covered or icy roads will need to be exercised.

Consider the size of your rental car carefully. If a car says it’s suitable for 5 people, then it means 5 little people with absolutely no luggage, so it’s probably only fine for 2 people. It can be really difficult to get a rental car with roof racks, so you’ll also need extra space to store your skis or snowboard inside the car.

Japan has plenty of very impressive road infrastructure, and despite it being a very mountainous country, drive times are often reasonable considering the abundance of tunnels, bridges and expressways.

Japan has a zero tolerance for drinking alcohol and driving. They don’t have booze buses or pull people over to breathalyse them, but if you have an accident and you’re under the influence, you’ll get put in jail.

Japan Hosted & Guided Multi-Resort Ski Safaris

If you are a powder junkie, a multi-resort hosted and guided Japan ski safari could be the best way for you to get your powder fix. Once you have done one of these tours you will find it hard to ever go back to staying at one resort!

The high profile resorts get inundated with people chasing that elusive powder. Meanwhile there are hundreds of ski areas in Japan which most people don't visit as they are too small to visit for more than a day before getting bored; however they have some amazing powder skiing with little or no competition for the powder. A guide can get you to the good stashes quickly and safely and they can drive you from one location to another.

Various tours are designed to cater to different abilities of skiers and snowboarders. 

For an indication of dates and availability, check out the Japan Ski Tours schedule page.