japan skiJapan’s first snow fell in Hokkaido on October 2, around 20 days earlier than usual and the earliest since 1898 — and an excellent omen for a campaign designed to get skiers back onto Japan’s world-class slopes.

The Support Japan, Ski Japan campaign has been launched by the London offices of the Japan National Tourism Organization in conjunction with RoomBoss, a Japanese technology company that is involved in the ski industry.

The campaign provides information to anyone considering a skiing holiday in Japan but who remains concerned about the lingering effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The organizers are aiming to raise awareness about the situation on Japan’s skiing regions and make it easier to access ski services here.

As part of the campaign, 3.75 percent of the value of the accommodation bookings and 5 percent of the value of service bookings — such as airport transfers, ski lift tickets, ski hire and ski lessons — will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society to assist people living in areas affected by the disasters of March.

Japan’s ski fields draw skiers and boarders from around the world, ranging from first-timers to seasoned professionals, and those who have tried routes in resorts such as Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture or Niseko on the most northerly main island of Hokkaido rave about the facilities and the light, dry powder snow that blankets much of the north of the nation for months on end.

And after a hard day tearing up the powder, winter resorts here have uniquely Japanese rest and recuperation options ranging from outdoor “onsen” to all-you-can-eat buffets of local delicacies.

The north is also home to villages that are virtually unchanged since feudal times, volcanic hot springs, snow monkeys and dramatic countryside.

Organisers of the Support Japan, Ski Japan campaign are  keen to point out that the sport can be surprisingly reasonable. Peak-season flights from London, for example, can be found for less than £600 (€700), while accommodation starts at €47 per person per night, lift tickets are around €35 a day and a hearty lunch with drinks will set you back around €14.

Japan is not the only place in east Asia with a growing reputation for skiing, however, as the sport is gaining traction in both China and South Korea. The Alshan Alpine Skiing Resort, in the Inner Mongolia Province of China, is renowned for its routes through the surrounding forests, while facilities closer to Beijing include the Huaibei Ski Resort Beijing Nanshan International Ski Slope and Resort.

South Korea has 12 premier resorts for skiing enthusiasts, including the Gangchon Resort, Daemyung Vivaldi Park and the Yangji Pine Resort. All the areas provide rental equipment and have facilities for all abilities and night skiing, while many also have sledding routes. — AFP RELAXNEWS