Sunday, April 20, 2014

Japan (Feb 2014) Day 3: Hakodateyama ski area and Kobe.

Day 3 (17 Feb): Hakodateyama ski area and Kobe. Stay at Kobe

Since my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law have not seen snow before, so I chose to bring them to a ski area near Kyoto to try our luck to see if it will snow on this day.

I had 2 options, 1 was the ski area at Biwako valley, and the other was slightly further, which was the Hakodateyama ski area (not to be confused with Hakodate at Hokkaido). 
Both ski areas are located within 1hr via train from Kyoto station within Shiga region. 
However, based on the weather reports of both places, it seemed like Hakodateyama would be colder than Biwako valley on  the day of our visit, which is why I decided upon Hakodateyama over Biwako valley. 

To reach Hakodateyama ski area, take about 1hr train on JR Kosei line from Kyoto station to Omiimazu station. Then at Omiimazu station, take a 25mins bus ride to reach the gondola station of Hakodateyama ski area. 

For those of you who are keen on going Biwako valley ski area instead, take a 40mins train ride on the JR Kosei line from Kyoto station to Shiga station, then transfer to a 15mins bus ride to reach the gondola station of Biwako valley ski area.

We had to catch the 0659am train from Kyoto station, so we bought some breakfast from convenience store to eat on the train. This is my hubby's breakfast. Sushi.

Chopper lip balm, bought from convenience store the previous day at Kyoto.
 The bus departure from Omiimazu to Hakodateyama ski area is non frequent, so if you plan on going, do check on bus timings on their website when you plan your trip.

After about 1hr train ride from Kyoto to Omiimazu, and a 25mins bus ride from Omiimazu station, we finally arrived at the gondola station. As you can see from the photo, we couldn't see any snow at all in the surroundings. So we were kinda disappointed initially. 
Price list for gondola and ski passes. A return trip gondola ride costs 1800yen.

Taking the 7mins gondola ride. You can see Lake Biwa on a clear day.
After the halfway mark, we somehow find our surrounding scenery changed into beautiful sea of white. 

Arrival at Hakodateyama ski area.

While waiting for the hubby and sis changing into their rental ski gears, it started to snow!
A very happy mother-in-law, who was really excited at seeing snowfall. :)
sister-in-law trying to ski

The hubby, trying to guide his sis on how to ski. 
While the 2 of them were out skiing, the 2 of us stayed at this cafeteria while waiting for them since we chose not to ski.

After about 10am, there seemed to be more people arriving. And this was a weekday, not a weekend.

It was around noon time when we left the ski area to catch the bus back to Omiimazu station to take the train back to Kyoto station.
Once we arrived at Kyoto, we went back to our hotel to pick up our luggage bags and then bought some snacks (since we skipped lunch) to eat onboard the train ride to Kobe, where we will be staying for the night.

Since we had the 4 days JR Kansai Area Wide pass, so I wanted to let my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to experience Shinkansen ride. But since the railpass doesn't cover the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka, therefore what we did was we took the Haruka Express from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka, then we transferred to the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe station. 
Taking Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe.
Since our hotel for the night at Kobe locate near Sannomiya station and not Shin-Kobe station, therefore we had to take a short subway ride from Shin-Kobe station to Sannomiya station.
We happened to board a female-only carriage onboard the subway, so poor hubby had to go to the next carriage while the 3 of us stayed in the female-only carriage. :)

Our hotel for the night is the b Kobe hotel, located near Sannomiya subway station and Tokyu Hands store.
The location of the hotel is really good, with many restaurants and eateries nearby, and it's located between Tokyu Hands and a 24hr Don Quijote store.  

the b Kobe hotel
Toilet. No bathtub though, but the toilet lid has a sensor which lifts up the lid when it senses someone walking towards it.
 Since we skipped lunch, so we were all famished by the time we checked-in at the hotel. So we headed out to look for some early dinner. Eventually, we decided upon Gyoza no Osho (餃子の王将), located somewhere between our hotel and Tokyu Hands. It was inexpensive and nice.

After dinner, we went to nearby Tokyu Hands for some light shopping until their closing time before heading back to our room to rest. And then later on at night, we went to the 24hr Don Quijote store next to the hotel for some more shopping. :)

many eating outlets near the hotel


  1. Hi Sam, would like to visit the same ski resort this dec. please can you advise on the following:

    - where did you get the bus schedule for the bus from Omiimazu to the ski resort?
    - do you know if there are any large lockers for luggages at the Omiimazu station?
    - do you know if they have any accommodatioover there?

    Thank you!

    1. So sorry. I've only just saw your message. My reply probably came too late for you.
      Anyway, here we go...
      - Bus schedule I got from Hakodateyama ski area's website.
      - I didn't noticed any lockers at the station. Was too busy rushing to catch the bus.
      - No accommodation at the ski area. Also didn't noticed any hotels at Omiimazu station since it's just a small town.

  2. I saw your blog and its very detailed!^^
    but just to check do you have the bus timing from the train station to the ski area?
    Do you need to make reservation for the rental of the ski equipment and wear? do they have any package discount?
    thanks! ^^

    1. The bus timings usually changes according to the seasons.
      I got the bus timing from Hakodateyama Ski area's Japanese website:

      My husband and his sister went skiing. We didn't make any prior reservations, just walk-in and make the rental at the shop at the ski area.
      I believe rental prices are here:

  3. Thanks for the detailed review! It helped me decide on going to Hakodateyama! :)

  4. Hi, any advise of using GPS requir?

  5. Hi Sam, I've read your blog. Im going to japan this mid feb, so is there any chances for me to see snow at Hakodateyama? And if Im from osaka to kyoto and Hakodateyama can i get in time for a day to go back osaka again? Hope to here from you soon :)

    1. Well, this year's winter is pretty weird. It wasn't as cold as normal, as well as having less snowfall too. Places like Shirakawago where is was known to have heavy snowfall didn't had much snow this year. Many ski slopes also had to push back their opening dates due to not having snow too.

      However, since the past few days, the temperatures have dropped suddenly.
      So there's still a chance that you can see snow at Hakodateyama.

      But, seeing how the weather is so unpredictable, I really cannot tell as to what are your chances of seeing snow in mid-Feb this year.

      Yes, Hakodateyama is not too far from Kyoto/Osaka (about 1hr by train from Kyoto + 20mins bus, 1 way), so you can go there and back within the same day. The thing is that the bus timing is infrequent, so it's best that you check the bus timings when u are doing your planning so that you won't need to waste time waiting for the next bus departure.

  6. Really appreciate your explanation! I will check for the weather and bus timing for Hakodateyama. Your blog was very helpful with all the detail in japan. Thank you so much for your reply. Keep it up Sam :)

  7. Hi..may i know is biwako valley still open in 12th april?

    1. Ski seasons usually depends on the weather conditions and it's difficult to put a date to the starting and ending.
      From what I understand from the Japanese version website of Biwako valley, it seems that they will be starting their green season from April 5th onwards.
      So I think April 12 is too late for skiing season.
      They might also be closed to do the switch between winter and green season for this period too...but since I don't understand much Japanese, so I am not 100% sure about this. Just saw something like this mentioned in their Japanese version website and I used google translate for it and I don't 100% trust such translations.

      There seemed to be a sakura fest near the bottom of the mountain from early to mid april though.