It has always been a childhood dream of mine to visit or live in a country with four kinds of season and now that my dreams finally came true, all I want to do is savor each moment of every season. Each season has its own enticing and inviting beauty. My favorite seasons are actually autumn and spring, so why am I writing about winter? Honestly, the only reason stopping me from making winter my favorite season has been because I am not physically adept in doing winter sports, and for a long time I thought the only way to enjoy winter is through skiing or snowboarding. But! Last year, I was given the chance to see and experience a winter like no other!
The Tohoku region, specifically the Miyagi and Yamagata areas, have a lot of activities and sights to offer during the winter season. You may be an adrenaline seeking junky, a nature lover, a food lover, an animal lover – no matter what type of personality you have, you will surely enjoy the winter season here in Tohoku. The region is very famous for its winter resorts but again, visitors are not limited to just skiing or snowboarding. Here are the top things you can do around Miyagi and Yamagata to achieve that winter wonderland feeling.
1. What does the Fox say?
You’ve heard of this song, right? If not, you’d better download it to your playlist because it was on a repeat mode when I visited Miyagi-Zao’s Fox Village!! What is amazing about this place is you get to see hundreds of fox resting, playing, and eating with a white snowy backdrop! The foxes (black, white, brown) are either caged or running freely in the area which is really an extraordinary sight to see! I also love that this area is not only limited to foxes but there are also other animals like bunnies, horses, goats, etc. Don’t forget to sign-up to hold one of the foxes or even try feeding them! Safety should always be at the front of your mind whenever you pet or feed these foxes, as these animals are quite sensitive. This is really one winter experience you don’t want to miss! Fox Village is actually open all year round, but the presence of snow and the fox’s fur being at its extra fluffiest just brings a whole new level to the game in winter – you won’t be disappointed!
Here are few informations about the place:
Name: Zao Fox Village
Address: 11-3 Kawarago, Fukuokayatsumiya, Shiroishi-shi, Miyagi-ken 989-0733 Japan
Contact details: 0224-24-8812
Fees: Children below 12 years old are free of charge while children above 12 years old and adults have to pay 1000 yen.
How to get there: Taking a bus or getting a cab are some options in going to this place (More about Fox Village and access here)
2. Hike your way into winter
If you are not a big fan of skiing or snowboarding because of fear of getting injured, one way to enjoy winter and snow is by snowshoeing! Snowshoeing is a super fun way to burn stubborn calories during this freezing weather. Imagine hiking on a snowy mountain using a special foot-gear, enjoying the sights of the city or villages covered with snow! The view was fantastic and literally took my breath away! No need to pay extra fees for lessons because the people from the rental of snowshoeing equipment will teach you on how to put the shoes on and how to walk in them. This was an experience I will never forget and I intend to do it again every winter season (if the time permits!). Luckily almost all the ski resorts in Yamagata Zao offers this kind of activity! It’s a really fun way to bond with friends, too!
3. Burn baby burn!
Like I said before, I am not exactly your winter sports type! However, nor am I a quitter!! So, I still need to give it a try. Skiing and snowboarding activities are a must during Tohoku’s winter season. Imagine burning those calories without even sweating and your body burning calories at much faster rate! Ski camps are fully equipped and they usually include lessons for beginners or for people who are at a certain level of proficiency. I do suggest that you get an instructor, especially if you are a beginner! Not only do they teach you the essential tricks (I’m talking stopping and starting!) but you get to find your snow-legs free of harm. Believe me! My friends and I went skiing and snowboarding and we ended up with a heavily banged up body because of numerous falls. So don’t make the same mistake! Always make safety your first priority, but don’t forget to have some fun too! I recommend Sumikawa Snow Park in Miyagi because when you’re done with the winter sports, you can also ride a rope-way to the top of the mountains and see some snow monsters! Mother nature is truly magical so don’t miss a chance to see these unique freaks of nature!
Here are some information for both snowshoe and winter sports activities: http://www.zao-sumikawa.jp/
Name: Snowshoeing at Sumikawa Snow Park
Address: 〒989-0916 Miyagi Prefecture, Katta District, 蔵王町遠刈田温泉倉石岳国有林内
Contact details: 0224-87-2610
4. A sky full of lights!
Those of you who have spent winter in Japan before will surely know about ‘illumination’ and how much of a big deal it is here! It has been a tradition to adorn a specific area with lots of beautiful colorful lights every year, usually at Christmas time! Here in Sendai, the city takes prides in its ‘Hikari (starlight) no Pageant’ where a whole stretch of Zelkova trees are decorated with thousands of Christmas lights! The view of the lights shining brightly is already a sight to see, but when the snow starts to fall, everything looks absolutely magical! This is the time when I truly feel that White Christmas spirit! Couples also grab the opportunity to go out on an illumination date because of the purely romantic feels, while family members and friends gather together and bond over the amazing view and sumptuous food being sold along the roadside. What a great way to end your day – full eyes and most especially a full stomach! Is there anything more you could ask for?
For more information check out this site! http://www.sendaihikape.jp/,
5. Hot and cold in the Onsen
Many tourists who visit Japan have an onsen experience on their bucket list, but what they might not know is that the best onsen experience is during winter! Why do I say this? Imagine soaking in steamy water and at the same time your upper body is fresh from the cold weather, all with a fantastic snowy backdrop! The view is not only mesmerizing but it also has a stress relieving effect. It is always a nice idea to visit an onsen once in a while, not only because of the beautifying properties of the water, but also because it does wonders medicinally! The Tohoku region is blessed with heaps of onsens, just waiting to be discovered! All you have to do is find the best onsen that suits your liking and book a room as soon as you can! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take photo during this trip since it is prohibited to bring a camera or a phone (for fairly obvious reasons)! But really, I guarantee that this is a must try in winter! You might even be lucky enough to see some animals hiding in the surrounding wilderness. Winter feels plus hot relaxing water= perfection!
For more information about one of my favourite onsens ‘Ichinobo’, in Sakunami (Miyagi): http://www.ichinobo.com/sakunami/
This list is not exhaustive!! There are plenty more winter discoveries to be made in the Tohoku region! Choose the Tohoku region for your winter getaway and be sure to let us know what was your favourite moment. More people need to share in the countless attractions of Tohoku – don’t forget to write about your experience too!