Revival through tourism
This once proud coal mining city had a population of over 120,000 during its 1960s heyday, but the closure of the mines hit the city hard, and Yubari went into decline. Now the city has a mere 8,000 residents, most of whom are in their 60s.
Determined to adapt, the home of the famous Yubari melon has launched a fresh number of ideas to bring the city to life again. One such idea is for tourists to enjoy the city in the winter season, so I went along to find out what a snowy Yubari has to offer.
Fun in the snow
Yubari’s Mount Racey Ski Area has become a hub for tourists during the winter season. Its 18 courses range from beginner to advanced, making the area ideal for not only families and beginners but for thrill seekers as well. Courses are suitable for skiing or snowboarding, so all members of groups can be accommodated. The longest course is over 3,500m!
Build a snowboard
Situated in the former local elementary school is a number of small craft workshops where artisans make local products. Visitors can watch the products being made or try one of the experiences on offer. You can even build your own wooden snowboard.
A walk to the local shrine is beautiful, thanks to the deep, untouched snow. The contrast of the shrine's vermilion hues against the white of the snow is quite unique; in this part of Hokkaido, shrines are a rare find.
If films are your thing, take a gentle stroll through the main street, where the annual Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival is held. You can spot various film posters of all styles and colors on the buildings.
Should you wish to experience a longer, more challenging walk, a hike to the local dam is recommended. It offers stunning views from the top looking down over the valley below.
Yubari melon maybe out of season, but you can still taste its sweet flavor through a diverse range of local products such as candy and jams.
Yubari’s cosy little yatimura (village of food stalls) in front of Mount Racey Ski resort hosts six small independent eateries offering local food and drinks. It’s the ideal place to spend the evening mixing with fellow tourists and local people while tasting a range of dishes from the area.
Something for all
With diverse, snowy slopes, delicious local food and the chance to experience something different, Yubari is a great place to spend a few days in winter.