To the uninitiated, Japan can seem like a completely different world, with its wacky vending machines, robotic toilets, closet-sized karaoke booths and flashing pachinko parlours. It is a holiday destination where the unusual quickly becomes the norm, and a delight for travellers who revel in new experiences.

Skiers and snowboarders are not exempt from the weird and wacky side of Japan. For the true adventurers, we’ve compiled a list of the most unusual ski hotels across the country.

Get cosy in a capsule hotel in Niseko

The humble capsule hotel has long been a fixture of the Japanese accommodation market, allowing guests to sleep in a “pod” – often stacked upon one another – that contains enough space to lie down and little else. They’re great for travellers on a budget (singles, especially), and offer more privacy than one would get in the multi-bunk dorm room of a youth hostel.

Lodge Moiwa 834

Lodge Moiwa 834

Capsule hotels in Japan tend to be fairly basic, however Niseko’s two definitely fall onto the ritzy end of the spectrum. Lodge Moiwa 834 sits at the base of the soon-to-be-upgraded Moiwa Resort, and features florescent “mood” lighting, luxury capsule beds and a spacious lounge and dining area.

First Cabin lives on the outskirts of Kutchan town, roughly a 10-minute drive to the ski lifts at Niseko Hanazono or Grand Hirafu, and has been designed to emulate the cabins at the pointy end of an aircraft. Guests can opt to stay in First Class, Business or Premium Economy cabins.

A Premium Economy cabin at First Cabin Niseko

A Premium Economy cabin at First Cabin

Chill out in a -30℃ Ice Hotel in Tomamu

We were mightily impressed when we walked into Tomamu’s ice hotel last season, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be booking a room for two weeks in 2020. As the name suggests, it’s constructed entirely of ice – even the bed – which means that guests are made to rely on a specially designed sleeping bag to get them through the night. With temperatures falling as low as -30℃ during the season, you may well need to warm yourself up with a whiskey or two at the Ice Lounge that sits adjacent to the main bedroom. Failing that, you can also take a dip in the hotel’s outdoor “Arctic Bath”, which enjoys views over the mountain and surrounding birch forest and is thankfully filled with hot water.

Ice Hotel, Hoshino Resorts Tomamu

Ice Hotel, Hoshino Resorts Tomamu

Stay in a yurt in Madarao

The Snowball Chalet was launched in 2017 after its owners turned to crowd funding to help make their Japan dream a reality. The property has become a Madarao favourite (check out its TripAdvisor ratings), with nine gorgeous rooms, an ultra cosy lounge, and just a short stroll (100 metres) from its doorstep to the Madarao lifts. (Read about our recently acquired “Madapow” addiction here.)

The most striking feature of the Snowball Chalet, however, is its Luxury Suite, which is inside a Mongolian-style yurt. The interior is simply stunning, and the finishing touches – which include a record player, designer log fire, and a traditional Japanese bath, take the experience to a new level entirely.

The Snowball Chalet's luxury yurt

The Snowball Chalet’s luxury yurt

Go glamping in Hakuba

This is camping, but not as you know it. It’s called glamping, and it’s your opportunity to experience one of Japan’s most stunning alpine regions from the luxury – yes, luxury – of your very own tent.

Tents are set up at Kitaone Kogen Highland at Hakuba’s Happo-one resort, giving guests a sense of remoteness that is becoming increasingly hard to come by in the ever-bustling Hakuba region.

The catch: overnight stays are not possible in winter, so your “hotel” experience is really a day-time excursion to your own luxury snow cabin (tents don’t appear to feature in the winter program), or an evening of cocktails and high-end dining.

However, summer brings with it the full suite of camping activities, including star gazing, nature walks, time in the open air onsen, and … you guessed it … sleeping in a tent. And if you haven’t yet seen Hakuba in the summer, then add it to your travel list, because it’s well worth the trip. But that’s another conversation entirely!

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