Madarao has some of the most spectacular fall line backcountry in Japan. With short hikes and perfect snow this is a must do for advanced skiers and boarders who want a safely guided experience of a lifetime, offered by born and bred “Mr Madarao” himself, Aki Kitamura
Madarao has some stunning pristine wilderness and there is no better way to see it than snowshoeing through the forest. The winters are quiet and serene and if you get lucky you may see the elusive Kamoshika (a kind of goat-antelope!).
The relaxation attained from soaking in an onsen (natural hot spring) is like nothing else. Spend the day on the ski hill and the afternoons soaking weary bones. Madarao No Yu is the real Japan.
Who cares if you only use it for a day. Get your Yamaha snowmobile licence. It’s damned fun and looks great on any resume.
Ever wonder how the Japanese make soba? You can learn this centuries-old culinary craft by attending a special workshop known as Soba-Uchi in the nearby Togari Onsen area.
It doesn't happen often but when it does, make sure you’re part of Togari Onsen’s Downhill Bike night ride. Book ahead for this popular out there activity.
Made from snow-bleached mulberry bark, Uchiyama Washi is famous for its quality, strength and beauty. Under the guidance of local artisans, create your own handmade paper artwork - or just purchase from the professionals.
The Kamakura (snow Igloo) Festival boasts a fairytale atmosphere under the stars. Book early to share a delicious noroshinabe (hot pot) with your friends and family, in your own lantern-illuminated snow hut.
The quality of Iiyama’s rice and pristine waters make local sake offerings “more delicious by the glass”, as promised by 6th-generation brewery president Ryuta Tanaka. Tour local breweries and taste for yourself!
While not on the grand scale of Sapporo's Ice Festival, this local cultural treat in February still offers ice sculptures, food, processions, music, games, performances, shopping and a snow-load of Japanese charm.
Be immersed in this serene little museum of life-like dolls, representing rural life in Japan. Famed local artist Mayumi Takahashi captures human poses, expressions, gestures and scenes with incredible grace. Enjoy tea and cake in the lovely café afterwards.
If you’re looking for some off-mountain activity, hop on a fat bike in Iiyama! Cruise in the snow along the Chikuma River (Japan’s longest), around Castle Ruins Park, or wherever your fat wheels take you...
Step back in time along the Temple Promenade as you visit Iiyama’s 20+ temples and shrines. It’s a fascinating experience for those exploring Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist origins, or those just out for a zen cruise.
Join the monks of Jofukuji Temple for Buddhist meditation, a perfect antidote to the fast paced life of the city and non-stop mountain action.
Learn copper engraving under the steady instruction of one of Iiyama City's master craftsmen.
Starting in December 2018 Snowball Chalet is running tours to The Jigokudani snow monkeys. The famous monkeys have been warming themselves in volcanic hot springs for centuries and seeing them is one of the best experiences in the country. It makes for an easy, fantastic half day trip from Madarao. We also do a visit to Yudanaka Onsen, a lovely spa town (for humans) and sake tasting at the Shiga Brewery. You can buy some of the most awarded sake in Japan and get to see the brewing process as well.
Soak in the hot healing waters of Maguse onsen while you gaze down the serene valley. Pretty much the embodiment of Japanese zen.
Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen are the gorgeous spa towns close to the Snow Monkeys. Enjoy cobbled streets, traditional ryokans, Japanese couples dressed in traditional finery and of course a soak in the glorious, healing waters of the local onsens.
This is just a teaser. It’s impossible to get to this magnificent mountain onsen in the winter. If you do find a way, you’ll never want to leave. Surrounded by bamboo forests and frozen waterfalls, there's nothing quite like this anywhere in the world.
A lovely street in Iiyama where the artisans make Buddhas and other religious iconography.
This magnificent architectural attraction is worth a visit when in Iiyama, if even to sit in the lobby admiring the space. Its a first-class community centre with auditoriums, event spaces, music studio and regular events and performances.
Not just a shop… an experience. Wonder at the exquisite paper artworks by the shop owner’s wife, chat to her husband as he slowly makes his way around the store, then spend a pretty penny on a pile of perfect, priceless handmade paper.
Both Madarao and Tangram offer snowmobiles if you want a break from skiing powder in the trees (it can happen). You can zip off on snowmobile tours at Madarao or go solo at Tangram (suitable for kids of most ages!).