Ski Zao Onsen in Yamagata, Japan from December 8, 2018

Zao Onsen, a premier ski & hot spring resort in Japan's Northeastern Yamagata Prefecture, will officially open for the Winter 2018-2019 Ski Season on Saturday, December 8. The resort is famous for its authentically Japanese world class skiing that takes place among the "snow monsters." These "juhyo" – literally ice-covered trees – are the guests of honor during the 30th Anniversary "Zao Juhyo Matsuri" December 22, 2018-March 3, 2019.
By: Tobu Railway Company, LTD.
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Zao Onsen Ropeway Soaring Above Juhyo Snow Monsters
Zao Onsen Ropeway Soaring Above Juhyo Snow Monsters
ZAO ONSEN, Japan & SUMIDA-KU, Japan - Nov. 6, 2018 - PRLog -- Zao Onsen, one of Japan's premier ski and hot spring resorts, located in Yamagata Prefecture, in the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan's Honshu, main island, will officially open for the winter 2018-2019 Ski Season on Saturday, December 8. If there is not enough snow for good skiing, they will have an Anzen Kigan Sai, Safety Prayer Festival with a Shinto Priest. The mountainous resort area, nearly 250 miles north of Tokyo, has a history dating back more than 1900 years, when the warm, mineral-rich onsen hot springs, were discovered in the year 110 CE.

While Zao doesn't offer the glitz and glamour of resorts in Hokkaido, it's a place where the skiing is a satisfyingly authentic Japanese experience. Where else in the world can you ski among Jizo Buddhist statues, whose crimson caps and bibs reveal themselves as the wind blows the snow? Where else can you find vermilion Shinto torii gates awaiting you at the base of ski lifts? And, even more dramatically, where else can you ski among colorfully illuminated "snow monsters?"

Juhyo Snow Monsters

The "snow monsters" are, in fact, ice-covered trees called juhyo, which accumulate re-frozen snow in an otherworldly monstrous way.  During high season, this experience is further enhanced via brilliantly colored illuminations (5-9 pm).  There will be 46 illumination dates for the 2018-2019 30th Anniversary season of the Zao Juhyo Matsuri - Zao Snow Monster Festival. The dates are as follows:  Dec. 22, 23, 29, 30, 31; Jan. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27; Feb. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28; Mar. 1, 2, 3. The cost is: Adult ¥2800, Child ¥1400. This includes the aerial ropeway ride.

The amplified juhyo light-up phenomenon can be experienced by both skiers and non-skiers. Skiers can have a blast on a piste run.  At the same time, non-skiers can board a night-cruiser snowmobile and ride between a maze of juhyo, or they can marvel at the mysterious and majestic juhyo from above, while coasting along Zao Ski Resort's ropeway, an aerial gondola ski-lift. The ropeway brings riders to the top of the mountain, and from there everyone can proceed on foot out of the observation area to a roped-off section, where all can roam freely among the juhyo! (Note: When you go to view the Juhyo Forest light-up, you must ride the ropeway in both directions, and you are not allowed to carry skis or snow boards.)

The First Weekend in February – A Special Saturday Night!

The first weekend in February (February 2-3, 2019) is a special time during the three-month Snow Monster Festival.  In addition to fireworks electrifying the night sky every weekend evening in February, there are superlative diversions on Saturday, February 2nd. These include: costumed characters on the slopes, ice sculptures, and a 1000-torch Gliding Torch Run, which one observer described as "one of the most magical scenarios I have ever seen in my life."  It includes a parade of skiers gliding down the mountain with glowing torches in each hand, further illuminated by the fireworks display backdrop! Skiers themselves can register at 6 pm, with the torch ski starting from 8 pm.

The Slopes; The Skiing

Zao sports 42 lifts and an average of nearly 40 feet of snow per season.  There are runs and lifts for skiers of all levels -- below the tree-line for beginners to intermediates and above the tree-line to the summit for advanced skiers.

Hotels should be booked early, especially on weekends.  Recommended accommodations include:

Takamiya Ryokan Miyamaso:

Takamiya Hotel Lucent:

Takamiya Resort Rurikura:

Takamiya Village Hotel Jurin:

More Information:

More information about the winter season at Zao Onsen can be found via the Zao Onsen Tourism Association (, Yamagata Prefecture (, and Tobu Railway Company, LTD (, which operates the Zao Onsen Ropeway (


TOBU Railway Company, LTD. is a major Japanese corporate conglomerate consisting of approximately 90 companies. The Tobu Railways cover the longest operating distance in Metropolitan Tokyo and lead to numerous tourist attractions including: Asakusa and Tokyo SKYTREE TOWN in Tokyo; Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen, famous its world heritage sites and hot springs; the Tatebayashi and Ashikaga area, known for beautiful blooming flower fields; and Kawagoe, where the atmosphere of the old Edo era lives on. Tobu is also invested in numerous hotels, including the highly anticipated luxury properties: Nikko Fufu Resort ( and The Ritz Carlton Nikko (, both of which will open in 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

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