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Jakarta Post

Nagano: Japan’s enchanting winter gem

Thu, January 4, 2018   /   08:17 am
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    A mother helps her children strap on skis in front of Escal Plaza, the main hall of Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort. Escal Plaza offers skiing classes as well as rental services for skiing gear. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Young skiers enjoy Hakuba Goryu’s children’s area. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Visitors wait their turn to take a Goryu-Toomi cable car at the Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort. The telecabin’s track spans 2,000 meters, connecting the resort’s lower slope Toomi with the Alps-Daira Zone. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Goryu-Toomi cable cars travel above visitors skiing on Toomi slope. The area, suitable for beginners and families, opens at 6:30 a.m. and operates until 9:30 p.m. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Skiers check in their gear at the Alps-Daira Zone, which is located 1,515 meters above sea level. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Two snow excavators stand idly with Japan’s Northern Alps in the background. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Goryu-Toomi cable cars offer an idyllic mountain view of Hakuba during the winter. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Azumino resident Hama Shigetoshi holds up a wasabi plant at Daio Wasabi Farm, the largest of its kind in Japan. JP/Agnes Anya

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    Snow starts to melt in front of Matsumoto Castle in the city of Matsumoto. JP/Agnes Anya

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]