Mt. Tanigawa - 'Tenjin' small in size, big with skiers

Mt. Tanigawa - 'Tenjin' small in size, big with skiers

by James O’Leary
Yokota High School

Japan has amazing skiing and snowboarding opportunities throughout the country. The mountains around places like Nagano and Hokkaido have powder that's as good as Colorado or the European Alps. Though the winter provides great snow for many ski resorts, not every place is equal. Some places are giant, but expensive and far away, while others are small, but close by. You’ll find some geared towards snowboarders, others towards beginning skiers, and some are great, except they're insanely crowded.

One place that has amazing powder and is only a two-hour drive from Tokyo is Mt. Tanigawa. Known locally as “Tenjin”, snow accumulates to around 5m (compared to 2.5m at Shiga Kogen), or 16 ft of snow, allowing it to be open from early December to early May. It is also important to note, that the snow is all natural, so it is usually better quality than the artificial snow produced at other places this close to Tokyo.

Why is Mt. Tanigawa not as well-known as places like Shiga Kogen or Hakuba? Well, Tanigawa only has five lifts and ski runs, and typically, people prefer to go to places with over 20.  While bigger might be better in the amount of lifts and slopes, ski resorts that are big also have higher prices, and are farther away. It is less expensive (3500 vs 4700 yen) and closer, yet the snow quality is not sacrificed. Other nearby, inexpensive places to ski, such as Fujiten and Snow Town Yeti, require a large amount of artificial snow. Though they make pretty good artificial snow, it just isn't the same as the real thing. 

I snowboarded there two days after a large snowfall, and it was a powder paradise. With 150 cm of snow on the ground, and the sides of the slopes left ungroomed, I had the best time snowboarding in my life. I've skied in three countries in the European Alps, but never experienced anything like Mt. Tanigawa. Search “Snowboarding Tanigawa for the first time!” on YouTube to see more.

With a valley run of 3 km, it just wouldn't be right to call this place small. The fact that it is seen as small by so many people just makes it better. When I went, there were approximately 30 people on the entire mountain, including a dog.

While it's great for expert snowboarders in search of powder, Tenjin also has a beginner run and a couple of easy intermediate runs. The former slope is for first timers, whereas the latter two slopes are suitable for beginners who can ski, but now want to improve their skills. 

At only two hours away, Tenjin is a place you can day trip to, but if you prefer to stay overnight, Tenjin Lodge is great. They have good food, and the owner is Australian, so they speak English. his Japanese/Korean wife cooks great western/Asian fusion if you’d like to add dinner to your room. Breakfast included the best coffee and western food we’ve had in Japan. There are Japanese and western-style rooms and it is reasonably priced. The staff are very friendly, and you'll probably see them on the slopes with their dog who runs down the slopes faster than most skiers. Tenjin Lodge is within a walking distance from the slopes and Doai train station, but the owner is happy to give you a lift if he’s not too busy. You can take the train to Tanigawa, but it's a lot more expensive and time consuming than driving there. Also, if you take the train, then you probably need to rent gear, which is possible, but truthfully, if you need to rent, go to Outdoor Rec for better prices.

Tanigawa is a close, inexpensive and uncrowded snow magnet. For a good six months, it offers skiers and snowboarders a unique experience. The all-natural snow makes it a powder paradise, and it is my all-time favorite mountain for good reason. Visit for more information.


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