Japan Ski Shops & Equipment Rental

Japan Ski Shops & Equipment Rental

Shopping & Renting Skis & Snowboard in Japan

If you’re wondering if you should take your own snowboard or ski equipment to Japan or rent it when you get there, or whether the Japan ski shops and snowboard stores are adequate to buy what you need, we provide some advice below.

Should I Rent Skis in Japan or Take My Skis or Snowboard?

Naturally there are a few factors to consider regarding whether to take your own snowboard or ski equipment to Japan or whether to rent your gear.

The first consideration is the type of terrain you think you’ll be riding, and whether you’ll be chasing powder off-piste or remaining on-piste. If the latter, regular resort skis or snowboards will be fine on the majority of days. Occasionally there might be deep powder on what’s usually a groomed run, but it will get packed down pretty quickly and the equipment you use on groomers should suffice. Naturally if you’re heading into the backcountry, you’ll want touring skis or a splitboard with skins (showshoes might suffice but will slow you down, especially if the powder is deep). You’ll also need a backpack with shovel and probe, and an avalanche beacon.

Naturally, the main consideration when deciding whether to hire skis or snowboard equipment in Japan is what gear you currently own. If your ski or snowboard hardware is from the dark ages, you might be better hiring if you’re heading to a “modern” ski resort. If you own boots, take these with you because hiring boots is painful regardless of where you are in the world, and in Japan you might also need to contend with whether there are rental boots big enough for your feet (if you’re not heading to a high profile ski resort). For skiers heading off-piste or backcountry, you’ll want fat skis that are at least 95-100mm in the waist (we ski on Wagner Customs that are about 110mm). Ideally these will have a little bit of sidecut for the occasional groomer. Snowboarders that will ride mostly on-piste will get away with a standard board in Japan, but real powder enthusiasts may consider a longer powder board, or a short board that has width and taper instead of length to achieve flotation.

Airline baggage restrictions might be a factor if you’ve booked a cheap airfare that doesn’t include a lot of baggage weight, although depending on how long you’re staying for, the cost of renting equipment might be greater than paying for additional baggage on your flight. There are companies that provide international shipping of ski/snowboard equipment such as Luggage Forward or Ship Skis, but this tends to be pretty expensive.

Your destination/s is a major factor because the quality and quantity of ski and snowboard rentals varies significantly across the Japan ski resorts. Westernised ski resorts such as Niseko and Hakuba provide plenty of options for quality rental equipment geared to westerners (see Niseko ski rentals and Hakuba ski rentals), whilst at lesser known resorts the ski shops might still have rear entry boots and skis or snowboards of a similar ilk! There are also lots of Japanese hotels and pensions that rent out gear, and whilst it may be cheap, there’s the risk that it could be ancient. On the facilities and services pages for each Japan ski resort on Powderhounds, you’ll find information about the likelihood of finding quality gear.

Your ability to lug your own gear around might also be a factor, particularly if you have a shoulder injury or have small children in tow. If you’ve got a direct transfer from the airport to your accommodation then you’ll be sweet, but if you’re catching trains you’ll need to cart bags around, unless you have spare days to get your gear transported ahead with Yamato (the courier service).

If you’re going on a tour to multiple ski areas, then you’ll want your own gear because frequent visits to a rental shop will just be painful. An exception to this is if the tour starts and finishes in the one spot, or if you need backcountry rentals and the tour operator assists with the logistics.

Japan Backcountry Equipment Rentals/Hire

If you want backcountry equipment rentals in Japan, there aren’t that many ski areas where you can find this. Japan ski areas with backcountry ski touring and splitboard rentals include Hakuba, Niseko, Furano, Kiroro, and Tomamu.

If you don’t have a fancy Arc’teryx or Black Diamond Airbag with the fan system of deployment that’s easy to travel with, or the new version of the BCA electric airbag, and you have a Mammut backpack or old BCA backpack with a cannister system, then refilling your canister may create a few logistical challenges. It’s not possible to get airbag cylinders filled in Japan, but you might be able to rent one. For example, Alpine Backcountry Rental in Tomamu rents out BCA avalanche airbags and canisters, and provide delivery services to Furano and the Tokachi area. Niseko 343 sells cartridges. Some other shops that previously rented out airbag canisters are no longer doing so because this airbag technology is being phased out, and we’re not aware of any options for Ortovox because Ortovox airbag products are not sold in Japan.

Buying Snowboard and Ski Gear in Japan

Should I Buy Ski Gear in Japan or at Home?

If you live somewhere tropical, with no ski shops within coo-eee, then you might have to resort to buying ski gear in Japan. Otherwise, you could probably just buy gear in your home country, because it won’t be any cheaper in Japan.

There are plenty of ski shops and snowboard stores in the big cities, although most of them sell brands that may not be familiar to you such as Goldwin and Onyone outerwear. You’ll also need to consider sizing because many of the shops specialise in small sized clothing and small non-western sized boots.

If you’re in the market for new ski boots, then be very careful getting them somewhere in a city where you can’t take them back for re-adjustment. It may be a better idea to get your boots fitted before you go, and at least wear them around the house and pretend to ski in them, and take them back to get readjusted as necessary. However if you’re visiting a westernised ski resort such as Hakuba or Niseko for example, then you could buy some boots there.

Tokyo Ski Shops

Just to the north of Tokyo train station is Yasukuni-dori Avenue between the Surugadaishita and Ogawamachi intersections (Kanda-Ogawamachi district aka Kanda Sports District), which has a ridiculous number of shops that are dedicated to skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering. You could get off at Jimbocho station or start at the other end at Ogawamachi. Either way you'll be in a sea of Tokyo ski shops and snowboard stores.

There are three FUSO ski shops in Tokyo in the Kanda District that have an array of clothing and equipment. One specialises in ski boot fitting, but as mentioned above, this has some limitations.

The Victoria flagship store is also located in this district, and it has a massive selection of ski and snowboard gear spread across multiple floors. London Sports is an option for cheap stuff.

Ski Shops in Other Japan Cities

Sapporo in Hokkaido has several ski shops that have some worthwhile gear, yet surprisingly not much in the way of specialist snowboarding equipment. Sapporo ski shops include Outdoor Sports which is a backcountry ski touring haven.

Asahikawa ski shops are not that prolific, which is surprising considering its proximity to some fantastic skiing and snowboarding. There is a great backcountry ski shop in Asahikawa.

Snowboard & Ski Shops at the Japan Ski Resorts

As a general rule, the higher profile and westernised a ski resort, the better the shopping opportunities for ski and snowboard gear. Two resorts that buck this trend are Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen, which have surprisingly limited shopping opportunities.

Niseko ski shops are abundant and you can get spiffy luxury brand skiwear, functional outerwear, lots of hardwear, boot fitters, backcountry equipment and everything in between. Much of the shopping is centred in the biggest village, Hirafu, but there are shops in the other villages too. It also seems apt to buy some Oyuki gloves in Niseko Hirafu from Rhythm, which is the home to Oyuki.

Hakuba also has a good range of ski and snowboard shops, but as the villages are so spread out, it’s a little harder to wander from shop to shop to check out the offerings. Rhythm is a good option for buying hardwear, boot fitting and backcountry equipment.

Most of the lesser known ski resorts have at least one retail shop where you’ll be able to purchase basic ski and snowboard accessories, but that’s about it. That’s of course unless you need a new ticket pass holder because many of the shops sell hundreds of them. Some of the resorts would love to progress to an electronic lift pass system but then they wouldn’t be able to sell kitsch lift pass holders!