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Why Nikko Is the Perfect One-Stop Spot for Your First Japanese Family Snow Adventure

December 9, 2020 Visit North Asia No Comments

Taking your kids to Japan to see the snow for the first time? Japan is well known to Australians as a treasure trove for skiers and snowboarders, often leaving some snow destinations feeling like a mini Australia in Japan. To escape the crowds and branch away from the mainstream Japan-ski areas, a lesser known destination -such as Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture – might just be the place you were looking for.

Just a 2-hour express train ride north from Tokyo on the Tobu Railway, Nikko makes a perfect day trip if your running short on time or a perfect overnight getaway for families who want to enjoy a soak in some of their famous natural hot springs. The small town sits on the edge of the 1,150 km square Nikko National Park and is well known to locals for its UNESCO World Heritage sites and outdoor Samurai village. It also boasts an array of options for families with kids visiting Japan in the snow season. From easy slopes for the first-time skier, frozen waterfalls and snow sculptures, a trip to Nikko should be on your itinerary.

Start your day with the frozen Kegon Falls

Take a leisurely bus ride through the national park to find Nikko’s iconic Kegon Falls. Standing at almost 100-metres, this 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. Withing walking distance from the observation deck are streets lined with quaint cafes and restaurants for you to have a relaxed lunch with the family.

Get there: 50-minutes by bus from Tobu Nikko Station.

Get used to your skis at the Nikko Yumoto Onsen Ski Park

For families trying out the snow for the first time, 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, allowing travellers to reduce their luggage when travelling.

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.

End your day with snow sculptures, igloos and fireworks

In just over a 30-minute bus ride from Kegon Falls, you can find the small hot springs town of Yumoto Onsen nestled deep withing 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 for the children. The festival also includes an ice-sculpture competition, calling sculptors and even chefs from famous hotels from all over the country to compete for the best frozen artwork. The sculptures are framed in the kamakura and glow like crystals when they are lit up.

The Yumoto Onsen Yukiakari Snow Festival is usually held in early February for roughly two weeks.

Get there: Yumoto Onsen and The Nikko Yumoto Onsen Ski Park and can be accessed in 35 minutes by bus from Kegon Falls.

Where to stay: Visitors who want to stay central to the above attractions can stay at the Chuzenji Kanaya Hotel on the northern banks of Lake Chuzenji.

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