Little do people know that aside from Japan's fascinating K-pop music and distinct cultural heritage, the country's charms also lie in its scenic mountains, which are best enjoyed for winter sports.
Nestled in the picturesque Japanese Alps, Hakuba village in Nagano Prefecture is one of Asia’s best skiing spots, thanks to its experience hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics.
A four-hour drive from Tokyo, it has since revitalized the area for winter tourism with the addition of 11 ski resorts offering top-of-the-line facilities.
Among them is Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort, which provides rental ski and snowboard equipment, as well as various classes for a range of ages in English, Japanese and Chinese.
It also provides night-skiing services until 8:30 p.m.
Apart from ski resorts, Hakuba has also seen the mushrooming of homestays owned by local families.
It is highly suggested to stay in one of these homestays as they offer an authentic cultural experience.
Meanwhile, the cities of Azumino and Matsumoto are equally alluring, offering up wasabi farms and the famed Masumoto Castle, respectively.
Azumino is home to Daio Wasabi Farm, the largest of its kind in Japan. A hugely popular tourist attraction, it allows visitors to explore its grounds and offers an array of wasabi-inspired treats, including wasabi ice cream.
And located just 16 kilometers from the farm, Matsumoto Castle stands tall among glittering ponds and luscious parks. Built in the 16th century, it is known as "Crow Castle” because of its black exterior. [yan]