It can be a difficult choice when deciding where to take your children for a ski holiday. There are so many choices – USA, Canada, France, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and Korea, just to name a few. So how do you choose when every country has snow and exciting things to see and do?
As a former-federal-public-servant-turned-snowsports instructor and Co-Founder of Hokkaido Ski Club, I have come across many people, cultures and places. Every place you visit has its unique characteristics and specialties that are worth visiting at some point in one’s lifetime. But when it comes to a ski holiday with your kids, you want to choose a destination that will fill them with not only snow, fun and joy but also learning and life-enriching experiences. And for a place that brings it all together, you should look no further than Japan.
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. It is a country that has almost 125 million people as of June 2020 (based on the Worldometer’s interpretation of the United Nations data), and is ranked number 9 on the 2020 Global Peace Index (GPI), a report by the Institute of Economics and Peace. To have that many people who can live in a safe and peaceful environment that ranks in the top 10 of the GPI every year since it began in 2008, speaks volumes about the country and its people.
You can walk down the streets of the cities, villages and towns at any time of the day and not feel threatened or fear for your well-being and safety. You will see children as young as 5 and 6 years old walking to and from school by themselves. This is definitely one of the most noticeable and cherished experiences of holidaying in Japan and is a reason why it is a great destination to bring your kids. It makes for a much more relaxing holiday knowing that your children will be safe while exploring. Even if they were to be out of your sight for a few seconds while you enjoy your moment, you can be sure that they will be okay.
When you walk around the streets or subway stations, one of the most shockingly pleasant scenes is how clean everywhere is. There is no rubbish in sight and even the roads themselves look as if they have been cleaned by mini elves. The Japanese take pride in cleanliness and this starts from an early age. Children learn about it in school and they themselves participate in cleaning activities. It is a tradition that they clean their own classrooms, bathrooms and other spaces, as well as serving their own lunches and cleaning up after themselves at the end. This teaches them the life skills to become a responsible citizen.
This is a great example for your children to see and admire. If your children are very young, they may yet be able to recognise the difference between cleanliness and dirtiness. But this makes Japan a great place to expose them to what a clean environment is like and how it should be. They can visually experience what cleanliness is and bring back home this notion that they can practise and achieve in their own lives. And even if you can’t manage to convince them, at least you can have a sense of relief knowing that you are highly unlikely to have that horror moment of finding a lolly that has made its way into your child’s mouth from the ground.
Japan is a fascinating country that offers visitors a truly educational experience. Being one the few countries in the 21st century that maintains a strict migration policy, it has managed to retain its traditional culture. While some aspects of the culture may seem archaic, other aspects of the culture are eye-opening and educational, especially for your children.
One of the first things you will notice when arriving in Japan are the people’s manners. They are very polite, friendly, and soft-spoken. If you are in trouble, or need assistance, they will do all that they can to try and help you, even if they cannot speak English well. This attitude is present across the entire Japanese population and not limited to a few individuals. For this behaviour and culture to exist throughout a country in modern society is quite extraordinary and is something that your children must see and experience. Though they may not understand the importance of it at such a young age, exposure is important.
Another notable characteristic of Japanese culture is their respect for each other and the collectivist approach towards society. This is a stark difference to the more modern idea of the self. In situations such as natural disasters when people must go to the shops to stock up on supplies, the citizens will line up quietly without complaint and wait their turn. If supplies run out, they will not cause a scene. They will accept the situation and come back to line up the next day. They value that the person is in fact part of a whole and the contribution made is to benefit society rather than the individual. As modern education teaches children to be independent and focused on self-learning and improvement, visiting Japan is a great way to show them (and reminding ourselves!) that thinking of others in our actions is just as important as the self.
So while there are the usual reasons for visiting Japan with your children, such as indulging in the delicious food and seeing all the amazing sights of temples and skyscrapers, taking a closer look at the people and into the culture itself will be a learning experience and extremely beneficial for your children’s learning and development.
Lastly, of course one of the main reasons kids should have their holidays in Japan is because of the snow. Japan has over 500 ski resorts all over the country, which were built during the boom of the 1980s. Skiing became so popular that even some of the smallest towns had a small ski resort with one chairlift. These days many of the smaller local resorts (known as ski-jos) are closed but there are many that have undergone growth and development to become world-renowned resorts. The resorts on the north island of Hokkaido, like Niseko, Rusutsu and Tomamu are known for the famous powder snow – the fluffy dream-like puffs of powder – and the great amounts of natural snowfall. Niseko, for example, does not have snow-making facilities as the resort sees over 15m of snowfall annually. It is also, of all the Japanese snow resorts, the most popular and favoured by families. With the ease of accessibility to the mountain and within the resort, a wide variety of on-snow and off-snow activities, a diverse offering of both Japanese and international cuisines, and a local community of global citizens who you can easily communicate with in your own language, it makes what is usually a stressful holiday, hassle-free.
Japan is truly a magical place for your children to experience, learn from and grow. And with the global rising temperatures and decreases in snowfall annually, now is the time, more than ever, to bring your kids to Japan for your next winter holiday before it all melts away.