Posted on June 14th, 2011 No comments
When you are here enjoying your holiday in Niseko, you have to kick back and relax in one of Grand Hirafu’s onsens. The Niseko area is famous for many beautiful onsens (sulfuric hot springs) and the social ediquette surrounding them. Most of them are built outside in the open-air and usually have separate male and female baths. There is a mixed gender set up in the village if guests want to bathe together and most onsens have mineral baths and massage options …it’s all here in Niseko for you to relax and experience all year long.
During Niseko’s spring, summer and fall, hit the onsen after rafting the Shiribetsu river, playing a game of golf or a long day hiking Grand Hirafu slopes. Relax and loosen up those tight muscles after spinning a day bicycling the roads or horseback riding the country-side. After being out all day skiing and snowboarding powder during the winter months, an onsen is to die for! The benefits of warming up in the 40c+sulfuric water will do the trick in relaxing your body and mind after skiing or snowboarding. Works every time!
All of our centrally located Niseko Hirafu accommodation have an onsen a short distance away. A two minute walk from our Asuka, Yukon, Sesshu, and Udelka properties, you can be soaking in the mineral rich and warm volcanic water of the Yukoro onsen. It’s convenient location and price (700 yen) for male and female changing rooms, lockers, showers, mineral bath and beautiful outdoor onsen, make this an easy choice. Bring or purchase a small modesty towel to cover up as you enter and leave the onsen, a 100 yen coin for the locker and you are ready. If everybody wants to bathe together there is always the option of walking to the mixed gender/co-ed onsen at the Niseko Grand. Prices can vary from 700-1300 yen per person (children discounted) depending on what is included.
The Niseko area has around 16 beautiful onsens to soak in. If you feel like venturing outside Grand Hirafu, there are many other onsens to enjoy and we would be happy to arrange a rental vehicle for your convenience. Just ask! Come to Niseko anytime to enjoy our amazing onsens! Holiday Niseko
Posted on June 1st, 2011 No comments
It has been only 3 weeks since a busy last week of season, Golden Week, and the lifts closing here in Niseko but in that time the landscape has changed from a snow covered white one and slowly transformed, going through an almost autumn colour palette to an almost entirely green one. In a few more weeks Niseko will be fully green and summer holiday makers will be enjoying the cooler summer temperatures that Hokkaido has to offer people from the hotter southern climates of south Japan or Asia.
Here at Holiday Niseko we have had time relax a little before the green season kicks off, golf has been in full swing, plus a little hiking in the mountains has gone down to get those last tracks and great mountain fresh air. We have also been working on our winter rates and posted a few good deals over here while enjoying bqq’s under the cherry blossom trees. It’s been a hard 3 weeks.
In this spring time season other activities that take place in Niseko are varied but most of them carry right through to the winter. Lots of local holiday makers make it out for some rafting on the Shiribetsu River and some even come out for a company or school day trip while the rivers run higher from the snow melt. Horse riding, fishing, hiking for the pleasure of hiking in the mountains plus lots of other activities take place in Niseko from the winter seasons end to the snow starts to fall again in just 6 months!
We hope some of you can join us here during spring summer autumn, if not make sure you come in winter, things are good here in Niseko.
Posted on February 12th, 2011 No comments
A few of us from the Holiday Niseko team made the journey to Sapporo for the 62nd snow festival. We jumped in the car with NisekoSnow-Simon and made our way through the mountains and along the coast via hwy 5 to the city center of Sapporo. Parked the car, enjoyed some sushi train and hit the main festival site mid-afternoon. Starting at Odori park, we slowly walked through the 140 snow and ice sculpted statues and temples in complete awe. The impressive work that these artist’s carve into ice and snow was rad to see in the daylight and amazing illuminated at night.
From the open air ice skating rink and walking to the ice museum’s dinosaur world, the next stop was the HTB Park Air snowboard jump show. The local rider throw-down was on. We were told that the winners get a wild card draw to the Toyota Sapporo big air. cool. On the next block was the Kingdom of Tourism sculpture, a warm welcome to Hokkaido with this collaboration between Hokkaido and other Asian countries. A sculpture to promote good relations between locals and visitors.
The Lion King musical sculpture was on the way to the amazing ice city of science and technology, the City of Daejeon in the Republic of Korea. At 7 chome, stood one of the two most impressive pieces in the festival, the HBC Beijing square. Named the temple of heaven and the hall of prayer for goods harvests, it was sculpted in pre-celebration for next years 40th anniversary of good diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and Japan. Awesome scale and detail!
In between two functional large sculptured snow slides and the snowman’s festival of citizen’s square was another very impressive piece. The Hiunkaku pavilion of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple from Kyoto. The national treasure of Japan was sculpted close to actual size and the detail was something you have to see in person. Next we walked to the massive family square statues of the Japanese animation Sazae-san. Sculpted in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the original comic strip, Sazae’s entire family was there.
There was an international gourmet food corner and sake huts to keep people happy and warm, live entertainment on multiple stages and crazy music and lights on some of the statues and sculptures. At the end of Odori park we watched the talent in progress as the 16 international carving contest teams put some finishing touches on their work… Lithuania took the prize and Finland was runner up this year. All layed out under the Sapporo TV Tower free of admission to check out for 7 days every year in early February. This is a must do and see snow festival.We knew of the two other festival sites close by named Tsudome and Susukino that together host another 108 sculptures, but didn’t have time to check them. With so much to see and over 2 million people visiting the festival in the 7 days, it was a lot to take in. Must do it again next year. Enjoy our photos! Holiday Niseko
Posted on November 9th, 2010 No comments
Last season East coast USA Flow snowboards+Sessions+Skullcandy rider Tim Humphreys and photographer Rami Hanafi got some great days in Niseko that scored the cover of the Transworld Snowboarding December 2010 issue with a beauty photo dropping in on the avalanche barriers of Nakayama pass. Tim raps a bit about his thoughts on Hokkaido and getting camera lucky. What a rad cover! Holiday Niseko
Posted on September 18th, 2009 No comments
There are currently 108 active volcanoes in Japan (ten percent of the world’s total). On average eruptions or abnormal phenomena are observed at 10 volcanoes a year in Japan. In Japan an active volcano is defined as “volcanoes which have erupted within 10,000 years or volcanoes with vigorous volcanic gas and water vapor releases.” In Hokkaido 19 volcanoes fit that description and there have been 16 large-scale eruptions in the last 350 years (3 were of an equal scale to the 1980 Mt Saint Helens eruption). Closest to home is the Niseko volcanic group, which includes Nisekoannupuri (yes, you are skiing on an active volcano), Mt Yotei and Usu-zan.
Although classed as active, the Niseko group and Mt Yotei are at the bottom of the activity scale. Usu-zan however is right at the top. Situated on the shores of Lake Toya 50km south of Hirafu, Usu-zan is one of Hokkaido’s well-known volcanoes and one of the most active in Japan. There have been four eruptions in the last 100 years alone with the most recent taking place in 2000.
The March 2000 eruption created 50 new craters, caused mudflows, destroyed a national road, several buildings and forced the evacuation of over 13,000 residents from the surrounding area. While most were able to return to their homes within two weeks, 3,000 people from the Toyako Onsen township had to wait for more than 2 months in evacuation shelters before they could return.
Lake Toya is a popular stop on the domestic tourist trail. Highlights include onsen, a ropeway on Mount Usu and Showashinzan (a small lava dome that was created between 1944 and 1945). When Usu-zan erupted in 1977, visitor numbers to the area dropped by 60%. To revitalize tourism following the 1977 eruption the local community started a spring to autumn nightly fireworks display on the lake. This has been running since 1982 and has become a successful draw card to the area. Following the most recent eruption the local community decided to preserve the ruins and the area is now part of the Lake Toya and Usu Volcano Geopark.
I saw the 2000 eruption on local TV. It was major news on all stations. Plenty of live action from helicopters flying over the exploding craters and lots of expert opinions on the size of the boulders being hurled skywards. The township was closed, covered in ash and the local business leaders being interviewed looked mightily depressed.
The Lake Toya economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the eruption at the start of spring threatened the whole summer trade. In a desperate measure to declare the town safe again and generate business one of the major hotels offered a 5000jpy stay with buffet dinner and breakfast included. Lake Toya is one of my favourite places in Hokkaido so I jumped at the offer. With half the town closed and the mountain still fizzing I went down for the weekend to enjoy the onsen and buffet. The thing I remember the most about that weekend was finding a hard-hat and an evacuation map in my room. Errrr I thought this place was safe and I’m not quite sure how effective the hat is going to be at stopping those 3 tonne boulders I’d seen the experts talking about.
Posted on September 5th, 2009 No comments
If you are driving near the Annupuri ski resort around dawn or dusk during the summer months you may have noticed a strange yellow object in the sky. It is the Niseko Balloon and recently I got the chance to check it out.
I headed out to the Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort at 4pm as I wanted to see the whole process of setting up a hot air balloon.
Interesting but obvious fact: The temperature of the air at the top of the balloon is around 100 degrees Celsius.
The Niseko Balloon operates mornings and evenings from June 1st to October 12th weather permitting. The balloon is tethered so you won’t accidentally fly away and will take you to a height of 30m providing great views of the surrounding area.
A big thanks to the great Niseko Balloon staff (I owe you a beer)
Posted on August 24th, 2009 No comments
The fastest way to the Rusutsu ski area from the Niseko resort area will take you through the small village of Makkari. The Makkari area gained some exposure recently when the wives of the G8 leaders visited the village and had lunch at the French influenced Restaurant Maccarina.
On the outskirts of the village is the Makkari Snowmobile Land. Set on a sprawling farm the snowmobile tours are definitely worth trying during the winter. I have done these several times and thoroughly recommend the experience. In summer however, there isn’t much here except a Mt Yotei viewing platform and a couple of stalls selling local produce.
Heading back to Makkari the other main attraction is the Flower Center. The Flower center was recently converted into a Michi no eki (road station) It consists of a large glass house where flowers are grown and sold. There is also a center building selling local souvenirs and interestingly it also houses a mini museum dedicated to Makkari’s most famous offspring, Takashi Hosokawa.
Takashi Hosokawa is one of the most popular enka singers in Japan. Modern enka are Japanese ballads that typically deal with themes of love and loss, loneliness, hardships and death. A Japanese blues almost. On a historical note, enka were originally political speeches set to music spread by political activists and dissidents during the late 19th century. Enka were sung as a legal loophole during a crackdown by the government on public speeches of dissent.
Takashi Hosokawa hit it big in 1975 and has won numerous awards for his crooning. Takashi has always promoted his hometown and as a token of their gratitude local Makkari residents built a bronze statue of Takashi. A collection of Takashi’s awards, costumes and memorabilia are on display in the main building.
Posted on July 30th, 2009 1 comment
Often in winter I get asked by guests who stay in ourapartments, “Is there anything to do in Kutchan? Or “Is there anything to do that isn’t skiing or snow related?” Choices in winter are usually pretty limited so I set out to find something to do in case the ski lifts are closed due to bad weather.
While the primary reason to stay in Niseko during winter is for the skiing, people also travel for the cultural experience. Using culture as a loose theme here I decided to visit the Kutchanand also the Shu Ogawara to see what was on offer.
Driving to the north east corner of Kutchan you can conveniently find both museums at the opposite ends of a large carpark. The grounds are actually quite beautiful and there are several picnic chairs and tables making it an ideal location for a summer picnic.
I headed to the Shu Ogawara Museum of Art first as the 500 yen entrance ticket includes free entry to the Natural History Museum.
The museum was constructed in the memory of locally born artist Shu Ogawara (1911-2002) Although Ogawara was suspended indefinitely from high school he studied hard under the guidance of a young fine arts teacher and was later able to enter the Western painting Department of Tokyo Art School in 1930.
At the museum there are two display halls and a small room where a 20 minute introductory movie showing scenes from around Kutchan, Tibet, China and India that became themes for Ogawara’s paintings.
The main display room features around 35 pieces dating from 1933 till 1990 of Ogawara’s work. Interestingly Ogawara abandoned surrealism in 1941 to document air battles for the Japanese Imperial Army. These paintings however are not on display and remain locked in the national archives as the government is currently reluctant to exhibit wartime art.
The second display room is where different exhibitions are held. The museum also holds an outdoor sculpture exhibition every autumn.
At the other end of the carpark is the Kutchan Natural History Museum. It boasts an odd mix of displays and stuffed animals and dead insects. Unfortunately there are very few English explanations, but it is Japan after all. There were a couple of interesting displays, the old ski equipment and Olympic gold medal from the 30s (which I am surprised hasn’t been stolen yet), the giant aerial photo of the surrounding district which you are allowed to walk over it and finally the remains of a zero fighter plane wing from Mt Annupuri.
During the war, the peak of Mt Annupuri was used as a testing area for fighter plane wing design, or more specifically to test the affects of freezing on wing design. If you climb to the peak of Mt Annupuri you can still see the mounting base for the plane.
Overall the Shu Ogawara Museum of Art is excellent and well worth the visit if you like or even semi like art. It’s a modern gallery set in beautiful grounds and would not be out of place in any major city. The staff was very friendly and even offered me some green tea. I ‘m quite surprised (even shocked) this place exists in Kutchan. The Natural History Museum, well what can I say, at least it was free and there was also free tea for visitors so you can’t complain if it’s free.
If you are looking to escape the summer rain or the Hirafu lifts are closed for the day in winter, visit the local museums and expose yourself to a bit of culture Kutchan style.
Posted on July 9th, 2009 2 comments
Ever wondered where all the snow in Niseko goes? A lot of it filters into the ground and later resurfaces as spring water. With an average annual snowfall around 13 meters, it’s no surprise that the quantity of spring water around the Niseko region is one of the largest in Japan.
Around the Niseko area there are many places to collect spring water. Some places are very popular as many Japanese believe certain spring waters to contain beneficial properties.
Fukidashi spring water of Kyogoku (15mins outside of Hirafu) was designated by the Environment Ministry as one of the greatest 100 waters in Japan. There is an Eki no Michi (road station) at Kyogoku where you can sample the spring water.
Fortunately for those without a car, you don’t need to travel to Kyogoku to taste one of the top 100 waters. The Hirafu Seicomart (local convenient store) stocks Kyogoku water.
Makkari Village at the base of Mt Yotei, (halfway between Hirafu and Rusutsu ski resort) has a very popular natural mineral spring.
If you are heading to Rusutsu make sure you stop here as there is a very good tofu shop that uses the spring water to make fresh tofu. They also have a large selection of tofu products for free tasting.
With so many natural springs available you will never go thirsty in Niseko.
Posted on June 27th, 2009 No comments
One of the more popular summer tour destinations in Niseko is Milk Kobo in Higashiyama,(on the road to Niseko Hilton).
Using fresh milk from their own farm, Milk Kobo’s goal is to provide “safe and tasty produce with a smile.”
Milk Kobo is well known in Japan for its delicious ice-cream, yoghurt drink, puddings, cakes and my personal favourite, choux creme.
In the main building you can buy freshly made ice-cream, choux creme and cakes. There is a small cafe and a couple of shops selling glassware and local produce. In summer there are scenic fields of flowers and it’s a great spot to photograph Mt Youtei.
For those with a sweet tooth coming to ski Niseko in winter, you will be happy to know that Milk Kobo is open year round 10am-6pm.