It is a little-known fact among foreigners that 73% of Japan is mountainous. With most of the Japanese residential population scattered between these summits in low-lying plains, the natural beauty of the mountains are left relatively untouched. In the winter months, these areas become fantastic skiing slopes and experience superior snow conditions. Japan is a country that loves to ski, with resorts spread across the nation, from the Japanese Alps all the way up to the northern island of Hokkaido. The cold winds coming off of Siberia also dump massive amounts of airy snow onto the Northwest region of Japan, creating superb powder skiing and snowboarding conditions. Even in the eastern capital of Tokyo, the slopes are as close as an hour away. Niigata Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture are both host to some of these accessible ski destinations, with options for budget travelers as well as luxury resort seekers. I’ve experienced many of these mountains myself, from the high-altitude onsens of Manza, to the expansive Naeba ski resort. A little further out are renowned ski areas like Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture. For visitors to Tokyo who are looking to experience the best skiing that Japan has to offer, there are plenty of local skiing and snowboarding gear shops to pick up your essentials and avoid the hassle of lugging equipment across continents on long international flights. The Victoria flagship store in Kanda should any skier or snowboarder's first stop. Located in the heart of Chiyoda Ward near the Imperial Palace, Victoria is a popular chain of sports equipment stores in Tokyo. Their main store, however, is one of the largest ski shops in Tokyo and is devoted entirely to winter sports. While most stores will cut back on winter sports inventory after March, Victoria is all winter sports all-year, with fully stocked shelves deep into the off-season. At the store you'll be greeted by eight floors of skiing and snowboarding equipment, as well as general cold-weather wear. Whether you’re a casual skier, a first-time snowboarder or an experienced black diamond enthusiast, you will likely find what you need in one of the stores many shopping sections. The ground floor features an expansive array of skis, poles and ski boots available for purchase. You'll be able to find whatever skis you desire, customizing your purchase to snow conditions, skill level and personal taste. Also feel free to consult the knowledgeable and dedicated staff who can help you find exactly what you're looking for. As you move up the winter sports skyscraper you’ll find snowboarding equipment, goggles, gloves and an incredible diversity of jackets and snow pants so you can find your favorite brands and an item that expresses your personal style. Victoria carries many of the major winter sports brands, including those familiar to Westerners, such as the American company Burton. On the 6th floor you can browse the Swivel collection, Victoria’s original winter sports clothing brand, with a particular focus on fashionable women’s ski and snowboard wear. The 7th floor is home to kidswear, with an entire floor of child-friendly clothing and equipment. Victoria is the number one outlet for children’s winter sports gear in Japan. If you have your own children on the slopes, perhaps getting trying snowboarding for the first time or enrolling in ski school classes, safety is key. Victoria is a great place to purchase a helmet or other safety equipment for your kids before hopping on the Shinkansen and heading to the slopes. There are three stations within easy walking distance to the Victoria Kanda location. Shin-Ochanomizu Station is close by on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. Alternatively Ogawamachi Station is a short five-minute walk from the store via the Toei Shinjuku Line. And finally, JR Ochanomizu Station is eight minutes on foot from the store. To make things easier for foreign clientele, Victoria accepts credit card purchases and offers delivery of items directly to your hotel or even the airport. In addition to its signature winter sports main store, the Victoria brand operates five others shops in the city, including its premiere Victoria Golf stores. One of them is located nearby in the Kanda district. Make sure to check-out these other locations for your sportswear needs while in Japan. In the meantime, enjoy hitting the slopes!
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