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[Japan’s Tohoku Region] Five Best Places to Visit in the Winter to Enjoy the Snow and Local Cuisine

December 27, 2022
Tohoku is a fantastic location to experience the Japanese winter and snow. At the ski resorts you can experience a white winter wonderland and powdered snow, and there are plenty of activities for both adults and children alike. In the surrounding towns you can also enjoy a variety of seasonal cuisine. This article will introduce ski resorts ideal for beginners and five excellent regional specialties in Tohoku.

[Miyagi Prefecture] Ski with a sense of adventure at Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort & Try the local specialty Oyster hotpot

Playing in the snow
Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort is located in the city of Sendai, the heart of Miyagi Prefecture, and is about 40 minutes from downtown Sendai. On weekends and holidays, it is also accessible by bus from Izumi-Chuo Metro Station. This is a great option to plan a trip with both sightseeing in Sendai and time on the slopes.

The kids' park, “Snow Adventure Kingdom” is perfect for snow activities. There is a wide lineup of activities including sleds, snow tubing, and the “fluffy candy cushion” inflatable play zone so young children will never get bored. There are so many ways to have fun, especially for sledding! You can try several different types of sleds. If you want to stay all day, you can save with the set plan that includes a lift ticket and a "Snow Adventure Kingdom All-Day Free Pass".
Snow Adventure Kingdom
The "Animal Circuit" is a fun and adventurous track for beginner skiers. As you ski down and challenge yourself on the waves and logs, you may even spot animals here and there along the way! On clear days, you can see all the way from Sendai City to the Pacific Ocean.

Additionally, there is a broad selection of cuisine available, including a food court on the first floor where you can select from dishes including soba noodles, rice bowls, and curry, as well as a restaurant on the second floor where four specialty restaurants are open on the weekends. There is a wide variety of ice cream, hamburgers, ramen, and other foods.

Click here for more information on Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort

It is possible to stop by the Sendai-Izumi Premium Outlet on the way home from the ski resort because it is located at the base of the ski area and is about a 30 minutes drive from the ski resort. It features about 80 outlet shops.

Sendai-Izumi Premium Outlet
Address:6-1-1, Teraoka, Izumi-Ku, Sendai-Shi, Miyagi
Sendai-Izumi Premium Outlet Official Website

There's more to Sendai cuisine than just beef tongue! Try the rich and flavorful local specialty oyster hotpot!

Oyster hotpot
The beef tongue from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture is famous throughout the country, but if you visit Sendai in the winter, don’t miss out on the “Seri Nabe” Hotpot, a traditional meal where you can savor the flavorful “Seri” (Japanese Parsley) and other vegetables. Also not to be missed are Sanriku Oysters, typically in season from November to February.

Miyagi Prefecture is one of the country's leading oyster producers and boasts the second-largest amount of cultivated oysters after Hiroshima Prefecture. There are multiple ways to eat oysters, including raw and grilled, but oyster hotpot is a great dish to warm your body from the inside out. If you are looking to taste unique Miyagi cuisine, you should try the oyster hotpot in a “Dote-nabe” earthen pot with Sendai miso.

“Dote-nabe” is a type of traditional Japanese earthen pot that is used to cook oysters and vegetables in a miso broth. Sendai miso, which is delicious even as is, makes for a perfect harmony with the oysters and vegetables.
Winter in Matsushima
For a unique winter oyster experience, be sure to visit Matsushima, a major tourist destination and one of the famous “Three Views of Japan”. Matsushima can be reached in about 40 minutes by train from Sendai Station. Oyster Shacks serving fresh oysters are usually open here from the end of October to mid-March every year. Be sure to enjoy the oysters only available during this season and admire the beautiful Matsushima bay dotted with hundreds of small islands.

[Aomori Prefecture] Beautiful view of Mutsu Bay and nighttime views at Moya Hills Ski Resort & Make sure to try Aomori local soul food “Miso Curry Milk Ramen”

Try sledding
Moya Hills Ski Resort is located approximately 30 minutes by car from Aomori City and 45 minutes by bus from Aomori Station. The ski resort is close to the city center and allows you to experience the high quality natural snow of Northern Tohoku. When the weather is good, you can look out over Mutsu Bay below during the day, and at night you can see the beautiful nightscape of Aomori city.

The gentle “Karantsu Slope” is ideal for beginners and sledding. If you want to challenge yourself to improve your skills a little more, the “Cosmos Slopes” is a great place to try out. A wide range of courses at this ski resort allow you to ski at your own pace.
Moya Hills
Moya Hills Ski Resort has some excellent deals on lift tickets. There is a one-time ticket available in addition to half-day and full-day passes, and the Suzuran Kids Lift and Sumire Kids Lift, which are intended for beginners and snow activities, are less expensive than the other lifts. There is also a strip of seven lift tickets available if you just want to play for a few hours.

At the base of the ski slopes, the "Hills Club" center house has a restaurant, a kids' area, locker rooms, changing rooms, a rental corner, and more! It can be used if you need a break or want to give the kids somewhere warm to play.

Click here for more information on Moya Hills Ski Resort

You’ll get hooked on Miso Curry Milk Ramen! A perfect balance of flavor!

Miso Curry Milk Ramen
Aomori City, where Moya Hills Ski Resort is located, is famous for “Nokke-don”, a bowl of rice with fresh seafood and other ingredients of your choice found at the Furukawa Fish Market, as well as an unusual local dish, Aomori Miso Curry Milk Ramen. As the name implies, the soup for this ramen is made with milk, miso, curry powder, and butter floating on top.

This ramen was created from a trend among students trying new different toppings on ramen. Over 30 years ago, this combination came about by chance and then became a standard menu item at "Aji no Sapporo" a ramen restaurant in Aomori City. It is now considered an Aomori soul food, and it's even sold as cup noodles.

“Aji no Sapporo Oonishi” and other restaurants currently serve Miso Curry Milk Ramen, which is rich thanks to its buttery broth and thick, curly noodles, yet surprisingly light . The mild miso broth is brought out by the spiciness of the curry. Its continued popularity over the years is due to its well-balanced combination of ingredients.

Furukawa Fish Market (Nokke-don Rice Bowl)
Address: 1-11-16, Furukawa, Aomori-shi, Aomori
Nokke-don Official Website

Ajino Sapporo Oonishi
Address: Oonishi Create Building 1F, 1-15-6 Furukawa, Aomori-shi, Aomori
Ajino Sapporo Oonishi Official Website

[Akita Prefecture] Enjoy the lake view at Tazawako Snow Resort! & Try Kiritanpo Hotpot, an Akita speciality that warms the body and soul

Ski Resort and Lake Tazawa
The deepest lake in Japan is Lake Tazawa, which has a cobalt blue surface and a depth of 423.4 m. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Akita Prefecture and can be seen from Tazawako Snow Resort. From Tazawako Station, it takes around 30 minutes by bus, and from Akita Airport, it takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes by shared cab. Once up the slopes, you can see a breathtaking panoramic view of Lake Tazawa. You will want to take lots of pictures of this extraordinary view!

The snow resort is equipped with a rental section that provides a complete set of clothing and equipment so you can come to the resort completely luggage-free. Women-only powder rooms and nursing spaces are available to ensure that women and those with children are comfortable.
Snow Strider
The "Children’s Play Area” in front of the ski resort is the perfect place to play in the snow. Snow striders can be used on the 1,000 m-long "Mizusawa Track" in addition to the designated snow strider course. For small children who aren't used to snow, snow striders, which resemble motorbikes, are a great way to get around.

The restaurant “Shirakaba” at Ski Center “Lera” offers a comprehensive menu, including Yokote Yakisoba prepared on a hot iron plate and Akita local beers. Lounge Kuromori on the second floor provides a large space to unwind with local beer and other drinks.

Click here for more information on Tazawako Snow Resort

Visitors can sign up for snow trekking activities near the ski resort, held typically from early January to early March. On the way back from skiing, you can warm up your cold body by soaking in the natural hot springs at Akita Prefectural Tazawako Sports Center, which has hot spring baths from Mizusawa Hot Springs.

Akita Prefectural Tazawako Sports Center
Address:73-75 Shimotakano, Lake Tazawako, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture
Akita Prefectural Tazawako Sports Center Official Website

Kiritanpo Hotpot, a signature winter dish in Akita

Kiritanpo Hotpot
The hallmark dish of Akita cuisine is Kiritanpo hotpot. This hotpot features "tanpo," which is half-smashed rice that has been formed into a cylinder and toasted over the fire. Vegetables, meat, and mushrooms simmered in the hotpot seep into the soup and the tanpo, giving it a warm, heartful taste. This dish brings out the full flavor of Akita specialties like Hinai Jidori chicken and Akita-grown rice.
Winter in Kakunodate
You can get Kiritanpo hotpot around Lake Tazawa, but if you have time, head to Kakunodate. Kakunodate, a castle town reminiscent of the Edo era, is located about 15 minutes from Tazawako Station on the Akita Shinkansen. The streets are lined with samurai residences, and it is particularly famous for its scenery during cherry blossom and autumn season. In winter, a walk through the snowy landscape will surely make for a beautiful memory of your trip to northern Japan.

Kakunodate is a popular location in Akita and is surrounded by gift shops and eateries serving Kiritanpo hotpot. Try Kiritanpo hotpot along with other Akita specialties like Inaniwa udon noodles.

A Family buried in the snow
Yonezawa City in Yamagata Prefecture is conveniently located 35–40 minutes from both Yamagata and Fukushima Stations on the Yamagata Shinkansen. It borders Fukushima Prefecture. A 30-minute bus ride will get you from Yonezawa Station to the "Yonezawa Ski Resort."

The ski slopes have a reputation for being well-kept and simple to navigate. There is a beginners course available in addition to intermediate and advanced courses with natural banks and bumps. Additionally, there is a kids' park close to the large "Nakanodaira slope." There is no need to be concerned about skiers and snowboarders unexpectedly colliding with the kids’ park because it is gated off. There is also a hill just for sledding, so you can focus on having fun in the snow.
Yonezawa Ski Resort
Lift tickets are free for preschool children on the condition as long as they ride the lifts together with a parent or guardian. There are two levels of children's rates depending on age, as well as senior citizen rates for those aged 60 and over, making it a good deal for families.

Next to the Pension Village "Kira Kira Kingdom" area lies the beginner-friendly forest course. If you stay overnight here, you can enjoy the white winter wonderland all day. You can enjoy a homey atmosphere at the bed and breakfasts that serve the famous local specialty Yonezawa Beef, perfect for visitors who are particular about trying gourmet food.

Click here for more information on Yonezawa Ski Resort

Try Yonezawa beef hotpot for a casual taste of the best beef in Japan

Yonezawa beef hotpot
A must-try local delicacy in Yonezawa is Yonezawa beef. The beef is considered one of the best in Japan and can be enjoyed as steak, grilled meat or shabu-shabu, but if you want to eat it in winter, try “Gyunabe”. It looks similar to sukiyaki, but unlike sukiyaki, where the meat is grilled, Gyunabe is a traditional dish where the meat is stewed.

A short distance from Yonezawa Station, “Gyunabe Oki” serves its specialty meal, Gyunabe made with Yonezawa beef. The Yonezawa beef is quickly stewed in a unique sauce, and when you try it, the mouth-watering flavor will fill your entire mouth. It’s run by a long-standing butcher shop with in-depth knowledge of Yonezawa beef, so this is a very rare restaurant where you can taste high-quality meat at an affordable price.

Yonezawa was once a thriving castle town in the late middle ages. After your Gyunabe meal, you can take a stroll around the city to locations like Uesugi Shrine, which was constructed atop the remains of Yonezawa Castle. You can’t pass up local delicacies like snow crabs and wild tiger puffer fish, both freshly caught from the Sea of Japan in Yamagata. Another specialty from Yamagata that is only available in the winter is “Dongara Jiru”, codfish soup.

Gyunabe Oki
Address:3-41 Sakuragi-cho, Yonezawa, Yamagata
Gyunabe Oki Official Website

[Fukushima Prefecture] Inawashiro Ski Resort (Chuo x Minero), a wide ski slope with an abundance of superb scenic spots & Try "Kitakata Ramen" with its thick, chewy noodles

Inawashiro Ski Resort
Inawashiro Ski Resort (Chuo x Minero) is a large ski resort made up of two areas, Chuo and Minero. The slopes provide a panoramic view of Lake Inawashiro and are surrounded by Mount Bandai, one of 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, and Lake Inawashiro, the country's fourth-largest lake. During the ski season, free shuttle buses run every day from Inawashiro and Koriyama Stations; on weekends and holidays, they only run from Fukushima and Niigata Stations. Even if you don't have a car, it is easily accessible by public transport.

On the slopes, there is a kids park in front of the Chuo Slope Center House Bandai, where even small children can sled and snow tube to their heart's content using the enclosed moving walkway.
Inawashiro Ski Resort (Chuo × Minero)
There are more activities available at the Inawashiro Ski Resort (Chuo x Minero) besides skiing and snow activities. You can take pictures while admiring Lake Inawashiro from the “Bell of Happiness”, located on the Minero slope. The "Ina-Ski! Snow Fireworks" are also held the day before Japanese national holidays and every Saturday during night skiing days. Both are photogenic and instagram worthy, so make sure to take pictures for the occasion.

If you are looking for a private space on the slopes, you can spend time inside the transparent dome "Ina Ski! Clear Dome", or rent a camping tent "Ina Ski! Snow Tent". The tents are warm and you can take off your shoes and stretch out.

Additionally, Center House Bandai has a kid's room, a free rest space, and private rooms for rent. You can order ramen, curry, and other common foods at the restaurant, as well as regional specialties like Fukushima’s famous sauce cutlet pork bowl, Kitakata ramen, and yakiniku.

Click here for more information on Inawashiro Ski Resort (Chuo×Minero)

Enjoy authentic “Kitakata Ramen” and walk around the traditional “Kura” storehouse town

Kitakata Ramen
The Aizu region, where Inawashiro is located, is an area rich in local delicacies. These include "Sauce Katsudon", a bowl of deep-fried pork cutlets topped with plenty of sauce, sake brewed with high quality water and rice, and "Negi Soba," Soba noodles with a whole spring onion on top. The most famous of all is Kitakata Ramen, which has captivated ramen fans from all over the region.

There are over 4,000 sake and miso breweries in Kitakata, which is located in the northern Aizu region. Blessed with good quality water and rice, it is famous for its soy sauce and miso, which are also the decisive ingredients for ramen. Kitakata ramen is distinguished by its thick, distinctively curly, and moist noodles. Salt, soy sauce and miso flavored broths are available depending on the restaurant, but the local ingredients from Kitakata are what make the soup distinctive.

Take a stroll along the Fureai-dori shopping street, lined with unique storehouses, visit warehouses and sake breweries, peek into miso and sweet shops, and try a bowl of Kitakata ramen.

Don’t miss out on local cuisine or enjoying the snow! Fully experience Tohoku!

Lunch at a ski resort
There are many amazing ski resorts in the Tohoku area, and this time we highlighted some of the ski resorts that we think snow lovers would appreciate the most, along with nearby local specialties. It is up to you to choose whether you want to go to a ski resort you are interested in or choose a new local cuisine you would like to try. Even if you don't like the cold, if you dress warmly and prepare properly, you'll be surprisingly comfortable walking around ski resorts and Japan's snow country. Don't limit yourself to one location when looking for the most beautiful northern scenery and exquisite gourmet cuisine; try traveling through multiple locations throughout Tohoku!

[Note] Japanese law prohibits the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages to persons under 20 years of age, regardless of the person's country or citizenship.

[Note] Pricing information and schedule is correct at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. Please check the official website before your trip.

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