Japan Sees First New Indoor Snow Centres For 20 Years

Japan has seen two new indoor snow centres open, in the cities of Shonan and Tokyo, the first new indoor snow facilities in the country for almost 20 years.

Unlike the centres that opened their in the 1980s and 1990s however, as well as the world’s first that opened in the 1950s, the new centres, part of the Snowtown group, are intended for snow play, not skiing or snowboarding.

The Snowtown Group, which is headquartered in Tokyo but has opened eight Snowtown indoor snow play centres in five countries in Eastern Asia in recent years, specialises in indoor snow centres that are not refrigerated and operate at normal room temperature.

They offer snow fun activities in indoor snow spaces of 3000-4000 square metres with activities including tubing and snowman building, although some of the larger centres in Indonesia have short indoor chairlifts and can offer ski lessons.

Ski in Tsudanuma

Japan was a dominant for in the first decades of refrigerated indoor snow centres which coincided with the end of a period of booming interest in skiing and snowboarding in the country. Ski in Tsudanuma, which opened in 1988 was one of the first three refrigerated indoor snow centres to open worldwide (along with Casablanca in Belgium and Mt TheBarton in Australia).

Following that the 1990s saw more indoor snow centres open in Japan than any other country, with the SNOVA Group producing complexes that often contained indoor half pipes and terrain parks and at the time were limited to snowboarders only in some cases.

Many of these were short-lived but three that opened in the late 1990s are still operating more than two decades later.

In 1993 Japan also opened what was by far the largest indoor snow centre at the time and it remains one of the five biggest ever built to this day, only overtaken in terms of slope area by a new breed of giant Chinese facilities in 2017. The SSAWS indoor snow centre (above) built in Tokyo Harbour had a slope 500 metres long and 100 metres wide and had to be designed to withstand earthquakes which might cause an indoor avalanche.  Unfortunately it never broke even and was demolished in 2002.

Japan is also home to Seibu Sayama (below), the world’s first indoor snow centre which opened in 1959 and is still operating 60 years later, although reported by the local Japan ski industry experts SnowJapan.com to be currently closed for upgrades in 2020.  Unlike the facilities that opened in the late 1980s however it only operates around the winter times as, not being refrigerated, the snow, originally made from ice brought it to the complex and broken into powder, and more recently by snow machines, melts.

Currently therefore, Japan has six indoor snow centres, Sayama, the three SNOVA centres and the two new Snowtowns. 

It has however had 15 more indoor snow centres previously, meaning more than 20 have now operated at some point in the past 30 years here, although most of these had closed by 2005.