Kijimadaira, a Japanese ski resort with the country's steepest run, has been purchased by a Japanese beauty clinic with bold plans.

Alighting the Hokuriku Shinkansen line at Iiyama and boarding the big blue bus bound for Nozawa Onsen, travellers may have gazed out and cast eyes upon one of the steepest pistes in all of Japan. The 46-degree Pioneer course of what was known as, until recently, Kijimadaira Ski Resort, is an eye-catcher, for sure.

However, the same level of foreign interest that its famous neighbour has enjoyed hasn’t quite found its way to Kiji. Whether owing to a lack of English ski lessons, its small size or lack of amenities, this was another Japanese ski resort on course for closure.

That is, until an interesting reimagining. As of earlier this year, the ski resort is now known as “Snow Resort Romance no Kamisama”. While a literal translation might be “God of Romance”, the resort’s website uses “The Cupid of Romance”. Either way, it’s not exactly your typically named ski resort.

The name comes from a song. The 1993 track by Japanese singer-songwriter, Kohmi Hirose, is the most successful of her career and has long been associated with winter through marketing efforts positioning her as the Fuyu no Joō, or “Queen of Winter”. Hirose performs her hit single and other subsequent winter-themed tunes everywhere from the Zepp halls of Tokyo and Osaka to Myoko Kogen’s Akakura Kanko Resort. But it’s the link to the ski resort formerly known as Kijimadaira which is perhaps the most unique part of her journey.

Shonan Beauty Clinics, operated by SBC Medical Group, announced in February 2023, that they have purchased Kijimadaira Ski Resort, its hotel and the naming rights to the song, “Romance no Kamisama”. The aim is to revitalise the ski resort and the surrounding village by marrying winter sports with health and beauty.

The group operates 129 clinics in Japan and abroad. Shonan Beauty Clinics lists services ranging from breast augmentation and liposuction to tattoo removal and dental. The aim of this “ski resort revitalisation” appears to offer clients the opportunity to recover away from the eyes of everyday life, on the mountain with the option to take a slide down the hill when the mood strikes.

A list of services found on SBC's website

A list of services shown on SBC’s website

Whether you want to call it Kijimadaira Ski Resort or Snow Resort Romance no Kamisama, the area holds a distinct place in Japan’s winter sports history. Notably, it’s the first Japanese resort that embraced snowboarding. While not sprawling, Kijimadaira Ski Resort is the largest among the Mt Kosha resorts. Boasting seven lifts and ten courses, the ski area spans a vertical distance of 796 meters (475 – 1,271m). The layout is elongated and slender, with a slight widening in the middle, creating a bit of somewhat unique skiing terrain.

According to official trail statistics, Kiji has 40% for beginners, 40% for intermediates and 20% for advanced skiers. Of course, that famous ungroomed top slope is among the latter – obviously, a big powder day is the best time to tackle it but note that the top lift is typically only operational on weekends and public holidays. The top lift also offers access to some great off-piste fun.

For those seeking a reprieve from the ever-growing crowds in Nozawa, Kijimadaira offers a pretty good day trip or at least a stop on a multi-day getaway. The resort’s charm lies in its uncrowded slopes compared to neighbouring higher-profile destinations. With the help of their own transport, skiers basing themselves in Kiji will be able to access Nozawa Onsen, Togari Onsen, Madarao/Tangram and the Myoko Kogen resorts, all within an hour’s drive.

Whether SBC are successful in addressing Kiji’s decline remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, it’s an outside-the-box effort. The future of Snow Resort Romance no Kamisama starts on the 23rd of December 2023.


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