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I cannot believe that...

It is the first weekend at home, since we came back from Polynesia (A MONTH AGO!). But the awesome Japanese powder in these slopes, is well worth it. Today, along with the start of the awesome Snow Festival of Hokkaido (Yuki Matsuri), we will talk about snowboarding in Japan.

Key factors to make the experience so awesome are:
- Great powder, tones of it.
- Only chair lifts, hooded lifts or gondolas (not a single drag lift THANKS GOD)
- Resorts that you can literally exit with the board on, as the lift is meters away.
- Resorts with free lockers for the board and free onsen (hot bath, water from a natural hot spring).
- It's OK to wear a Yukata around the hotel, even to the public dinner or on your way to the onset.
- You get to stay in a Japanese style room and to sleep on a futon, which is this awesome

Now that you are convinced on why coming is good idea, let's think about where to go? This is based on our own experience, but if someone has discovered better spots, let us know!!

[1] Hokkaido 「北海道」
Hokkaido is the Northernmost island of Japan. It has the best dairy, the best seafood, the best powder. Its capital, Sapporo, also hosts the snow festival (Yuki Matsuri) where you can see HUGE snow statues and impressive ice figures covering up the city.

The idea is simple. Fly to Sapporo using Skymark, Jetstar or Peach. Australians are rather lucky, as Qantas flies directly there.

From Sapporo Airport, there are buses taking you directly to the resort where you are staying.

So far, we have been to Niseko, Rusutsu and Kiroro.

Niseko is extremely popular among Australians. It is the first place in Japan where you find more foreigners than Japanese, so all information is in English (unusual). Bit crowded, but really nice powder.

Kiroro is the opposite pole of Niseko. Super local, with long slopes that aren't crowded. We saw the entire Adidas Snowboarding Team shooting videos there, during our trip in January. The place is well worth it!

Rusutsu is probably my favorite. Decorated as a German Christmas market, it is a huge resort packing some of the best powder I ever saw in my life.

If you travel to Hokkaido and would like to experience the Yuki Matsuri, one day is more than enough, like we did.

[2] Nagano 「長野」
Ever heard about the '98 olympics? You can have your own event, just a Shinkansen away from Tokyo, where a world of wonderful slopes, onset and even monkeys, awaits.

Shiga Kogen is a group of 21 ski resorts that have joined together to create the largest combined ski area in Japan. It opens up for a small hike and visit to Jigokudani Park where you can see monkeys bathing in 90C water. One of the most memorable things I'll take from Japan, as it's a rare sight, to watch them in their natural environment.

Nozawa Onsen we have not visited yet, but heard tones of wonders of this "Kyoto with snow" that offers a 100% Japanese traditional experience along with nice slopes.

Hakuba gained recognition during the Olympics, as the jump competition took place in there. It was awesome powder and a cool stay in a mini-house, as we saw here.

[3] Day trip from Tokyo, Gala or Kagura

Every year, JR launches the JR SKI campaign. The offer consists on a day packet of shinkansen (bullet train) ticket and lift, for around 13000 JPY. Which is a really good price, for these two things.

Gala is hands down the most popular (too crowded) so I recommend you to try Kagura, which is a bit further, bigger and less crowded.

...now time for some wax! 

My snowboard just arrived home! I almost forgot to explain, this very important detail. 
It turns out that in Japan, it is quite cheap and convenient to ship your board before you travel to the ski resort. For around 2000JPY (taking it on board costs already 1000) you can ship your snowboard with Yamato and have it waiting for you at the hotel when you arrive! Isn't it awesome? No need to carry, no need to check-in. Just ship and in 3 days, there it is. Strongly recommended. Most hotels offer this possibility, so it's easy on the way back. While on the way there, you should just go to any combine nearby, they will tell you what to do.

Ice Bar, Niseko.

Whether you come for business or pleasure, take some time and enjoy Japan, it's worth it :D

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