When foreign skiers refer to 'Myoko' they are actually refering to Myōkōkōgen (妙高高原町) which is a former town area within Myōkō City (妙高市, Myōkō-shi). The city is located in Niigata Prefecture on the border of Nagano Prefecture. It lies in mountain surroundings near the historical entrance to the Echigo Plains within easy reach of Tokyo (approximately 2.5-3.5 hours).
Myōkō City is the result of a merger of three municipalities. The major one was the city of Arai (新井市 Arai-shi). Arai merged with the town of Myōkōkōgen and the village of Myōkō, both from Nakakubiki District, and took the name Myōkō (which actually upset a good number of Arai residents) on April 1, 2005. Its name comes from the mountain which dominates the area. Mount Myōkō is listed as one of the hundred most famous mountains in Japan with its summit recorded as 2,454 meters above sea level.
In 1916, Myōkō Kōgen became nationally famous when it came first in a vote taken to find the most popular summer resort in Japan.
The area is dominated by 'Hokushingogaku' - a spectacular series of five mountains (Madarao, Myōkō, Kurohime, Togakushi and Iizuna) that make up the border of Nagano and Niigata prefectures. Myōkō Kōgen is famed for its ski resorts which were founded in the 1930s - making it one of the oldest established ski areas in the world. It is also a traditional mountain retreat of Japan's imperial family.
The Myōkō Kōgen Ski Area is made up of nine main mountain resorts: Myōkō Akakura, Ikenotaira Onsen, Myōkō Suginohara (which boasts the longest ski run in Japan), Seki Onsen, Kyukamura, Myōkō Ski Park, APA resort Myōkō Pine Valley (closed in 2008), Madarao Kogen and Tangram Ski Circus
Prior to the merger (as of 2003), the former Myoko Kogen town had an estimated population of 6,234 and a density of 48.49 persons per km². The total area was 128.57 km².
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Ride Guide
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
Myoko Kogen, Niigata-ken. Located just over the border from Nagano-ken (40 minutes by local train from Nagano City)
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Usual route is to catch a Nagano Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno then connect on local train heading for Myoko-kogen. You can also catch a shinkansen to JoetsuMyoko Station and then catch the train back to Myoko-Kogen or use the Akakura Shuttle. Approximately 40 minutes to Myoko Kogen Station via rail or an hour on the bus. Check Hyperdia for connections.
- Red Warehouse - Akakura Onsen
- Takeda Hotel - Akakura Onsen
- Hunter Lodge - Akakura Onsen
- Wakui Hotel - Akakura Onsen
- Echo Hotel - Akakura Onsen
You can purchase separate lifts tickets for each of the main resorts; Suginohara, Ikenotaira, Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen. I think the normal priced tickets were around 4000yen, but I will have to have a look for my ski tickets to check. The only two resorts you can ski between are Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen and for this reason you can also purchase a duel ticket which includes both ski areas.
It is also worth talking to the owners/operators of the place you are staying to see if they offer any discounted lift tickets. I stayed at Akakura Hotel Annex and they offered an all mountain pass which, from memory, was cheaper than the duel Akakura Kanko <> Akakura Onsen ticket (I will need to check this).
Normally though I would not recommend an all mountain day pass as it would waste too much time transferring between the resorts during the day and it is better, in my opinion, to stick to one resort per day.
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Bars & Entertainment
Compared to other areas of Japan, ski patrol here take a more relaxed approach to inbounds, off-piste riding. I don't know what the official stance is on off-piste riding, but there are pretty much no ropes (but not none) and I was never told off by ski patrol for enjoying the fresh stuff, which I rode as much as possible.
However I think there is an unspoken rule that you just don't ride in certain places, such as under the ski lifts when fairly close to the loading points. They still didn't have this roped off though. Also, some of the ski areas, such as Ikenotaira, don't have ropes around the resort boundary, instead it is marked by orange flags nailed to trees. So if exploring off the piste areas make sure you know where you are or you might find yourself stuck. This happened to me and it was no fun trudging for 45min through thigh deep snow to try and get back to the resort area.
Out of Bounds
The entire resort and township is snowbound, so I suppose you could cross country ski wherever you want. However for groomed cross country trails there is the golf course, however I am not sure what else there is.
Parks & Pipes
Myoko Kogen is located in Niigata prefecture on Honshu with a base elevation of approx 700m asl and a top lifted point of approx 1800m asl. As it is located on Honshu, the weather is generally warmer than Hokkaido and not as consistently snowy as Niseko. However in saying that, Myoko still receives large amounts of snow (lots of conflicting information on just how much - but anywhere during the season between 10m - 15m) and some dumps of snow can be as much as 1m overnight. Is there such a thing as too much snow? I think the snow clearers and locals probably think so.
However being further south the sunny days are generally warmer and even when it is snowing it is unlikely to get below -15C to 20C, except for maybe some of the really high areas. But this is not necessarily a bad thing as it is still cold enough to get the famous Japanese powder snow.