With its frosty forests and snow-capped mountains, the countryside around Tokyo is all the more beautiful in the bleak midwinter. Should you be looking for a wilderness adventure, here’s our guide to winter day trips from Tokyo.
The snowy period between December and May is the best time to hit the pic-perfect pistes outside Tokyo, easily reachable by fast-speed shinkansen. A mere 75-minute train ride will land you in the city’s nearest and dearest resort, Gala Yuzawa, where a day pass and all the necessary gear can be procured from the station before you board the 800m gondola up the mountain. Intrepid alpine adventurers should keep going from there, for an additional 50 minutes by bus, to Kawaba, a lesser-known spot popular with locals and novice snowboarders for its gentle but moderately challenging slopes.
Or, if it’s off-piste thrills you seek, hop-off at Echigo-Yuzawa, and take the 20-minute shuttle to the impressive Naeba resort, where you can hire equipment plus an excellent guide to help you find first-rate untracked lines, 3,000 ft above the valley floor. There are even soothing hot springs and a fancy array of dining options for that all-important après-ski.
For a more gentle jaunt, don’t miss a trip up to the Kegon Falls (Kegon no taki) which is all the more beautiful in winter. This gushing 100m-high rapid, spilling into Lake Chuzenji, is considered to be one of the three most picturesque in Japan and often freezes completely in winter. Kegon is best reached from Tokyo via a 2-hour car ride; once there, you can hike up to the free observation platform on foot, or pay to take the elevator up to a private platform for even more impressive views.
Perhaps all of this sounds rather too outdoorsy for your liking? Chilly Tillies need not fret; you can take in some of Japan’s finest pastoral scenes from the heated comfort of a topper chopper. With private charters departing from Urayasu Heliport in Tokyo Bay every day, Excel Helicopter Cruising will whoosh you over some of the area’s most breathtaking sights, like Mount Fuji plus Ashinoko Lake, Yokohama, Kamakura, and Enoshima in a 70-minute round trip. Up the romance factor with Champagne, cake and flowers.
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