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Shiga Kogen: The Largest Ski Area In Japan And The Incredible Snow Monkeys

Shiga Kogen is the largest ski area in Japan and is famous for its wide selection of runs and the nearby Snow Monkey Park. Shiga Kogen has courses for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, along with a sizable sledding area dedicated for children.

Despite its size, Shiga Kogen isn’t frequented by international tourists as often as the more famous Japanese resorts like Niseko, Hakuba, or Nozawa Onsen. However, I recommend Shiga Kogen as a winter destination in Japan due to its number of on and off-piste options, proximity to the Snow Monkey Park, and because you actually feel like you are in Japan (fewer English-speaking tourists everywhere!).

In this guide, I will recommend the best places to stay, things to do and see, and foods to eat in Shiga Kogen.

Snow monkeys enjoying an onsen

Monkeys enjoying the hot springs near Shiga Kogen

How do you have the ideal trip to Shiga Kogen?

How To Get There

Winter birch trees in Japan

Snow-covered trees line the roads to Shiga Kogen

Door-to-door, public transportation takes about four hours from Shibuya Station to the Shiga Kogen resort area. You will take a local train to Ōmiya Station, then a shinkansen (high-speed bullet train) to Nagano Station, and from there a bus to Ichinose Ski Resort (or whichever stop is closest to your accommodation). One-way will cost around ¥9,000 (~USD $80).

Another option is to rent a car and drive. Generally, renting a car can be cheaper than taking public transportation if you travel in a group of three people or more.

The most economical choice is to join a group trip, like with Tokyo Snow Club. In my most recent visit to Shiga Kogen, I joined the Tokyo Snow Club group which cost around ¥25,000 (~USD $200) and included bus transportation, a shared hotel room for two nights, two breakfasts, one dinner, the lift pass, and a rental snowboard. If you are comfortable traveling with a large group, I recommend a group tour as an inexpensive and convenient option to visit Shiga Kogen.

Tip: There are few ATMs in Shiga Kogen, so bring sufficient cash (in Japanese yen) with you prior to your visit.

Where To Stay

The mountain resort is extensive, so you can choose from several areas around it to stay. I suggest staying in either the Takamagahara, Ichinose, or Maruike/Hasuike areas as they each have a few hotels and restaurants. There is a free shuttle bus that circles through each of these locations.

I recommend the following hotel options:

  1. Shiga Highland Hotel ($) – I stayed here. It is very basic, but clean and has what you need.

  2. Hotel Shirakabaso Shigakogen ($$)

  3. Aspen Shiga ($$)

  4. Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel ($$)

  5. Chalet Shiga ($$)

  6. Hotel Khuls Shigakogen ($$)

Japanese hotel breakfast

Dinner at Shiga Highland Hotel

What To Do


Chair lift at Shiga Kogen

Enjoy the view from the lifts!

If you travel to Shiga Kogen in the winter, skiing or snowboarding is the main activity. The mountain area contains a massive network of different runs that you can view on this map.

The snow season in Shiga Kogen is one of the longest in Japan and often lasts from December through early April. Shiga Kogen contains a network of different runs, so there is a broad selection for all levels. You can ski/snowboard across the different sections of the mountain area, or take the free shuttle which loops around the resort.

Snow covered trees in Japan

On a clear day, the views from Shiga Kogen are phenomenal.

As a heads up, the infrastructure in Shiga Kogen is well-kept but dated. The lifts and surrounding buildings appear to have been around for decades. However, don’t let the resort aesthetics deter you from enjoying the incredible views and surrounding nature!

Visit The Snow Monkeys

Snow monkey enjoying an onsen in Shiga Kogen

Monkeys enjoying the hot springs at Snow Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen Koen)

Just a 20 minute drive away, Shiga Kogen is the nearest snow resort to Snow Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen Koen). Visiting the iconic snow monkeys in Japan is a bucket list item for many and was a personal highlight for my visit to the area.

Snow monkey etiquette sign

Etiquette rules at Snow Monkey Park

While you’re visiting, be sure to follow the etiquette rules of the park. The most important are to not touch the monkeys or give them food. As long as you do that, the monkeys are completely indifferent to human visitors – several walked straight through the crowds and within a foot of me without paying any attention to the eager cameras clicking away.

Winter walk to snow monkey park

The trail leading to the main area of Snow Monkey Park

It takes about 30-45 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the heart of Snow Monkey Park. The path is relatively flat but can be icy, so wear comfortable and secure hiking shoes.

Where To Eat

Port cutlet Japanese curry

Pork-cutlet curry on the slopes at 山ノ内大勝軒

Ramen overlooking mountain range

Unlike many other winter resort towns in Japan, Shiga Kogen doesn’t have a central village area. Instead, the restaurants are scattered in small pockets on or around the slopes.

For breakfast, I strongly recommend having it at your hotel so that you can eat early and hit the slopes sooner. Most of the surrounding cafes and restaurants don’t open until the late morning or midday.

I suggest checking out the following places to eat during your trip:

  1. 山ノ内大勝軒 (ramen, Japanese curry – Ichinose ski area) – on the slopes

  2. 志賀高原 山の駅 レストラン「山のキッチン」(ramen, Japanese curry – Shigakogen Yama no eki rest stop) – near a main road

  3. モンテモア (cafe famous for its strawberry shortcake – Maruike ski area) – near a main road

  4. Restaurant Takama (pizza and assorted Japanese dishes – Ichinose ski area) – near a main road

  5. Rocky Restaurant And Café (cafe with Western and Japanese dishes – Ichinose ski area) – near a main road

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