Year-round winter wonderlands in Japan
The first winter sport to make it big in Japan was ice skating, in the winter of 1877 in Sapporo, Hokkaido. An American professor named Brooks came to teach at the present-day Hokkaido University, and he brought with him a pair of ice skates. Japanese children took to it immediately and started making their own, using bamboo slippers as skates.
One hundred and twenty three years later, Japan is a veritable winter wonderland. For many, the proximity of the mountains is the best thing about Tokyo. Soon, however, the snows will melt and winter sports enthusiasts will be left twiddling their thumbs until next Christmas. Wrong. For ice skaters, skiers and snowboarders alike there are numerous climate-controlled indoor winter sports centers where you can get your skates on or hit the (rather small) slopes all year round. Maki Nibayashi
Featuring powder snow as fine as in Hokkaido, this all-season indoor snowboard slope is a new addition. From beginners to extreme boarders, this park has it all. Three cameras record your every move; once you make it downhill just look up and see how you did 30 seconds ago because there you are, up on the screen. There is an awesome jump slope and a half pipe to test your skills and for those who just want to watch, there is a gallery that is free of charge which overlooks the slopes.
Open 10am-11:30pm daily. Entrance: JY2300 weekdays, JY2800 Sat/Sun/holidays for 90 minutes, JY700/JY900 for every extra 30 minutes. Rental: JY3000 for a whole set (board, boots, suit, gloves). 1-2-43 Kajiyama, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama (045-570-4141). Nearest stn: Tsudayama, JR Nanbu line. www.green-wood.co.jp
Lalaport Ski Dome SSAWS
With a slope about 100 meters high-as high as the Statue of Liberty-SSAWS (pronounced Zaus) is the biggest and highest indoor slope in the world. The slope was created in such a way that an expert or a beginner can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at their own pace in a climate-controlled dome. Schedule: Mon/Tue/Wed/Sun/holidays 8am-12:30pm snowboarding; 12:30-8pm skiing; Thu/Fri 10am-4pm skiing, 4-10pm snowboarding; Sat 8am-4pm skiing, 4-10pm snowboarding. Entrance: One-day pass JY5400. Rental: Ski set JY1800, snowboard set JY3000. 2-3-1 Hamamachi, Funabashi-shi, Chiba (047-432-7000). Nearest stn: JR Keiyo line, Minami-Funabashi stn. www.mitsuifudosan.co.jp/ssaws/
Shin-Yokohama Prince Hotel Skate Center
The all-Japan figure skating and ice hockey teams use this spacious rink for their practices, ensuring highly advanced skaters a chance to swirl and twirl their stuff.
Open 3:30-6:30pm weekdays, 1-6:30pm Sat, 10am-6pm Sun/holidays. Entrance: All-day pass JY1200. Rental: Skates JY600. 2-11 Shin-Yokohama, Kita-ku, Yokohama-shi (045-474-1112). Nearest stn: Shin-Yokohama, JR Yokohama line.
Meiji-Jingu Ice Skating Rink
Kids and adults have a great time and get a good workout at this NHL-size rink. Skating lessons and general skating are available to the whole family. This newly upgraded facility is clean, safe, and stocked with three different types of skates for ice hockey, figure skating and speed skating. You can also rent out the whole rink for an event or party on ice.
Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sat, 10am-3pm Sun/holidays. Entrance: JY1300. Rental: JY500. Kasumigaoka Gobanchi, Shinjuku-ku (03-3403-3458). Nearest stn: JR Sendagaya or Shinanomachi.
Citizen Ice Skating Rink
The 60 by 30 meter rink accommodates figure and speed skating and ice hockey. When you tire of making figure eights, go upstairs to the bowling alley or the pool hall.
Open 12-7:45pm Mon-Sat, 10am-7:45pm Sun/holidays. Entrance: JY1200 for two hours, all day JY1500. Rental: JY500. 4-29-27 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku (03-3371-0910). Nearest stn: Takadanobaba.