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Dog sledding, with several dogs pulling the sled, evolved in snowbound areas to transport people and goods. Dogs are hardy against cold weather, intelligent, have endurance, and are obedient to people. Until snowmobiles became popular, dog sledding was a key means of transport in snowy regions. Dog sledding is now an activity you can experience in areas with heavy snowfall.

The Minakami area of Gunma is the only region in Honshu, Japan's main island, that offers an authentic dog-sledding experience.

While Hokkaido may be famous for snow resorts where you can try your hand at dog sledding, Minakami Kogen Ski Resort in Minakami, Gunma, is the only place in Honshu that offers this experience. The resort has both a hotel and ski course combined, and dog sledding is offered in the forest situated within the premises. After registering at the information center in the hotel, just head over to the designated field where the dogs await you.

Experience report (Registration, transfer by snowmobile)

After exchanging greetings with the dogs, you'll help to chain them to the sled with the musher who pilots it. Helping out gives you the chance to bond with the dogs. The musher checks the dogs' conditions and picks the ones for your run.
Dog sledding uses a lightweight sled, and the musher pilots it from behind you.

Departure to the winter wonderland!

After a briefing on the basics of dog sledding, you'll head out to the exclusive two-kilometer course on the snowfield. On command from the musher, the dogs kick up the snow and surge ahead with gusto, blazing a trail through the snow with you in tow.

Feel the soothing winter breeze

The musher calls out commands like "mush" to get moving, or "haw" to guide the dogs leftwards. The sled scoots along faster than you might imagine, stirring a refreshingly chilly winter breeze that washes past you.
The course, rich in variation, features a white birch forest and some moderate ups and downs. But the changing conditions are no big deal for the dogs, who race across the terrain immersed in a pure white world of snow. And you get to profoundly experience the simple yet breathtaking winter scenery.

Tip the dogs with snacks

Finish your dog-sledding experience by thanking dogs with snacks. Most dogs are Alaskan Huskies ideal for dog sledding. They're friendly with people and highly intelligent, but their characters vary; one may be very energetic while another may be quiet.
The dog-sledding experience offered at Minakami Kogen Ski Resort is available during the winter season (early January through early April). The course described above is called the "Driver Plan," which includes an accompanying rider (musher). Reservations are required, and four sessions run per day. Each session is about 50 minutes, with a fee of 8,500 yen per person. Reservations are accepted for two or persons in elementary school or older. Don't miss the exciting sport of dog sledding!
●Access to Minakami area:
[By train] Min. 66 minutes from Tokyo station to Jomo Kogen station on the Joetsu Shinkansen
[By car] About 90 minutes from the Nerima IC to Tsukiyono IC or about 100 minutes to Minakami IC on Kanetsu Expressway
●Access to Minakami Kogen Ski Resort:
[By car] 21 km from Minakami IC, Kanetsu Expressway
[By bus] Free shuttle bus from Jomo Kogen station, Joetsu Shinkansen (About 60 minutes)
photo & text : Chiho Kuriyama

Facility Information

Minakami Kogen Ski Resort

Address
6152-1 Fujiwara, Minakami-machi, Tone-gun, Gunma 379-1721
URL
https://snow.gurunavi.com/guide/htm/r0126ens.htm
Notes
21 km from Minakami IC, Kanetsu Expressway

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