Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort, or White World Oze-Iwakura to give it the full title, is an excellent medium size Gunma ski area less then 3 hours drive from Tokyo. It offers great snow and great ski in/ski out value, with a choice of the 4 star Iwakura Resort Hotel or budget Iwakura House at the base.
So you can still get a lot of powder lines with less competition for them here, especially midweeks.
Tenjindeira near Minakami is getting better known, but the Katashina Village area is just that little bit further off the shinkansen and freeway routes, so has received even less attention from western skiers and boarders.
Size-wise Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort is more like Madarao, a smaller area that exploded in popularity thanks to a pro-active tree course and powder policy.
If the same happened here a similar effect would likely follow, because there are a decent amount of tree lines available if they opened them up. The powder courses on the trail map now have gradients up to 40°, and getting a bit lost late in the day I found some nice spots with knee deep snow begging to be slashed cutting between runs.
The healthy vertical drop of just under 700m from the top back to the hotels at the base is served by the usual Japanese mix of fast and slow lifts. The gondola is easily the best of them, accessing nearly the whole vertical and most of the terrain.
Further over the back side you need to ride successive pair lifts to ski the black runs and trees on offer there – slower, but well worth it, especially lapping here on pow days.
It’s not quite as high as nearby Marunuma Kogen, but with a top altitude of 1700m the snow quality at Oze Iwakura Ski Resort is usually good. The season runs mid-December to early April.
Long groomers over 3km long keep intermediates and cruisers happy.
They take a lot of pride in the grooming and locals certainly appreciate that. The only lift line we saw was for first run on the quad chair at the base, all to be first to carve up the corduroy in true carve-meister style.
Off most lifts there are easy options so groups of different standards can hook up at the bottom and keep skiing together.
Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort also boasts easy night skiing on the base quad chair.
It’s the largest of the Katashina Village area resorts and a good base for a few days to experience the area sampling a few of them.
The 2,200 space car park is an indication things do get busier weekends – at under 3 hours drive from Tokyo that’s understandable – so midweek is the obvious time to visit.
Family facilities at Oze Iwakura
There’s a perfect beginners area at the base than includes an indoor slope starter option for little kids too.
Overall Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort is very convenient and well set up for families.
The kids get a choice of snow sliding options from snow trikes to tubing off the magic carpet lift.
Oze-Iwakura accommodation options
The Iwakura Resort Hotel is a comfortable 4 star ski in/ski out option that features 36 rooms sleeping up to 200 guests.
Choose spacious Japanese/Western or Western rooms (both styles with ensuite) or Japanese rooms (with toilet).
A Japanese dinner featuring fresh local ingredients and a buffet breakfast are included.
The natural onsen with high alkaline content is great for recovery.
The hotel also has a lounge bar, although aprés is limited to what you can bring to the table yourselves, like many smaller Japanese resorts.
The little village has several buildings that look ripe for takeover and development to fill the gap if you’re looking for a snow change move.
Iwakura Resort Hotel rates (includes taxes, dinner & breakfast)
¥ 15,270 per person per night 2 share (¥ 17,430 Saturday nights/holidays)
deduct dinner = less ¥ 2,160; deduct breakfast = less ¥ 1,080
More on their English info page here.
For bookings and packages check with Japan snow experts:
Japan Snow Holidays Japanholidays.com.au
Travelplan Gunma deals/info
This is an excellent value budget option right beside the slopes at the top of the small Oze Iwakura village center.
It offers 40 twin bed rooms, all with an ensuite and a little kitchenette complete with a one ring electric stove, so you can make simple meals in your room. Doing Japan on the packet noodle diet? This one’s for you!
It also has a daycare facility, laundry and a small onsen bath.
Iwasaki House rates (includes taxes, no meals)
¥ 5,292 per person per night 2 share (¥ 5,832 Saturday nights)
Add dinner ¥ 2,160 breakfast ¥ 1,080
Oze-Iwakura lift prices
Lift prices at Oze-Iwakura are great value, especially for 2 days or more – a 3 day pass works out less than $AUD 50 a day for example.
Adult ¥5,000 day / ¥9,100 2 day
plus night skiing ¥5,500; night skiing only ¥1,900)
High School ¥3,900 day / ¥7,000 2 day
Primary School ¥2,900 day / ¥5,000 2 day
Ski or snowboard full set or clothing jacket/pants
Adults & high school ¥4,000 day; ¥6,000 2 days full set ski or snowboard
primary school ¥3,000 / ¥4,500
discounts for multi day hire
Where is Oze-Iwakura
Easiest way to get from Tokyo to Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort is on the daily Katashina Snow Express direct bus from Tokyo Station at 7:15am, around 180 minutes, then the shuttle connection up to the resort.
By train take the Joetsu shinkansen to Jomo-kogen, around 75 minutes, then shuttle bus, around 80 minutes, to Oze-Iwakura.
By road take the Kan-Etsu Expressway 125km to Numata Interchange, then Route 120 & Route 401 32km up to the resort. This takes from around 170 minutes in good traffic conditions.
Oze-Iwakura & Katashina Village more info
Useful links include:
Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort official site
Katashina Village Katashina Village Tourism site
Gunma Prefecture Gunma Tourism site