For citizens of the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and many other countries a visitor's visa will be issued on arrival in Japan, valid for at least 90 days. Citizens of some other countries may need to apply in advance for a visitors visa - read more here.
Got a question?
See if we've answered it below or get in touch for more info.
Will I need a visa?
Do I need Insurance?
Yes. We strongly recommend you take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover all eventualities whilst you are away from home. Japanese medical facilities are well funded and on par or in advance of western counterparts. You will be expected to pay for any treatments received and claim a refund from your insurance provider. Please make sure you are covered for winter sports and in particular 'off-piste'.
Can I buy medicines in Japan?
Yes, Japanese versions of everything you have at home should be available at the local chemist, as well as many you will not have seen before... the Japanese love their potions! Naturally bring any prescription medicines you may need with you, preferably with a doctors letter to avoid embarrassing airport incidents.
How can I organise to access money in Japan?
Credit cards are accepted in most establishments in major cities. However, many small owner operated shops and restaurants do not have merchant facilities and will only accept cash (especially in some of the amazing out-of-the-way places you will be visiting). Cash can be withdrawn from 7Bank ATM's located in 7-11 convenience stores - please check the 7-11 web site for information on accepted cards (please note Mastercards are no longer accepted at 7Bank ATMs). Japan postal ATM's also accept international cards but opening hours are limited unlike 7-11's 24 hour operation. Make sure you check with your local bank before leaving to find out what foreign transaction fees will be charged and to let the bank know where you are going so they don't suddenly put a stop on your card when it shows up being used in Japan.
Is Japan a safe country and are there any precautions I should take?
Japan has a very low crime rate compared with the rest of the developed world. That is not to say that it doesn't exist and there are of course other 'foreigners' in Japan. Generally speaking, with a basic amount of vigilance and common sense there should be no security worries in Japan whatsoever. That said, recently there has been an increase in equipment theft from major resorts in Japan. It is recommended you bring a ski/board lock with you.
Which Airlines and Routes do you recommend?
There are numerous options depending on your point of origin. If you are flying from Europe or Australasia, most flights will fly directly to either Tokyo or Osaka (close to Kyoto). Both cities are good options to visit before or after the Powder detour and this may influence your choice of arrival/departure Hub. If you are just transferring immediately to a domestic connection to Chitose (near Sapporo) please bare in mind that 90% of Tokyo-area domestic flights will require a transfer from Narita International Airport to Haneda Airport in the middle of Tokyo. You will need to allow 1.5 hours for this bus transfer. Transfers from international to domestic flights are much simpler in Osaka, however domestic flights to Hokkaido are less frequent than from Haneda airport. Check out ANA, JAL, or Skymark for further information. NOTE: Check your weight limits as a separately booked domestic tickets may not have the same international allowance.
Should I buy a separate domestic ticket?
If you fly internationally with one of the two main Japanese Carriers ANA or JAL it will often cost little more for the transfer from Tokyo to Chitose. Both carriers often run "see more of Japan" type campaigns for cheap domestic add on flights. Other international carriers that are linked to these carriers as part of Star Alliance or One World may also have similar campaigns running. It is however possible to purchase a separate domestic ticket online and they may be cheaper if booked well in advance. It is possible to pick up one way Tokyo-Chitose tickets on the net for approx JPY 12,000. Check out availability and rates on the sites below and compare with the add on rates the international airlines charge.
Can I fly Direct to Chitose Airport?
Direct flights are available from Hong Kong, China, Korea, Russia and Guam - great if you are coming from the countries listed but if not and you are coming from Europe it presents another option if you want to stop in Hong Kong or Seoul on the way.
What about accommodation?
Many of our guests book their own accommodation direct or through a local tour operator. As our standard Detours are based in the Niseko area, we recommend you stay in Hirafu Village or close by.
We can highly recommend Japan Ski Experience, who would be happy to find suitable accommodations catering for a wide range of budgets.
Where will I be staying if I booked accommodation through Powder Detours?
Cozy and comfortable lodge style B&B accommodations with all the modern conveniences you would expect... cable TV, kitchen facilities, internet, waxing and drying rooms, laundry. We deliberately stay away from large hotel-type accommodations as a friendly local service is much more relaxing and enjoyable than stifled, overly-rigid hotel service.
Can I book a single room?
Sure! Just request a single room when you send your booking request form. Standard rates are for twin share rooms. For single travellers we are happy to find a suitable Detour client for you to share with unless you specifically want your own room.
What are the meal arrangements?
Breakfasts are included in the accommodation if booked through Powder Detours. Lunches will usually be taken on the mountain. Eating out is big part of experiencing the local culture and enjoying your time in Japan, so we recommend you budget for some evening dining.
Should I bring my own gear?
That all depends on what you have. The Detour will explore off-piste terrain with soft snow conditions. For skiers that means the ideal equipment will vary from all-mountain skis to mid-fats (84mm-101mm under foot) or specific powder skis (101mm or more). The wider the ski under foot the more specifically suited to off-piste and powder it becomes. The large surface area provides more float in deep snow. Some powder skis include 'rocker' technology where the tip and tail are pre-flexed (flexed upwards) so that the skis can be stiffer but still flex in soft snow. The downside of wider skis is they are less suitable for packed snow conditions. For snowboarders, the most suitable setups are longer boards, usually of the directional or reverse-camber variety. Specific powder boards (e.g. swallow tails) are great for deep powder days, but not when the snow is thinner on the ground. Step-in binding systems should be avoided.
Do I need backcountry safety equipment?
If you have your own avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel, please bring them with you. If you do not have any of the above, we have the necessary equipment available to rent at a minimal rate, but we need to know when you book.
What level do I need to be to join the Detour?
Powder experience week skiers and riders should be comfortable on most groomed trails and starting to exploring more off-piste terrain.
Powder Detour and Kiroro Day Trip skiers and riders need to be comfortable in off-piste and have some experience in powder snow conditions. If you fall occasionally when off-piste that's not a problem, but if you struggle to make turns in powder this tour is not for you. Please get in touch if you are unsure if your skiing or riding level is sufficient to join the Detour. Private powder lessons are available prior to the detour for those not 100% confident in their ability.
What coaching is included on Detours?
Powder Experience Weeks are 80 % coaching focussed. Experienced Niseko Academy coaches will help you develop a sound off- piste technique and as your confidence builds spend more time in guided discovery in a variety of powder conditions.
Powder Detour is a guiding-focused tour with some coaching available. It is not a lesson but our expert coaches will be skiing/riding with you, helping you get the most out of the amazing powder and terrain. Detours are about maximizing the conditions, therefore the coaching is focused around having fun. It is not about learning to ski/ride or having your first experience in powder, but more about improving your ability to ride deeper snow and steeper slopes - allowing you to make the most of what Hokkaido has to offer.
Kiroro Day Trips have no coaching, purely guiding.
Do I need to have backcountry training?
Some avalanche awareness, backcountry safety and avalanche equipment usage instruction will be given on the Detours - amount of training will be relative to the ability of the group and length of Detour.
Do I need to speak Japanese?
Japanese language is not necessary as this is a fully guided tour. However, a few phrases, greetings and basic expressions will make your stay so much more enjoyable and endear you to the locals.
How fit do I need to be?
The fitter the better! Soft snow conditions are addictive and you will want to make the most of the pow every day. If your fitness is not that great, you owe it to yourself to make an effort before the Detour begins so you can make the most out of the trip. There will be some limited hiking (generally 20 minutes max) at some resorts to access the best conditions. We are happy to advise on a suitable fitness programme if required.