Après-ski in Japan: 5 ways to top off a day on the slopes
Snow-bunny, thrill-seeker or powder hound from way back, you’d have to have been living under a rock to not have heard about the epic slopes in Japan. The ski and snowboarding scene has exploded over the last few years; Japan’s pow pow is famous. But it’s not all about days spent slaying the runs. Because once you hang up the skis and snowboards, Japan’s après ski scene is where you want to be.
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Naked and chill at an onsen
In the West, après-ski is synonymous with bars and drinking (not that we’re complaining). In Japan, the traditional post-ski go-to is quite diff. Here it’s all about the onsen, or hot spring. So basically, you just get naked and chill. And it’s not just a treat reserved for winter. This long-standing practice of soaking in thermal baths is just a part of the local way of life.
You’ll find most hotels have their own onsen, but it’s also super easy to find standalone onsens – some w spectacular surrounds. Picture it: steam rising around you as you peer out over gorg valleys. Now that’s a reason to get into your birthday suit!
But srsly, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- You really do have to be naked.
- You have to wash yourself (and your feet!) before and after your soak.
- Don’t go flaunting your ink (and be aware that in some less touristy places, tattoos are strictly forbidden).
- Don’t dip your head under – or put your ‘modesty’ towel in, for that matter.
- The point is to relax (ie. no bomb-diving or swimming – as tempting as it may be).
Wondering about this ‘modesty’ towel? It’s pretty small TBH, so you might have to get a bit, errr, ‘creative’!
Sake, local brews and Japanese whisky
Think you’ll be stanning for a drink regardless of whether or not you opt for a sneaky dip? Truth is, Japan has its fair share of Western-style après ski ‘activities’ too, especially in Hokkaido, which is dotted with chic izakayas (Japanese gastropubs) you’ll WANT to check out.
Think cocktails (wasabi margaritas anyone?) and all the local pours you could possibly imagine – from one-of-a-kind regional craft brews to specialty Japanese whisky, sochu, yuzu and ALL the variations of sake (who even knew there were six major categories of sake – plus more?).
What makes it so great is that you can find your vibe. Hit up a swanky sake bar, find a more Western-infused bar to party with your mates or escape it all and down a few quiet ones with the locals somewhere cute and super cosy. What better way to finish the day? Perf.
Sing-along like a local
Once you’ve lubricated your vocal chords and your super-confident alter-ego makes an appearance, make a beeline for a local karaoke room to do as the locals do and belt out an après-ski ballad or 20.
Even in the snow-clad mountains you’ll find karaoke bars (you can’t escape them). Well, Japan IS the original home of karaoke, so, when in Japan! #thisisyourtimetoshine
Eat your heart out
They say sharing a pot of snow crabs in northern Japan is akin to sharing cheese fondue after skiing in Switzerland. Snow crabs or no crabs, the food in Japan is TDF. And like many parts of Asia, food is an essential ingredient for any legit authentic local experience.
What better reason than that to rice wine and dine at the amaze local haunts dishing up all the eats. There’s traditional sushi, tempura, ramen, soba, unagi, yakatori and so much more deliciousness to try. What’s also mind-blowing is that it’s presented as beautifully as it tastes.
If you MUST go for some more Western-style mouthfuls – you know, for extra pre-ski fuel – you’ll be stoked to hear you can still find some of your favourites at the busier, more touristy ski hotspots.
Do the tourist thing
So, what else after a day on the slopes? Yes, there are still sights to see, amaze panoramas to Insta and epic adventures to be had. Plus – hello snowmen AND snowwomen!
You could also check out Japan’s only ice made village (yes, including a bar!) in Lake Shikaribetsuko Kotan, drop by the Sapporo Snow Festival (you can day trip it there from Niseko or Furano), or suss out the Nozawa Fire Festival in Nozawa.
And if you’re looking for something really diff and off the beaten track, there’s always the Yanaizu Naked Man Festival in northern Honshu. Curious? Here’s a hint: think loincloths, climbing and negative-five-degrees temps.
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