Hitting the slopes
Onsen is a large mixed- gender hot spring, but the baths of Nyuto Onsen are my favourite: set in the countryside and dreamlike in the snow.
Japan is a country where technology, culture and history collide. Everywhere you go, you’re sure to find something kawaii (cute). Kids can easily make a game of spotting miniaturised samurai soldiers hidden under the red maple trees that surround historic temples and onsen.
Castles and kimono
Samurai, castles and warlords... what kid wouldn’t be fascinated by Japanese history? At Kakunodate, a town famed for its wellpreserved samurai houses and cherry blossom trees, we play dress-ups with traditional kimono, getting wrapped in layers of beautiful patterned silks, and learn about the intricacies of Japanese culture.
Hirosaki Castle is also a must-see, built in 1611 by the Tsugaru Clan, and set within the Hirosaki Park, a prime spot for a cherryblossom watching picnic during spring. The castle is among the oldest still standing in Tohoku; even after the original five-storey keep burnt down in 1627, the present three-storey tower, dating from 1810, is one of few that was not rebuilt in the modern era. Stroll through the park, row a boat on the moats or explore the yagura or corner turrets that still survive.
Be sure to also visit Chuson-ji Buddhist temple in the Iwate Prefecture; kids will be fascinated by its gold leaf-and-mother- of-pearl Golden Hall, a mausoleum for the mummies of the Northern Fujiwara clan who ruled much of this part of Japan in the 12th century! The cold, crisp air that comes blowing across from Siberia gives the snow in Japan a super-white fluffy feel known as ‘aspirin snow’. Tohoku’s slopes are typically less crowded than the resorts of the northern island of Hokkaido, making it a perfect destination for young families or first-timers. Of course, with that incredible powder, there’s plenty to offer advanced skiers and snowboarders, too.
There are two popular resorts in the region: Hakkoda, near Aomori, and Appi. Appi is one of the biggest, considered the St Moritz of Japan with glittering hotel towers and an endless list of adventures off the slopes. It also shares a latitude with St Anton and Aspen, guaranteeing an amazing snow experience. www.jnto.org.au
JAL flies from Australia to Tokyo Narita Airport. www.au.jal.com
Hotel Tawadaso www.jnto.go.jp/ja-search/eng