Just a week after we saw the Snow Monkeys and did onsen in Nagano, we went on a team trip to Zao, an onsen town in Yamagata Prefecture.

I’ll be writing a separate blog post about our experience hiking through the Zao Snow Monsters, but today I’m going to be reviewing Pension Apple. We visited during winter, so my perspective will be a snowy one.

What is a Pension?

You might be rolling your eyes because you already know what a pension is, but when our team planned the trip, I had to look up what a “pension” is. Were we talking about a monetary allowance, here? I was confused. But no, a pension is basically a really nice guest house or hostel.

The term “pension” is used mostly in Europe and Asia, and they are comparable to bed and breakfasts in America.

Most of the time, pensions are family run, are usually cheaper than other hotels in the area, and offer home-cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Pension Apple:

Pension Apple

A short drive from the Zao Onsen Ski Area as well as the Zao Onsen Bus Terminal, Pension Apple is a hidden gem situated in between the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture.

Pension Apple

Walking into Pension Apple was like entering a snow lodge; from the simplistic rooms, wooden paneled walls, and heated floors, I couldn’t help but feel cozy and warm after a long day walking through the icy streets of Zao.

Pension Apple
The rooms were small, but had comfortable Western Style beds. The room that I stayed in had a private bathroom, but there was another bathroom area on the first floor that the other pension visitors were able to use.

Along with the bathroom, the first floor had a game room with a TV, a bookshelf filled with manga, and a few English board games. There was also a 24 hour private open-air bath that overlooked the valley.

Pension Apple

The dining area was also on the main floor, and had just as much charm as the rest of the pension. We enjoyed a nice hearty dinner, and woke up to a delicious breakfast surrounded by natural light and a beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains.

Extra Perks:

Pension Apple

In the warmer months, Pension Apple offers bike rentals, and an award winning garden produces delicious apples.

Wondering how you’ll get there? There’s a free shuttle that runs right from the Zao Ropeway/Ski Area to Pension Apple. The owners also drove us back to the ropeway so we wouldn’t have to walk or take a taxi with all of our bags.

If you’re willing to make the trek, Pension Apple is about a 40 minute drive away from the well-known Yama-dera Temple.

Want to stay here?

To Book: Because the owners are Japanese, I would recommend reserving a room through Booking.com. Click HERE for the Pension Apple listing.

Payment: Room fees fluctuate based on the time of year, as well as how many people are staying in each room. Payment is due upon arrival, and must be made in cash (Japanese Yen).

Still not sure if you want to stay here? Check out our experience on YouTube!

Have you stayed at Pension Apple? Let us know about your stay in the comment section below!