If you want to see in the New Year somewhere sensationally snowy and delightfully different, Japan is well worth considering. We love the mix of festivities at this time of year, from the old school New Year or “Shougatsu” celebrations to western ski resort traditions like mulled wine and a New Year’s Eve torch-lit relay. Naturally you can expect fireworks, and rather incredible ones at that if past years are anything to go by. Some ski resorts offer late night skiing on the 31st, for those who want to fill every last second of the old year on the slopes. There’s often the chance to join the Japanese NYE tradition of Hatsumode at a Shinto shrine, where you can make wishes for the coming year among candles, bonfires, food and sake stalls. Come January 1st, look out for early gondola rides to let you catch the sunrise as well as the age-old custom of breaking open the Sake cask.
Whether you want to spend New Year’s week skiing straight from the door onto Japan’s legendary powder snow, soaking away your cares in a steaming onsen or feasting on fresh Hokkaido cuisine, Japan’s ski hotels are unlikely to disappoint. An all-inclusive package provides almost everything you could want for throughout your stay, while room-only and B&B bookings let you pick and choose where and when to dine.
While this is still early-ish in the season for Japan’s ski resorts, the amount of snow you can find here around the end of December and beginning of January is seriously impressive. Both months get a good 20+ days with snowfall, and with some resorts opening back in November, there’s usually a terrific snow base to work with. Temperatures can be low, and with thick clouds to mask the sunshine it’s best to pack plenty of layers.
There are oodles of ways to start the new year in this neck of the woods: go for the relaxing option, with a stint in the Onsen hot springs around Niseko. Do classic ski resort activities like snowmobiling and snowshoeing, or try something you’ve never heard of before, like a snow banana boat ride or snow rafting… In Tomamu, you can visit an ice village then enter tropical climes in the resort’s indoor beach. That’s all assuming you can spare time from enjoying the superb skiing and snowboarding on offer here…