Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Appi Kōgen – The Biggest Resort in Northeast Japan

Located in the western part of Iwate Prefecture in northeast Japan, Appi Kōgen (安比高原) is an alluringly beautiful place for relaxing walks along the plateau from spring to autumn. When the region transforms into a winter wonderland, many flocks to Appi Kōgen for skiing or snowboarding on its high-quality snow because Appi Ski Resort is said to be comparable with Hokkaido resorts in Hokkaidō!

If you enjoy spending time in nature and love outdoor activities, then Appi Kōgen in Iwate prefecture is definitely a spot you won’t miss out on (^_-)-☆.

Whilst the plateau offers enough activities and attractions for you to fill up your itinerary, there are also a few gorgeous waterfalls in the same area that we will definitely also include as part of the list of must-see attractions at Appi Kōgen!

List of Attractions at Appi Kōgen

Sea of Clouds Gondola Lift (安比雲海ゴンドラ)

If you aren’t too tired early in the morning, how about taking a relaxing ride in the gondola lift at the Appi Kōgen Ski Resort to the summit of Mt. Maemoriyama (前森山)?

Whether from the Summit Panorama Observation Deck or just from the gondola station, if luck is on your side, you can view the sea of clouds floating over the nearby summits 1,300 meters above the ground. The scenery is just breathtaking!

And if you are hungry, drop by the Unkai Café Floating in the Clouds”(雲海カフェ) to grab some hot and yummy comfort food (=゚ω゚)ノ. You can check out their MENU beforehand.

Note that the gondola lift’s operating hours change according to the season. Please refer to the official website HERE for more information, including the cost of boarding the lift.

To maximize your chance of catching the sea of clouds, you want to get to the Appi Resort summit gondola station when it opens at 6 am or as early as possible. For the exact days and hours that the lift is operating, please refer to their official Japanese official website HERE as it isn’t available on their English website. You can translate the webpage to English using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.

If you need assistance with extracting the information you need, you can contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.

Hiking from Mt. Maemoriyama to Hachimantai and Skynight Gondola

From Mt. Maemoriyama to Hachimantai Iwate Japan
© Iwate Prefecture Tourism Association

And for those who love hiking, follow the promenade that continues all the way to Hachimantai National Park, which offers a series of natural wonders, such as the dragon eye)! One thing to note is this track takes at least 4 hours to complete (to Mt. Chausu (茶臼岳) 7 km). From there, you can catch bus services to the summit of Mt. Hachimantai.

If you are really confident with your physical stamina, you can hike all the way up to the summit of Mt. Hachimantai, which will take another 4 hours to complete.

HERE is a map that you can refer to, albeit in Japanese. Please use the Japanese characters to read the map. It isn’t as hard as it looks if you match up the simple characters.

You will start from Mt. Maemoriyama (前森山), follow the black line to Chausu Sanso (茶臼山荘), then the brown line to Hachimantai Mountaintop Rest House (八幡平山頂レストハウス). From there, you can catch a bus back to JR. Morioka Station (盛岡駅).

Tip: it is probably best if you check with the staff at Hotel Appi Grand or at the gondola station for their recommendations of the best hiking courses to match your abilities, as there are courses that aren’t suitable for inexperienced hikers.

Important:
☛ Please watch out for the last bus coming down from the summit of Mt. Hachimantai.
☛ Please submit your hiking notification at the Unkai Cafe or Hotel Appi Grand beforehand

On the other hand, if you are an Astronomy addict, you might want to hop onto the same gondola lift at night (they call the lift Skynight Gondola (天空ナイトゴンドラ)).

The number of days you can do so is even fewer from late July to late October (mostly on weekends). For the exact days and hours that the lift is operating, please refer to their official Japanese website HERE as it isn’t available on their English website. You will need to scroll down to the second part of the page with the heading: 天空ナイトゴンドラ.

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

Appi Kōgen Farm (安比高原牧場)

Just next to the Hotel Appi Grand (ホテル安比グランド) at the Appi Kōgen Farm, there is a list of fun activities waiting for you.

The farm is divided into a few sections. From the usual “meet the animals” corner to a maze garden, they have pretty much all you can think of that a tourist farm should have at the Appi Kōgen Farm.

Baumkuchen Making is one of the farm’s most popular activities. The dough is made from special wheat from Iwate prefecture and Appi Kōgen’s own locally produced milk. It is really fun to make the layers yourself and bake them over charcoal! The best bit is eating your creation.

As their list of activities for 2022 isn’t out yet, let’s hope their sought-after activity – Baumkuchen Making will be back again this year!

Of course, there is a café on the farm for you to rest and re-energize yourself. But for those who can’t stand dogs, you might want to stay away from the café as you will most likely be greeted by their friendly mascot dog – Vanilla!

For our vegetarian friends, you might enjoy their dessert menu the most. Unfortunately, they currently don’t have anything on the menu without meat. However, you can check with the staff to see if they can cook one of the dishes on the menu without adding meat, such as pasta. To do so, you can utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article.

With their locally sourced milk, desserts such as ice cream just taste different and more luxurious than anything you get from convenience stores or supermarkets!

Even if you aren’t interested in going to a café on the farm, you might still want to drop by the café for their free bicycle rental! While we don’t dislike walking, riding a bicycle and covering more distance is simply just too much fun to miss out on – especially when it is free (≧▽≦).

Also, does glamping sounds like fun to you? Instead of living in the usual hotel rooms, how about having your first glamping experience in Appi Kōgen Resort? For more information, please refer to their website HERE and translate it using Google Chrome.

Tofu Making at Appi Kōgen

If you love tofu, how about trying to make your first fresh tofu at Hotel Appi Grand (ホテル安比グランド)? For just 3,800 yen (2,800 yen for primary school students), you can make your own tofu from scratch with soybeans!

The activity will take two hours from 11 am. Upon completion, you get to have the tofu you made together with the other tofu dishes they prepare for you. It is a bargain as the experience comes with a complete lunch course! For more photos of the activity, please refer to their Japanese page HERE and translate it to English using Google Chrome, as it isn’t on their English website.

Reservations are essential. Make sure you book with the hotel by 5 pm the day before. To book, please call the hotel restaurant – Nanashigure (七時雨), at +81-195-73-5011.

Tip: For those who are staying overnight at Hotel Appi Grand, some plans include this activity which should be cheaper than booking the activity separately (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

Appi Kōgen Secondary Beech Tree Forest (安比高原 ブナ二次林)

At one corner of Appi Kōgen (about a one-hour walk from the Appi ski resort), there is a place where you can really appreciate the power of nature.

The beech trees at this part of the plateau were completely wiped out by over-logging at the beginning of the Shōwa period (1926 – 1989). Fortunately, the surviving trees produced new sprouts that have formed another beautiful forest for us to relax in the negatively charged and the magical immunity-enhancing substance – phytoncide, which is emitted by the trees when we walk along the promenade!

Each year from the beginning of October, the beech trees’ leaves and the grass on the ground start turning bright yellow. The color peaks from mid to late October before the snow starts covering the forests from early November to mid-May, making it impossible to trek.

Appi Kogen Secondary Beech Tree Forest Iwate Japan
© photo-ac.com

Appi Kōgen Ski Resort (安比高原スキー場)

Appi-Kogen-Ski-Resort-Iwate-Japan
© Iwate Prefecture Tourism Association

With a total of 11 lifts providing you access to a total of 21 ski runs (a total skiing distance of about 43 km with the longest run at a length of 5.5 km), we are sure you will never get bored skiing at the Appi Kōgen Ski Resort!

Please refer to the slope accessibility HERE on their website, which details information about each slope HERE.

And don’t worry if you aren’t an expert-level skier or snowboarder. At Appi Kōgen Ski Resort, with 21 runs to choose from, you will find a wide range to suit all levels. You can also utilize the lesson service to learn from English-speaking ski instructors (^_-)-☆.

 Furthermore, the Snow Playland is great for children to have fun while you ski. Please refer to their website HERE for more information on how to keep yourself and your kids happy when you come to Appi Ski Resort!

Important: Please check out the gondola lift operation schedule HERE before you book your trip. You don’t want to hike all the way up to the summit in the snow (´▽`*).

Tip: The first floor of the Appi Plaza (which acts as an entrance to the ski field) is where you can rent ski/snowboard gear. There are changerooms and coin-operated lockers on the same floor if you need them before heading up to the second floor to start having some fun!

Important: Although the snow quality here is quite good, the number of days with bad weather and snowstorms occur more frequently compared to other places. So make sure you have enough warm clothes before you head out and tell someone where you intend to go!

After you have had enough fun in the snow, you can always head to the hotel restaurants at the resort as they are well known for their mouth-watering menus (^_-)-☆.

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

Staying Overnight at Appi Kōgen

As you might have noticed, one day at Appi Kōgen is probably not enough. This is why there are so many accommodation options at Appi Kōgen!

The main accommodation options at Appi Kōgen are Hotel Appi Grand (ホテル安比グランド), Appi Kougen Onsen Hotel (安比高原温泉ホテル), and Appi Hills Shirakaba No Mori (安比ヒルズ白樺の森). While all three have onsen facilities, if you prefer a private bath, book your stay with Hotel Appi Grand and reserve a private bathing session when you check in. For more information about each hotel, please refer to the official website HERE.

Apart from the big hotels, there are nearly 50 guesthouses for you to choose from if you prefer something on a smaller, more intimate scale. It is always interesting to strike up a conversation with the owners (^_-)-☆.

HERE is a list of the guesthouses that are available at the moment. Most of them have links to their websites for more information. As some of them only have a Japanese website, you can contact us HERE if you need assistance when booking, and we will get back to you.

Free Shuttle Bus Services

  • Free shuttle buses to JR Appi Kōgen Station (安比高原駅) are available for those who are staying overnight at Appi Kōgen. Advanced reservation is required. So make sure you book this service as soon as possible!

For more information, please refer to their official website HERE.

Best Time to Visit Appi Kogen

Besides the ski season from late November to the end of March, trekking/hiking in the area surrounded by flowers or autumn foliage is always better than seasons without that extra bit of color (^_-)-☆.

  • Azaleas: from early to late June
  • Buckwheat: late August
  • Autumn foliage: from early to late October

How to Get to Appi Kōgen

For those who aren’t staying at the resort, you can utilize bus services operated by Iwate Kenpoku Bus (岩手県北バス) departing from JR Morioka Station (盛岡駅).

Direct Bus Services from JR Morioka Station

  • During the snow season and some parts of the year, there are bus services bound for Appi Kōgen Ski Resort (安比高原スキー場) from JR Morioka Station.
  • A One-way adult bus fare is
    • 1,150 yen for adults
    • 580 yen for children
  • Please refer to the timetable HERE.

Getting to Appi Kōgen by Train

If the shuttle bus isn’t operating on the day you plan to visit Appi Kōgen, take a train to JR Appi Appi Kōgen Station (安比高原駅).

From JR Morioka Station, you will need to change trains for the Hanawa Line (花輪線), which passes through Iwate Ginga Tetsudo (IGRいわて銀河鉄道) to get to JR Appi Kōgen Station. From there, it is a 30 minutes walk to the resort. Refer to HERE for the train’s timetable.

If you are coming from Akita Prefecture, you can hop onto trains on the Hanawa Line from JR Ōdate Station (大館駅). If you are curious about the attractions around JR Ōdate Station, please refer to our article about Ōdate City!

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

Fudō Falls (不動の滝)

Moving away from Appi Kōgen towards Hachimantai, one of the Top 100 Waterfalls in Japan – Fudō Falls, thunders down at the back of the grounds of Sakuramatsu Shrine (桜松神社).

The 15-meter-high waterfall used to be a venerable sacred place for ascetic mountain training. Nowadays, instead of seeing a guy standing at the bottom of this dynamic waterfall practicing self-denial and strict spiritual discipline, you are most likely to see tourists taking selfies with the falls as a backdrop (´▽`*).

Fudo Falls Iwate Japan
© Iwate Prefecture Tourism Association

How to Get to Fudō Falls

The easiest way to get to Sakuramatsu Shrine is to drive or take a taxi.

If you don’t mind walking, it is around a one-hour walk from JR Arayashimmachi Station (荒屋新町駅).

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

Mt. Nanashigure (七時雨山)

Mt. Nanashigure is another beautiful natural spot northeast of Hachimantai with three hiking courses to the summit of the mountain.

Rather than hiking, what we want to introduce this time, is the ryokan located at the Tayamadaira Plateau (田山平高原) on Mt. Nanashigure’s caldera terrain – Nanashigure Sanso (七時雨山荘).

Mt. Nanashigure Iwate Japan
© Iwate Prefecture Tourism Association

Apart from the normal tatami mat rooms, you can also camp in the meadow surrounding the ryokan. And if you need a cup of coffee to start your day, head to their cafe, where they will prepare your coffee with delicious water from the mountain stream!

The most special thing about this accommodation is their “tent sauna” (advanced booking required). Whilst it isn’t cheap (10,000 yen for rental), it is definitely going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience (=゚ω゚)ノ.

To get a better idea of what the ryokan is like, check out the YouTube video on their official website HERE!

Important: Please note the ryokan is closed from the second week of November to the end of April.

Tip: Don’t worry about bad weather too much. Mt. Nanashigure got its name from the rapidly changing weather patterns. It can rain up to seven times a day!

How to Get to Mt. Nanashigure

To get to Nanashigure Sanso, catch a JR train on Hanawa Line (花輪線) to either Tairadate Station (平館駅) or Arayashimmachi Station (荒屋新町駅).

From both stations, it is a 20-minute drive to the ryokan.

Tip: Check with the ryokan when you book your stay to see whether they can arrange to pick you up from one of the two stations listed above.

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

Hachimantai San Marino Grand Prix Circuit (八幡平サーキットサンマリノグランプリ (カート場))

For those who love karting, don’t forget to drop by the Hachimantai San Mario Grand Prix Circuit (=゚ω゚)ノ. It is the biggest Go-karting spot north of Tokyo.

From 9 am to 6 pm between April and November (9 am to 5 pm for weekdays), you can enjoy the 200cc karts speeding around their 530 m track!

At Hachimantai San Marino Grand Prix Circuit, they mainly charge by the lap. 5 laps are 1,700 yen, and 10 laps start from 2,500 yen (some plans are charged at a 30-minute or a 60-minute interval). Obviously, the more laps you buy, the cheaper it will be. Note on weekends, the rates are slighter higher than on weekdays. You can refer to their website HERE for a detailed rate table and translate it to English by Google Chrome.

You can also rent Go-Karts for children 10 years or older, making it a perfect spot for a family getaway!

To contact them for more information, please send an email to [email protected]. If you can speak Japanese, you can also give them a call at +81-195-78-4646 or visit their website HERE.

Important: Please book in advance if you plan to go on a weekday.

Tip: On some weekdays (from 10:30 am to 3 pm, the last admission is at 1 pm), they have an all-you-can-ride event for 8,000 yen for up to 50 laps. So make sure you check their event calendar HERE, click on the words “乗り放題日程”, and look for the days that are marked “乗り放題”!

To get to the Hachimantai San Marino Grand Prix Circuit, catch a JR train on Hanawa Line (花輪線) to either Tairadate Station (平館駅) or Kitamori Station (北森駅). From there, catch a taxi, and you will be there in around 10 to 15 minutes.

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

Fireworks at Appi Kōgen

Lastly, checking out the Appi Kōgen Ski Resort’s website news section might be worthwhile to see when the next fireworks event at Appi Kōgen will be!

The fireworks happen at least once a quarter and are accompanied by music, making Appi Kōgen’s nightlife as lively as any famous festival event venue (*^▽^*).

Fireworks At Appi Kogen Iwate Japan
© Iwate Prefecture Tourism Association

Attractions at Nearby Hachimantai

Find out more about Hachimantai by clicking on the stunning photo!

Just next to Appi Kōgen, there is a magnificent natural spot called Hachimantai, which is on the prefectural border between Iwate (岩手) and Akita (秋田). With plenty of alpine vegetation, hot spring resorts, and mountain sightseeing spots with superb views, Hachimantai is one of the best tourist destinations in Iwate prefecture. Apart from the spectacular view from the summit at 1,600 meters above sea level, the most fascinating natural wonder at Hachimantai is the scenery called Dragon Eye (ドラゴンアイ) (*’▽’).

To find out more about where to go at Hachimantai, please refer to our Hachimantai Sightseeing article!

Please click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Appi Kōgen.

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