By Sarah Chaney
Inawashiro area near the center of Fukushima Prefecture is well known for an impressive amount of ski slopes. If you move a bit further off the beaten path, however, you will find the hidden gem of Minowa Snow Resort, perfect for beginners and intermediates. Right at the foot of the slopes is Hotel De Premiere, a gorgeous hotel with hot springs, restaurants and rental equipment for a reasonable price.
From the outside, Hotel De Premiere looks like a standard hotel that has faced the harsh elements of winter and strong rays of the sun during the summer. Not expecting much, I was blown away when I stepped into the hotel itself, past the friendly staff bowing and greeting us at the entrance. The lobby is well lit and spacious, partially due to the high ceiling that reaches past the third floor. The second and third floor guest rooms overlook the lobby through elegant arches. A double staircase winds up to the second floor at one end of the lobby.
Downstairs is the gift shop, arcade and rental area that leads you straight onto the slopes. It is so close to the lifts that you can walk outside, strap in to your snowboard or skis and get on the lift. On the first floor of the lobby is complimentary tea, coffee, and soda. You can sip your beverages as you watch the skiers and snowboarders on the slopes through the floor to ceiling windows.
One of my favorite parts of the hotel was the hot spring bath. While there is only one giant bath (and one smaller cold bath), it includes jets and an outdoor area. You can go to the outside bath without even leaving the water! The outside part of the bath was quite spacious and offered a nice view of the snow and scenery (and according to pictures on their website, the view during the summer is just as nice). There is also a sauna available in the hot spring bath area.
Some of the other facilities available that I did not have an opportunity to take advantage of was the massage room, indoor pool or normal dining areas (except for breakfast). As for the rooms, I was also impressed by the spacious western layout. Even the standard rooms included nice couches, some of which pull out into a bed for a third guest (they can also add an extra bed if necessary). The rooms have large windows that either overlook the mountains across the way, or onto the slopes.
During my stay, my group was given a set course meal with Japanese traditional food. I am not sure if this is standard for normal guests, but it was well prepared and delicious. As for breakfast, they offered a variety of food from all over the world, which I also enjoyed.
Even if you do not stay at the hotel, I highly recommend paying 800 yen to use their hot spring bath before you leave the slopes (1,000 yen without a lift ticket), nothing feels better than to warm up after being out in the cold and relaxing for a bit. There is also a shuttle bus that runs twice a day during the winter and three times a day during the summer from Fukushima Station.
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Greetings! I am currently sailing through my second year living in Fukushima. In the four years I've lived in Japan, I have realized that Fukushima is Japan's best kept secret. With JapanTravel.com, I look forward to helping people be able to learn more about Fukushima and also assist with translating Japanese articles into English. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message!