Shiga Kogen is located in the Joshinetsu National Park in the Nagano Prefecture, a short train ride from Tokyo. The town of Yamanouchi sits at the base of the mountain with a winding road leading up to the ski areas. One of the biggest and most popular skiing destinations in Japan, Shiga Kogen is a behemoth made up of 19 interlinked ski resorts in the Japanese Alps.
One pass gives skiers access to all resorts and the free shuttle transport between them. Shiga Kogen hosted a number of events in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and the facilities are good. There is an impressive variety of terrain and great snow quality.
While most of Shiga Kogen's visitors are Japanese, international visitors are beginning to discover the attractions of this ski destination, which is good for families and usually has pleasantly uncrowded slopes. There is a variety of accommodation on offer and enough bars and restaurants - both Japanese and international - to make aprés ski drinks fun and sociable.
Shiga Kogen is made up of 19 different interlinked ski areas. It offers some of the best skiing in Japan for all levels, although it's best suited for beginner and intermediate skiers, with miles of gentle cruising slopes. There are some lovely runs though the trees, but off-piste skiing is banned in most areas. The ski season in Shiga Kogen lasts from late November to early May, and night skiing is available in some areas of the resort until 9pm in good weather.
You would struggle to go on a shopping spree in Shiga Kogen as the little shops and stores are spread out between the various villages and hotels and don't stock an exciting variety of goods. Visitors should be able to find all the basic goods they may need and some simple souvenirs, but that is the extent of the shopping scene.
The variety of hotels in Shiga Kogen ensures a wide range of dining options, with plenty of both local Japanese fare and international staples for the less adventurous.
Shiga Kogen is not known for its nightlife and the resort is not suited to young party animals, but there is a great variety of restaurants and bars and the atmosphere is pleasantly relaxed and friendly. The best nightlife in the area takes place in the hot spring resort towns of Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen. Visitors should be aware that most of the best restaurants and bars are hidden away within hotels, thus some exploration is needed to find them.
Shiga Kogen is close to the lovely Shiga National Park, home to the hot springs that attract the famous Japanese snow monkeys. The park, as well as Jigokudani Monkey Park, makes a great day trip from Shiga Kogen. There are also plenty of hot springs in the region for people to enjoy.
Those in search of cultural diversions should visit the Zenkoji Temple or Matsushiro Kaizu Castle in nearby Nagano. Shiga Kogen provides ample off-slope activities and attractions which is a bonus for visitors keen to do some sightseeing as well as ski. Of course, Tokyo, with all its urban wonders, is conveniently close by.
Shiga Kogen isn't popular with Westerners, and the lack of nightlife may be a disappointment some. The villages are really a just collection of hotels, with few shops, bars or stand-alone restaurants.