Before everyone back to home during New Year holiday, I went a short ski trip to Minakami, Gunma. Driving from Tokyo is about 2 hours by highway. I highly recommended get on the highway after Tokyo area, otherwise, you pay more and actually spend more time. There are couple areas that always have traffic jams.
We rent a car from Toyota Rental Car near Oshiage Station. I think we picked up the car around 7:45 am that day, then start driving. We get on the highway straight away (which is the worst decision ever), and get on the wrong way in the middle of Tokyo. We spend another 15 minutes just to figure out how to go back to the right direction. And the highway inside Tokyo already costs us around 1000 yen, which not even that quick. We did one stops on the way at Miyoshi PA, got some local bread (which tastes amazing!). Then arrived Minakami town around 11 - 12 am.
The next day after we check out, we went to another ski resort around Minakami area. It is called Tanigawadake-Tenjindaira Ski Area (谷川岳天神平スキー場). On the way to the resort, there are couple cool JR Station that you will never see in Tokyo. As well as houses that look like Swiss or Noth Europe. Tenjindaira ski Area is the highest ski resort that belongs to Tobu Group. You need to take a cable car from the middle of the mountain to access the ski resort. The half day ticket is around 2500 yen (including 2-way cable car ticket) if you don't want to ski you can pay only the cable car ticket for 2050 yen/2-way. The 1st photo in this post is how the resort looks like.
- Buy secondhand ski set/clothes from a secondhand shop or rent them in small individual shops before access the resort. It will save you at least half of the rental fee.
- Try book hotel at the very end before the day you want to go.
- Food and drinks usually a little bit expensive than convenient store or vending machines in Tokyo. So if you travel there by car rental, it is better to bring you own drink and snakes from Tokyo.
I accidently saw a ski good rental shop by the side of the main road in town. For an adult, one day ski set is 2000 yen (including boots, ski set). Usually in the ski resort, the rental price at least 4500 yen. So rent at those individual shops can save you lots of money during the trip.
The first ski resort we went to is called Minakamihodaigi Ski Area. From IC Minakami exit drive to that resort is about 20 minutes I think. The parking is free and if you don't need the lift to a higher place, you can use the ski resort for free as well. The life is about 2500 yen/half day. They have a restaurant/rest area with free wifi.
That night we stay at Minakami Kan （水上館）. Because we booked very closer to the date we plan to go, so we got a special price 10,000 yen/one night. The outside of Minakami Kan looks like been abandoned, but the inside - Love it! It has 3 different onsen area that you can enjoy with. The sad thing is, during night, if you want to find some local place to eat, you will end up with nothing. The whole onsen street seems to be abandoned, you can tell how Japanese economic be affect by variety reasons. But don't worry, there is a Family Mart near the onsen street, at least you can get some hot bento box from there.
Hope you enjoy my quick 2-day skiing trip to Minakami, Gunma. It is a really good place to go for a short holiday near Tokyo. Also, it isn't like Hokkaido that full of tourists around the world, most people there are Japanese. So you will have fewer people than those popular ski resort. Minakami is also a good place for people who like urban explore. There are so many abandoned hotels, hospitals, buildings.