Dan Solo is the unofficial western mayor of Madarao having set up camp with his first lodge, Snowball Chalet then backed it up with Snowman Apartments then Snowball Studios then Yukimi Sano teahouse and now Shiki Tangram residence.

There’s not much about Madarao on Japan’s main island that Dan doesn’t love.

A mere two and a bit hours by Shinkansen and shuttle from Tokyo, exceptional tree skiing, fun powder and the kind of resort where local farmers still man the chairlifts (for now, though Singaporean development dollars may change that).

So we asked him for the Dan Solo Guide to Madarao. If you know Dan, you know he loved it.

Best breakfast

It is hands down Madarao Coffee at Car Park number 7… Hatakeyama san takes great care in everything she does and her choco sandwiches are yummy. A perfect start to a day of riding. She also does a very nice Crème Brulée and a Basque Cheesecake (which I think may be making me fat).

Best place for coffee

My favourite on the mountain is Aki’s Pub. He uses Allpress beans and can be convinced to add a shot of whisky so it has become a perfect detour when arriving at or leaving the mountain. Myoko Coffee has also just started up at the Madarao Kogen Hotel ski hire area.

On a powder day where do you head?

Madarao powder snowboarding
White room living. Photo credit: Dan Solo

First run for me is straight through the guts of Riverline. It is always super deep, it’s steep and it’s a fall line. You basically get face shots top to bottom and I almost always manage to be first line down there. I absolutely love it.

The reality is that Madarao is an explorer’s mountain. There’s almost no way you can get lost or stuck so you can be confident about riding places you haven’t been before.

Because Madarao reveals her secrets slowly there are weeks of discovery here. At first glance and on paper people think they have done it all in just a few days. What they don’t know is the magic they are missing. Nothing is obvious but it is all easy to discover if you are intrepid. That is why our best riders come back year after year. The first visit opens their eyes to the possibilities and then they get obsessed with trying to find all the white gold.

Best place for lunch

Ooh there are two for this one. Sakuraokonomiyaki is sensational. It is a Hiroshima dish and the owner, Asakura san is from Hiroshima and they serve a simply perfect example of the dish. You should always try to sit at the teppan (hot plate) so you can watch the dish being made. It is half magic, half art. (The SnowsBest team can attest to this).

The other standout is Niomonya, our favourite Soba restaurant pretty well anywhere. Their signature dish (same name as the restaurant) is a perfect example of the best of handmade soba, delicious spanking fresh tempura and a stunningly balanced broth. They are located in the basement level of the Tangram Hotel. If you haven’t found the stairs leading down you haven’t found the right restaurant. (Again, we’ll attest to this).

Best place for après

Snowball Chalet lounge

I know this sounds like a set up but Snowball Chalet is perfect!

We serve beautiful champagnes, Pol Roger, Veuve and Moet, a charcuterie board with a very special locally caught and cured wild boar prosciutto, some seriously special french cheeses, the old favourites vegan and non vegan GF gyoza and of course edamame. Plus Japanese craft gins, Japanese whiskies, award winning sakes and a lovely wine list from Washington State, California and Australia.

All this in front of the fireplace on the couches listening to vinyl spinning on the decks in just about the coziest room you have ever been in. On the odd night we have Jazz musicians rounding it out to be a perfect apres experience on the mountain.

Best cocktails

Best cocktails are definitely Mister Daruma. The Apple Pie is by far my fave, but I have also gotten myself in terrible trouble with negronis and old fashions there.

Best burgers

Unjaune Madarao. Photo credit: Unjaune Madarao

The burgers at Unjaune are cracking good delicious goodness. People love that they are huge but for me it is just so nice to have loads of salad and super well thought out flavours.

Best place to eat on mountain

The best place to eat on mountain is easily the previously mentioned Niomonya with their fantastic handmade soba. However if you’re looking for a nice relaxing hot chocolate you can’t go wrong with Nojirico Lounge. Right at the top of the No. 5 lift on the Tangram side, on a clear day you can see absolutely stunning views of Lake Nojiri and the surrounding mountains. If you’re lucky you might even be able to see the sea of clouds in the valley.

Best place for dinner

Shino chan and Chef Kudo san own Mister Daruma and do an amazing job of setting the scene for a dining experience that people love. The food is authentic, fresh and super oishii (Japanese for delicious)! The agedashi tofu is the best on the mountain and the karaage is moorishly good too. After dinner just hanging out listening to the excellent soundtracks coming out of the old school speakers sets you up for a pretty perfect evening in Madarao.

Most authentic Japanese dining experience

Hayashi san at Donguri Tei has created one of the most fun experiences in Madarao with Robata (Japanese BBQ). It’s generous, delicious and an authentic Japanese BBQ experience. Also Wagyu! Make sure you ask for the marshmallows at the end. Don’t roast them too long as they are impossible to rescue if they fall onto the hot BBQ grill.

Most authentic Japanese experience

Soaking in the Onsen at the Madarao Kogen Hotel. The outdoor section takes in the views of the mountain and the mixture of hot water, snow and cold air is a much needed reset to get you back on the mountain the next day. One of the true joys of Japanese culture.

What is a “must buy” in Madarao to take home?

It’s simple… At the main hotel they sell a sticker and a t-shirt that says “I want to slip over snow forever”. It is a core philosophy of life and we should all live by it.

Secret tips for Madarao or nearby

Waremokou and Hatano restaurants in Iiyama are perfect examples of a modern and traditional expression of Japanese cuisine. The chefs at both take the extreme care in food preparation that Japanese are so well known for and the outcome is a masterpiece at both restaurants.


Maguse Onsen at the foothills of the Shiga Mountain range is easily one of the most beautiful Onsens in Japan. Go there at sunset and watch the snow covered mountains glow orange. It is the epitome of Zen and is my happy place (aside from being chest deep in Madapow).

Best luxe stay

Snowman Apartments. Photo credit: Snowman Apartments

Snowball Chalet is best for a luxe experience. We are all about the perfect guest experience. It starts with the lounge, the coziest in the village with its gorgeous fireplace and apres. On your arrival night we join you for a Snowball Dining experience followed by digestif in the lounge. Our rooms are warm, the ofuro (Japanese tub) is hot and soaking after a big day in perfect snow is food for the soul.

We have also been busy beavers building brand new Snowman Apartments, a 2 and 4 bedroom stunning mix of Japanese and Western building aesthetics, with Japanese antiquities and fascinations, their own fireplaces and ofuro on the deck looking out over the mountain. A perfect place to sip champagne while relaxing with a stunning view and all the luxury. Plus you get a complimentary 4WD with snow tyres to explore the region.

Best value stay

For the best value package with a stellar guided experience in Madarao and its surrounding resorts you can’t beat staying at fabulous Japan Snow Sports. Their Stay, Eat & Play package caters to every need with in-house guiding across 4 resorts, 2 nights at their beautiful restaurant with a 6 course dining experience with local produce and Japanese-Mediterranean inspiration and a lovely newly renovated lodge with a mixture of Japanese and European tones.

Best authentic Japanese stay

Alp Bach, Madarao. Photo credit: Alp Bach.

If you are looking for an authentic Japanese experience get in touch with Kimura san at Alp Bach Madarao. She runs a classically Japanese style ski lodge. The layout of the lodge is brilliant with a central fireplace with picture window looking straight up at Mount Madarao and a strong commitment to Western American decor (think John Wayne).

Yummy breakfasts and good old fashioned Japanese hospitality. Kimura san speaks a lot of English and has a relaxed smile. Look out for the Japanese Martin that plays in the snow in front of the window at night.

The ultimate baby-friendly guide to skiing Myoko Kogen Japan