It’s no secret that Japan’s ski resorts are world-renowned and highly regarded for their abundance of powder snow. At many of these resorts, you’ll also find far fewer people about to compete with for fresh lines. If you’re visiting during the off-season, however, you may think that sticking to the bright lights of Tokyo or the temples and shrines of Kyoto is all that is on offer. Why visit the ski areas when it isn’t ski season? Well, there are various events at Japanese ski resorts during the green season. Many of these are every bit as unique an experience as celebrating waist-deep Japow with a big bowl of ramen during the literal depths of winter.
While the colours surely change, the less literal interpretation of Japan’s “green season” typically refers to the period between the end of the ski season (usually around early May) and the start of autumn foliage season (around mid-September). During this time, many Japanese ski resorts shift their focus from skiing and snowboarding to other outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and even water sports. Then there are traditional festivals. The following are just some of the events taking place at Japanese ski resorts during the 2023 green season.
Fuji Rock – Naeba, Niigata Prefecture
Fuji Rock seems like the natural place to start when talking of summer events in Japan. This is one of Japan’s biggest music festivals and takes place at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture. It features a line-up of international and Japanese acts and attracts tens of thousands of music fans each year.
This year, the event will take place on the 28th, 29th and 30th of July. The 2023 edition of the festival boasts a line-up including acts such as The Foo Fighters, Lizzo, The Strokes, Denzel Curry, Alanis Morissette and heaps more. The popularity of past events speaks for itself. There’s a pretty good chance you have already heard of Fuji Rock.
4100D Mountain Trail – Nozawa Onsen, Nagano Prefecture
This trail running event will again be held in 2023 in and around the traditional village of Nozawa Onsen on Saturday the 16th of July. There are 65km, 37km and 14km events across various entry types.
On either side of the event, visitors can take part in many of the things that make Nozawa famous during the ski season. Although the snow won’t be there, the onsens, delicious local food and all the other charming aspects of the village will be. For those looking for a little bit more of a slow-paced and traditional vibe in Nozawa during the green season, September’s autumn lantern festival is definitely worth a look.
Green Magic – Myoko Kogen, Niigata Prefecture
Held at Myoko Suginohara Ski Resort, Green Magic is an increasingly popular open-air psychedelic music festival drawing visitors from both Japan and abroad. This year, the event will take place from the 3rd to the 6th of May.
The event promises “three days and nights full of atmospheric beats and otherworldly fun in the mountains of Japan”. Early bird tickets have sold out, but advanced tickets are still available at the time of writing.
Kutchan Jaga Matsuri – Niseko, Hokkaido Prefecture
The 61st Kutchan Jaga Matsuri will be held on the 5th and 6th of August 2023. Otherwise known as the Potato Festival, this colourful event celebrates the harvest season. In contrast to the temporal nature of the staple vegetable, the festival is colourful and cultural and includes two days of food stalls, local vendors, beer gardens and various games. There is a parade, traditional dance and of course, no Japanese festival is complete without fireworks.
The Kutchan Jaga Matsuri is just one example of the events taking place in the Niseko area over the green season. Other events like the Hirafu Matsuri typify the festive nature of a Japanese summer. Visitors looking to check out Hokkaido’s stunning natural beauty during the warmer months will still have the opportunity to take in a bit of culture while there.
Grinduro – Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture
This bike event bills itself as having the “perfect party-to-race ratio”. Held in Hakuba from the 7th to the 9th of October 2023, this event “combines the best elements of a mountain bike enduro with a gravel grinder-style road race”.
To complement the bike event are food stalls, an art festival, music and camping. Over varying 80km terrain, there are four timed stages. The event organisers encourage riders to bring family and friends and enjoy the festival nature of the event.
Summer Sky Snow Festival – Hakkaisan, Niigata Prefecture
Lastly, for something a little different. When the snow is on Muikamachi Hakkaisan Ski Resort features some great tree skiing, off-piste and side-country terrain. During late July, it seems they’re still celebrating the snow, even when it’s summer.
The Summer Sky Snow Festival is a bit more low-key than some of the other festivals mentioned above but includes a sledding slope, stage performances, and other festival attractions. The event uses snow kept from the preceding winter season to provide a bit of respite from the summer heat near the top of the Hakkaisan Ropeway. Pro tip: Hakkaisan is famous for its quality sake so it would be rude not to indulge while you’re there.
Japanese Summer Festivals
The above is by no means an exhaustive list. Despite the obvious attraction of winter and the gifts it gives in the form of soft powder snow, most festivals take place in Japan during the green season. These are just a few examples of the big events that take place at Japanese ski resorts when the snow isn’t falling. Whether you’re into outdoor sports, music, or cultural festivals, there’s plenty to see and do in Japan’s mountain regions during this time of year.
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