Back on topic, but HONESTLY... shiga kogen for a group of mates? Not sure its your best fit to be honest. Shiga kogen is VERY japanese. Id say it suits the more 'i love the peace and beauty of nature' crowd. Its more... contemplative than fun.
I mean its a great place and all, dont get me wrong. But since you mentioned youre all in a group and it seems like you might be all mates rather than 2 couples and a kid, you might find the ambience of the place a little quiet.
Id possibly go with ETMs idea. Nozawa, Myoko, or Hakuba might be more fun to be honest. Base yourself around Iiyama for example and you should be able to hit up any of the following in order of personal preference:
For beginners like yourself, its really going to deliver the perfect goods. Lots of powder, a gentle pitch pretty much all the way own the mountain (except the very top lift), pretty much an entire FUN mountain to play in as well as a true leg burner of a run if youre up for it.
Serene, again, incredibly beautiful place. Lots of gentle lines throughout the mountain, insane powder when it goes off. Lots to do. A few flat parts here and there, but for beginners, once youve got some turns in you, youre going to love chewing our teeth on the skyline. Youll get a good sense of accomplishment from hitting that.
SUPER CHEAP (bring passport for discount lift ticket). I love Togari. Part of it is rosy goggles. But its CUTE! The resort has enough fun lines to hit up, lots of little naughty powder stashes, and the whole vibe is seriously beginner friendly (and young). Its the kind of place youll find people burying each other in snow, having snowball fights, and scorpioning in the cutest way imaginable. Its such a fun little place. Totally under-rated for my money. I wouldnt pick it over a day at the other two, but id be tempted to pick it over the rest to follow.
Really if you were a more advanced group this one would be above Togari, but i think its better for intermediates. It really delivers in soft slackcountry and tree riding more than anything else. It has a fair few beginner lines of course, but its a straight gradient curve from bottom to top meaning realistically you might find the top too challenging to be fun, and the bottom too flat to be fun. Still, its a genuinely decent ride out, and isnt hurt by its location near the main town area for a bit of apres fun (suginohara is a few kms away from the main town part). If you base yourself in Myoko, then a couple of days at Suginohara, and a day at Akakan and Ikenotaira should make a decent time of it.
With around ten days of riding unde rmy belt i made my way to Ikenotaira and freaking loved it. Its definitely beginner and very low intermediate friendly. Almost everyone there will either be a) family with young kids; b ) near beginners; or c) park rats. Its got a nice vibe to it, lots of straightforward terrain, completely untouched powder stashes (families stick rigidly to the groomers) and some baby park features if you feel like laughing at each other bailing on some air. Its also, cough, the first place i ever ran under a lift line or ducked a rope.
Welcome to powder snow. Ive never made it out there, but its puked on like nowhere else in Japan. Seriously, every year, most snow in Japan. Its small, but if you want that niseko powder, then this might be at the top of your hit list. The resort is pretty much a free space, which of course worries me a little for beginners going there. But if youre up for the challenge, and coped with niseko, you might be alright here. Youd have to research it a bit first before you commit.
Hmmmmmm... now im taking the piss obviously. Dont come here until you feel comfortable with your turns. Because if you come to ryuoo and dont ride the b course, youre missing out on what makes it awesome. Ive no idea how long youre planning on staying, but id save it until youve got a bit of confidence in you. Its an AWESOME line. But its going to kick the crap out of you. But again, its one of those things that once you make it down, youll feel like youve stepped up a bit. But if you cant face it, there is a great vibe at ryuoo. Its young, its laid back, very student style. Its got ski-in/ski-out accommodation for DIRT CHEAP, and a super friendly beginner area at the base of the mountain. Its basically a nice long base area with a mid teen gradient, then lurches up well into the mid 30s, and finally plateaus at the top on a very soft gradient. Its a brilliant place but you need to really be starting to carve, hold your edge at speed and on total bobbly icy crud to make it fun. You probably also need to be pretty comfortable in the trees or in basic slackcountry to get the best out of it. If you start feeling you can handle it, then definitely have a trek there. Its Nagano's hidden gem. But that part of the hill is definitely not for beginners.
Hmmmmm... again... a bit more going for it than Ryuoo perhaps, but i cant help but feel that this mountain REALLY suits strong intermediates more than beginners. Sure, it has a lot of terrain thats accessible to beginners, but its really again, the bottom half. The top half once again thrusts up into the mid 30s rapidly. The best thing about it is the off piste policy, and alas you wont really be experiencing much of this. Its also extraordinarily busy, which can get rather frustrating. Still, worth a lookie. I dog on it, but others say im completely off base. So one to maybe check out and ignore me on.
For Apres, your best bets here are definitely the Myoko resorts (basing yourself around Akakura onsen (do not ride at akakura onsen, its a clusterfuck of a resort) or Nozawa. Nozawa is beautiful. Seriously. Proper snow-globe town in the hills. Akakura is a bit more party orientated i guess, but not quite niseko or hakuba style. Its still just really a couple of streets with a few places to get drunk maybe. Not sure how the bogan infestation over the last couple of years is transforming it, (havent really stayed there since 2011), but by all accounts more amenities springing up for the foreign visitor, which cant be a awful thing i guess.
Anyways, not done yet... (broke the character limit