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Guide to Skiing Japan in March

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March is the unsung hero of the ski season, especially in Japan. There are no crowds, stunning weather, and the chance of some serious Japow (yes even in March). There’s also the sweetener of reduced rates on accommodation, lift passes and there’s so much more to love.

Hokkaido

With so much snow falling across the island, Hokkaido’s ski resorts are among the best to visit in March. With a great snow depth, the snow cover lasts a long time right into May. There is also the occasional full-on powder day just like in the middle of winter – since the snow cover is already good, all it needs is a top-up of powder for some fantastic riding.

As well as good snow, there are some awesome events in some of the big resorts. Hanazono in Niseko is hosting Banked Slalom and Slopestyle events this year, and Hirafu has hosted some of the best park days of the season with events like the Mad Dog Jam in previous years. As the season moves further into spring, there are even more things to do in Niseko – check out our guide to Niseko in spring for more.

March also sees much of the crowds dispersed, so you can expect much quieter streets, less competition for booking at Niseko’s famous restaurants and a very relaxed atmosphere. The snow that falls in March also lasts longer with far fewer people getting out there to carve it up.

Honshu

The Japanese Alps of Honshu are home to some of the highest peaks in Japan, but in the midst of winter, many of them are inaccessible due to the wind, poor visibility, unstable snowpack or frigid weather conditions. With March bringing clearer weather, riding Honshu’s legendary peaks starts to become more attainable giving adventurers the ride of their life.

With a generally high altitude, most major resorts in Honshu retain good quality snow up high well into the end of March and even April. Even with the sunshine expected in March, the high altitudes mean the temperatures stay low keeping the snow soft and light. Happo One resort in Hakuba Valley offers great lift access to a vast backcountry area with some of the best terrain in the country.

As is typical in shoulder seasons, hotel rates are quite low, and some already affordable hotels become even more tempting with significantly reduced rates. The Hakuba Gateway Hotel in central Happo is one the best choices with onsite rental, restaurant and massage. There’s also the Hakuba Goryukan Hotel which features an onsite onsen. Read more about the best way to see Hakuba here.

Some of the best places to soak in the culture are also in Honshu – Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and Kanazawa are all easily accessible from the mountainous regions of Japans most central island. The Shinkansen (bullet train) is one of the fastest and best ways to get around Japan’s major cities in Honshu with affordable tickets and regular schedule. March is one of the best times of year to visit the cultural hot spots, with fresh, calm and generally clear weather making stopovers in these areas a great choice.

Sakura

A trip to Japan at this time of year is a great time to see Japan’s famous “Sakura” (Cherry Blossom) trees in bloom. Japan’s southern city of Fukuoka will receive the bloom in mid-March, so there’s no better way to top off a trip to Japan than with cherry blossoms after a week on the slopes.

Find out more about Japan’s Sakura season here.

If you’ve been inspired to visit Japan in March, contact our team of experts, and we’ll start you on your journey. Contact us here.

Guide to Sapporo

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Japan’ fifth largest city, Sapporo is a clean, friendly and relaxed city where you can experience nature, great cultural and historical sites and amazing food! No matter what time of year you visit, there’s plenty of fun-filled activities to enjoy.

Hokkaido Jingu

No trip to Japan is complete without visiting a traditional Shinto shrine, and Sapporo’s “Hokkaido Jingu” is the largest and most significant on the island. The site was first established in 1871, and enshrines four deities including the “God of Emperor Meiji”. Make sure to get yourself a fortune from the counter (English available), and offer a prayer at the main shrine.

Access
Get the subway to “Maruyama-Koen”, and walk about 5 minutes through the park to access the main shrine.

Mt. Moiwa Ropeway

The most stunning lookout over the entire city of Sapporo with views right out to the ocean on a clear day. The 1.8km gondola ride takes about 5 minutes and is followed by a short 2 minute ride in a mini cable car, which reaches the summit. Return Tickets to the summit are ¥1,700 and can be purchased at the ropeway base. For the best views, aim to arrive at the summit for sunset to see the twinkling lights of Sapporo city against a twilight sky.

Access
Take a street-car to “Ropeway Iriguchi”, and walk 1 minute across the road to the Mt. Moiwa Ropeway shuttle bus stop, where the free shuttle bus will take you to the ropeway.

Susukino Downtown Area

The central nightlife district of Sapporo, Susukino, is a hive of activity with hundreds of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and karaoke hot spots across many city blocks.

Ramen Alley, famous for some of the best ramen in Sapporo, is a hidden alleyway packed with tiny restaurants, located just off the main Susukino strip. If Japanese pub food is more your thing, try one of the many Izakaya’s in the area serving zangi (Japanese fried chicken), grilled fish and BBQ meat served alongside sake and beer.

Important Safety Tip: If you’re out late, resist the urge to walk back to your hotel – it is common for tourists to get lost and pass out in the snow late at night so make sure to take a taxi home after a big night. For best results, take a business card from your hotel with their address, and show it to your taxi driver.

Access
Take a street-car or subway to “Susukino” station and walk south from the main intersection.

Sapporo Beer Museum

This popular museum celebrates Sapporo’s rich history through the love of beer with displays featuring antique posters and Hokkaido’s early pioneers. The red-brick museum consists of three floors and is free to enter and explore with the option of a paid tour. Visits conclude in the beer hall where guests can sample a range of beers, including “Kaitakushi Beer”, exclusively available at the museum.

Access
From Sapporo JR station, catch either the 188 bus from stop No.2 on the north side or the 88 bus from the south side of the station. Alternatively, taxis cost around ¥800 from Sapporo JR station.


Sapporo Snow Festival

Now in its 70th year, the Sapporo Snow Festival is Hokkaido’s largest festival with three major sites. The main site in Odori is the largest with dozens of enormous snow sculptures across the entire park with food stalls lining the path. The Susukino site features intricately detailed ice sculptures set against the bright lights of the famous nightlife district. The Tsudome site is the most family friendly with huge slides and activities for all ages.

Access
To access the Odori and Susukino sites, simply take the subway to the station of the same name. For the Tsudome site, catch a subway to Sakaemachi station and get on the shuttle bus to the site.

Shopping

Sapporo JR station has hundreds of boutique clothing and accessory stores featuring up-and-coming designers, as well as high-end fashion brands. The upper floor even has a Disney store and a Snoopy store!

Sapporo Factory hosts most major outdoor brands like Mammut, as well as clothing and souvenir stores. This shopping hub features a large atrium and is located at the site of the original Sapporo Beer factory, which can be freely explored.

Tanuki-Koji is an undercover shopping arcade with traditional and independent stores. Drop into MOJANE snowboard shop at the eastern end for a selection of the best gear and locally made snowboarding videos.

Shugakuso is a haven for backcountry enthusiasts, with mountain maps, tents, touring accessories and more.


Getting Around

Sapporo is a relatively small city, navigation is straightforward with lots of public transport, underground walkways and taxis everywhere. If you are going to be using public transportation often, get an electronic card like Kitaca to simply tap on and off without worrying about purchasing tickets every time. These can be bought and filled up at most stations, and used throughout major cities in Japan. Note: Kutchan station does not use electronic cards.

There are a number of underground walkways along common routes to keep people out of the cold. There’s even an underground walkway all the way from Sapporo JR station to Susukino!

Taxis in Sapporo are everywhere and can be quite cheap to get around in if you’re in a group of four people. If the place you want to go is not near a subway or streetcar stop, stay out of the cold and jump in a taxi!

To stay in Sapporo and make the most of your Japan trip, contact our team of experts today.

Sakura – The Symbol of Spring

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Japanese cherry blossoms, or sakura, have been regarded as a symbol of spring since the Heian Period (794-1185). The charming flower symbolises renewal, vitality, and beauty and is deeply ingrained in the art, literature and culture of Japan.

When the blooms arrive it’s time to indulge in one of the nation’s favourite pastimes; hanami, or flower appreciation picnics. Every year, crowds of people flock to parks, gardens and riversides to eat, drink, and be merry underneath the blooms.

During the short period when sakura is in bloom, you can find spring limited edition ice cream, chocolate, sweets and drinks all inspired by sakura!

When to visit?

Japan’s sakura season for 2019 has been recently released by Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC). According to the forecast, cherry trees are expected to be in full bloom in Tokyo on March 31, Kyoto on April 3, Hakodate on May 6 and Sapporo on May 8. Stay up to date with JMC’s Cherry Blossom Forecast here.

Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen. Photo Credit: Tatters at Flickr

Tokyo

One of the nation’s most stunning gardens is undoubtedly Shinjuku Gyoen, a large park located a short stroll away from Shinjuku and Shibuya. Originally built for the Imperial Family, the park features beautifully maintained gardens divided into Japanese, French and English sections.

Another lovely spot is Ueno-koen (Ueno Park), one of the oldest and most famous public spaces, cherished amongst locals for their 1000-plus blossoming cherry trees. After dark, you can enjoy a nocturnal hanami experience as the blossoms are lit up with a thousand lanterns.

When to go: Late March

Tetsugaku no michi. Photo credit: fastjapan.com

Kyoto

The ancient capital of Kyoto makes the ideal backdrop for cherry blossom appreciation.

Tetsugaku no michi (Path of Philosophy) is a lovely stone walkway that meanders 2km along the bank of a cherry lined canal through the northern part of the city’s Higashiyama district. Other famous hanami locations include Maruyama Park, known for its weeping cherry tree, Heian Shrine and the Arashiyama district on the outskirts of the city.

When to go: Early April

Hakodate

The best place to experience the beautiful colours of the sakura in Hokkaido would have to be Fort Goryokaku – a star-shaped, Western-style citadel which was built towards the end of the Edo Period. Since then over one thousand cherry trees along its moats were planted, making it one of Hokkaido’s best hanami spots.

When to go: Early May

Former Hokkaido Government Office. Photo credit: www.sapporo.travel

 

Sapporo

The prime cherry blossom viewing spots are Maruyama Park and the adjacent Hokkaido-Jingu (Hokkaido shrine). The shrine grounds hold 1,200 cherry trees as well as 250 plum trees which bloom at the same time.

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, head to the former Hokkaido Government Office, which offers aesthetically pleasing photo-ops!

Located on the outskirts of Sapporo, Moerenuma Park is a unique and playful public park designed by renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Containing an art gallery, kids playground and sakura forest where you can see over 2,300 trees in bloom.

When to go: Early May

Ski Resorts

With many northern Japanese ski resorts such as Niseko and Kiroro scheduled to stay open until Golden Week (first week of May), spring visitors have the chance to hit the best of Japan’s spring and winter both at once! Read more on spring skiing in Niseko.

If you’re visiting Niseko resort, one of the best places to see the sakura is on the south side of Mt. Yotei in Makkari campground. There’s also the Makkari Shinto shrine nearby, with an avenue lined with beautiful sakura trees.

Near Hakuba there is the ancient Matsumoto Castle, which is surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms. During the bloom, the stark black and white of the castle offers an elegant contrast against the soft pink of the sakura petals.

If you’re dreaming of a hanami and ski holiday this springtime, contact us today.

Westin Rusutsu Resort – Feb & Mar special

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Book now and get 15% off Westin Rusutsu Resort on selected February and March dates!

A striking 23 story hotel, set in the majestic wilderness of rural Hokkaido. This luxurious hotel is at the base of the Rusutsu East Mountain with ski in / ski-out access. Featuring exclusively maisonette style rooms, for up to seven people – perfect for large groups or families.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

  • Offer valid between 17 February – 30 March 2019
  • Does not apply on single share rooms
  • Offer not combinable with any other offers

Contact us now for an accurate quotation on your holiday specifics.

Sisterhood of Pow

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Japan is a dream ski destination not just for amateurs and enthusiasts, but for world-renowned professional skiers too. During the 2017/18 season, we were approached by a team of professional female skiers and snowboarders to support their upcoming ski video which was to promote women’s freeriding. We were more than happy to support the team, and they came over to stay with us in Japan.

The team consisted of pro skier Maude Raymond, X Games gold medallist and Olympian Elena Hight, and well-known freeriders Taylor Godber and Caley Vanular.

During their trip, the team stayed in some of the best Niseko accommodation in town in order to rest well, and have enough room for camera equipment. One of these was famous ski in / ski out apartments of Alpen Ridge, and the other was the centrally located Hirafu 188. Local magazine Niseko.com also interviewed the team – check out their article here.

The team has now released their video, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Watch the full clip below.

If this inspired you to come ski in Japan, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out and talk to our team and get started on your very own Japan ski holiday. Contact us here.

Photo credit – Ben Girardi

Lunar New Year in Niseko

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Japan is fast growing as one of the world’s top destinations for the Lunar New Year holiday period. Boasting an immersive culture ripe with unique food, dress, sightseeing and tours, travellers can enjoy free reign of boutique shopping and dining experiences as well as some of the world’s most exceptional ski resorts. It’s business as usual during Chinese New Year in the country, so there’s no need to worry about locked doors at your favourite shopping brands or tour operators.

Located only one-hour time difference from Hong Kong and Singapore, travellers can find themselves in the country’s northernmost capital of Sapporo city – situated in Hokkaido – on the same day they boarded and without any jetlag woes. From here a rich world of culinary options present themselves with the region’s famously fresh local produce and seafood providing some of Japan’s most delightful Michelin star dishes.

 A Winter Wonderland

Northern Japan’s snowy conditions over the New Year make for some unforgettable sights and memories with dozens of modern ski fields in operation across the region, most notably Niseko Resort located two hours drive from Sapporo. This resort has enjoyed a steady rise to fame over the past couple of decades with its consistently deep and unbelievably light powder snow attracting ski enthusiasts from around the globe.

Driven by this massive boom in tourism, Niseko has become one of Japan’s fastest growing property markets with ambitious projects emerging each season from international developers such as Hyatt and SC Global. Niseko now leads the charge as one of Japan’s most well-developed resorts with the infrastructure and services to match.

Snow & Ice Festivals

Many winter festivals in Japan coincide with the New Year travel period, most notably the Sapporo Snow Festival. Now entering its 70th year, this event attracts millions of visitors each season to view the city transformed by a blanket of sparkling lights as well as immense, expertly-crafted snow and ice sculptures. Take a break from the ski slopes and enjoy this stunning attraction in the heart of Sapporo City – the boutique capital of Hokkaido!

 Luxury and Comfort

Accommodation options in Japanese resorts range from quaint and full of cultural character, to the ultimate in luxury. Niseko accommodation is no exception; where travellers enjoying a winter escape range from adventure thrill-seekers simply in need of a place to rest their head, to CEO’s, celebrities, and government officials seeking a luxe retreat with striking panoramic views and plenty of life’s pleasures close at hand.

Activities and Facilities

There’s no shortage of sights and activities to keep everyone entertained during your winter escape. Even if you’re not a ski or snowboard enthusiast, the wide range of cultural tours, shrines and castles, restaurants and off-snow activities are enough to keep the whole family entertained.

One of Japan’s most popular ways to relax is to immerse oneself in a natural hot-spring.

Childminding services, play and recreation areas, and ski lessons catering to kids such as NBS’s Kids Club program are abundant for those travelling with families.
Whether you’re looking for the ultimate escape with family and friends over Chinese New Year, a quiet retreat with your spouse, or are just feeling spontaneous; SkiJapan.com have comprehensive package options at resorts all across Japan to suit your every need. Take a look at some pre-made packages here or contact us to tailor your Japan Winter Escape today!

Kyoto – Where Tradition Meets History

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Japan is a nation full of rich history and fascinating tradition. The ancient city of Kyoto is home to some of the most stunning temples, shrines, streets and castles in all of Japan, and is one of the best places to soak in the traditional Japanese culture.

ACCESS

Getting to Kyoto is easy with many trains and buses going straight to the centrally located city. From Tokyo, it’s just three hours on the shinkansen (bullet train), and from the much closer city of Osaka, it’s only one hour.

TRADITIONAL SITES

Because Kyoto is such a hotspot, the temples in Kyoto are kept in great condition and are among the most vibrantly coloured. The gates and temples are typically painted a classic red to symbolise the expelling of demons and illness. The striking colour makes quite a sight, and lends itself well for photos.

NATURAL SITES

The city of Kyoto also has beautiful forests that run alongside wide and calm rivers. It’s easy to see why ancient Emperors called this place home for so many years. As many of the trees in the area are deciduous, the views along the rivers and forests can be enjoyed in any season.


Shinto priests still man most of the temples and religious sites, and many locals come to the major temples to pray – especially during special times of the year. As you walk around, you will see a mix of locals and tourists, both from overseas and Japan. The priests in Kyoto take great pride in their work but are always happy to help visitors to understand local traditions.


FOOD STALLS

One of the great things about visiting temples and shrines in Kyoto are food stalls; there are so many diverse and tasty Japanese street foods to try! As you approach major sites, you’ll know you’re getting close as the smell of delicious food gets stronger.

ACCOMMODATION

Staying in Kyoto is the best option if you want to take in as much of the culture as you can. Kyoto has some amazing ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), business hotels, and more recently, self-contained apartments. Shinobi House is a newly renovated house in Kyoto, which is perfect for families or groups.

To stay in Kyoto and make the most of your Japan trip, contact our team of experts today.

Guide to Niseko Village

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Formerly known as Higashiyama, Niseko Village ski area is one of the four inter-connected ski resorts of Niseko United. It’s a popular base for beginners and families due to its two resort-style ski in/ski out hotels, variety of beginner slopes and English-speaking ski school.

Terrain

Offering 27 marked trails (13 beginner, 9 intermediate and 5 advanced) and access to off-piste and side-country terrain, Niseko Village provides the steepest inbound terrain within the Niseko United area with a vertical drop of 890m (280m-1170m).

Accommodation

The Niseko Village features a variety of accommodation options, including the world-class Hilton Niseko Village and Green Leaf hotels, tranquil Snow Dog Village apartments as well as a handful of more traditional pensions.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsoSSlnnQ79/

Dining

Designed to replicate traditional Japanese architecture, The Village offers a selection of contemporary dining options and boutique shops in a convenient slope-side location. Take a short venture away from the slopes, and you’ll find a handful of unique, independent dining options such as Milk Kobo, Prativo, Upashi Seta and The House of Machines. For those looking for a night out, Niseko Village is within close proximity to the lively Hirafu Village and Kutchan town via shuttle bus or taxi. Check our insider’s Guide to Kutchan dining.

Activities

The Niseko Village offers plenty of off-snow activities for all ages including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and reindeer sled rides! Also, be sure to check out the Niseko Ice Village for an unreal experience! For a more hardcore experience, Hokkaido Backcounty Club offers backcountry and cat-skiing tours for intermediate to advanced riders.

Après Skiing in Japan – What to do after a day on the slopes

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Skiing in Japan is fantastic, but one of the best things about a winter holiday is the rest and relaxation and nowhere does that better than Japan. The nightlife in Japan’s resorts is a mixture of traditional, modern Japanese culture with some international influence thrown in for good measure.

NIGHTLIFE

When you head out for a night out on the town in a Japanese ski resort, you can expect traditional sake, famous whiskeys, and creative cocktails. Most resorts have great bars and Izakayas, and the popular resort of Niseko is no exception with dozens of restaurants and fun spots to get a drink. Sake is the most well-known Japanese drink, but there’s also Umeshu, Nikka Whiskey, Sapporo Classic and many more local favourites which should definitely be sampled.

ONSENS

After a day on the slopes, there’s nothing better than getting out of your boots and into a hot steamy onsen. Mountain regions in Japan are often volcanically active providing the perfect opportunity for some fantastic natural onsens. A visit to a Japanese ski resort is never complete without an onsen visit. Take a look at this onsen guide for more info about onsens, especially in Niseko.

FOOD

Japanese food is among the best in the world, and there’s no better way to get warm than a hot bowl of ramen. Other winter favourites are katsu-don (pork cutlet on rice), soup curry and yakitori. No trip to Japan is complete without a sushi experience, and winter is said to be the best time of the year for the freshest fish. If you’re going to Niseko, make sure to check out Kutchan dining guide here.

There’s so much to see and do in Japan, both on and off the slopes. If you want to make the most of your winter, talk to our Japan ski experts today. Contact us here and get started on your Japan winter experience.

Hokkaido up in Lights – A look at Hokkaido’s Stunning Ice Festivals

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Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido receives some of the most snow on the planet, with temperatures remaining below zero most of the year. This climate may be tough, but creates perfect conditions for snow and ice sculptures. Locals have made the most of it, and Hokkaido now hosts some of the most beautiful snow and ice festivals in the world.

Shikotsu Lake Ice festival

The Shikotsu Lake Ice festival is one of the most stunning displays of ice and light in Hokkaido. Located just one and a half hours from Niseko, and only one hour from Rusutsu, this magical lakeside display features dozens of magnificent ice structures – some over a storey high. The event has a local, friendly atmosphere with ice slides, illuminated walkways and structures you can even walk through. Getting here will require either a taxi or hire car, but there will be a sightseeing bus going from Sapporo to the site.

Niseko Ice Village

Niseko’s Ice Village is a little closer to home with smaller, but equally impressive ice sculptures. This local event features a maze of enchanting ice structures, beautifully lit with candles and lights. Weave through the tunnels and rooms to find hidden pieces of art, and look out the windows for views across Niseko’s snowy landscape. The best time to view The Ice Village is at night, and there is a free shuttle bus from Hirafu to the site. It is located halfway between Niseko Village and Annupuri, with entry cost just ¥500. This is must-see on any trip to Niseko.

Sapporo Ice Festival

The Sapporo Ice Festival is by far the most well-known winter festival in Japan and runs from February 4th to February 11th in 2019. The festival has three main sites, with the biggest being in Odori Park in central Sapporo. This event is Japans biggest winter festival and has impressive displays of massive snow and ice sculptures as big as apartment buildings with incredible detail on each one. The Susukino site has intricate ice sculptures on show, wonderfully illuminated by coloured lights that almost mirror the surrounding nightlife district. The third site at “Tsudome” is the most interactive and family friendly with snow tubing, snowball throwing, and snow rafting as well as a large indoor arena featuring activities for kids and families alike. SkiJapan.com will be running a shuttle bus to the festival, so contact our team for details.

Kutchan Yukitopia

Kutchan Yukitopia is an incredibly fun, local event that’s great for families from all over the world. There are ice slides, food stalls, snow-bikes, snowmobile demonstrations, snow tubing and more. One of the most entertaining events is the pond skim and pond walk, where participants attempt to cross an ice-cold pond for a cash prize. Kutchan Yukitopia is a free event in Kutchan at Asahigaoka ski hill. It runs on February 16th from 10:30 – 17:00 and on February 17th from 10:30 – 15:00, and there’s a free shuttle bus to the site.

Otaru Snow Light Path festival

Just an hour away from both Niseko and Sapporo, the Otaru snow light path festival is one of Hokkaido’s most recognisable with stunning views of the canal lit by twinkling candlelight. The snow path starts close to the JR station, and winds through the snowy streets down towards the canal. Along the way you’ll find ice slides, cute animal shaped sculptures and romantic photo spots. It’s easiest to get a train from either Kutchan or Sapporo, depending on where you are. The event runs from February 8th till February 17th for the 2019 season.

If you’d like any more info or to visit any of these beautiful winter festivals, we’d love to hear from you. Contact our team today.

February 16th 2019, Saturday
new snow
8 cm
Current Temp
-10 °C
Cloudy
24hr Forecast
Min/Max Temp
-10 °C / -8 °C
wind direction
WNW
Wind Speed
15 KM/H
visibility
Variable
sunrise
00:00
sunset
00:00

By Rod at 730am JST

Live radar showing a lot of snow activity Honshu way Hakuba Valley all the way to the south of Hokkaido / Hakadate City which is a couple of hours driv...

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