Niseko an internationally acclaimed resort destination and the name has become synonymous with incredible snow, mouthwatering food and an ever increasing range of fantastic accommodation. Niseko has become the brand for the area but it can be a little confusing as to where Niseko actually is. When you look up the accommodation you are thinking about booking you will most likely find that it is in Hirafu which looks to be10 kilometers from Niseko and actually part of a town called Kutchan... Confused? Read on for an explanation.
A quick explananition is that Niseko has become the name of the greater area including and surrounding Mount Annupuri which is the home of the Niseko United Ski Resorts, which is where you'll be skiing and snowboarding if you come here. Colloquially Niseko is used to refer to the folowing areas: Hanazono, Hirafu, Niseko Village, Niseko Town, Annupuri, Mount Moiwa and to some extent Kutchan.
So what are all these places with Niseko in the name?
- Niseko Town is just south of the resort area known as The Niseko United Resort. It is very unlikely you will book accommodation in Niseko Town but there is a train station there and some nice restaurants too. It is also very unlikely the station there will be a practical arrival or departure point.
- Niseko Village is one of the ski areas on the Niseko United Resort and is home to the Hilton Niseko Village one of the largest hotels in the area and a prominent fixture on the landscape, the Niseko Village Gondola and Niseko Village itself which is a quaint shopping and restaurant area with some fantastic food, in summer the Niseko Village Golf Course and Gate 11 which has some of the best lift accessed off piste terrain in the area.
- Niseko Cho (ニセコ町) is one visitors don't have to worry about too much but interestingly this the official area that encompasses Niseko Town and has Annupuri Ski area within its borders too.
Key points to consider
- The majority of restaurats and accommodation are in Hirafu Village and from here you can reach all the resorts on the NIseko United area on skis or snowboard via the connected lift system or via the shuttle system. Holiday Niseko book and manage properties almost exclusivley in the Hirafu Village area.
-If you are planning to takke the train to Niseko your final destination should be Kutchan, not Hirafu Station or Niseko Station.
- Hirafu and Hanazono areas are covered under one pass but if you want to explore Niseko Village and Annupuri too you will need to purchase an all Mountain lift Pass which Holiday Niseko will be happy to arrange for you in advance and have ready for you when you arrive.
Coming to NIseko with kids can be a bit of a daunting prospect but i doesn't have to be. Kids usually love the snow and getting out and about in it, throwing it and and sliding down it. Ski & snowboard lessons are of course the go to if you want the kids to make the most of their on snow time and lucky for us Niseko has a wide range of snowsports schools with tailor made kids programs. You can contact Holiday NIseko anytime to book these and we can help you choose the right provider to suit your needs and budget. Ok so obviously the go to activity is skiing or snowboarding, what else would you do in one of the snowiest places on earth? Below are 5 top activities for the kids when for whatever reason you take a day off slopes.
# 1 - Go to the Niseko Adventure Center NAC as it is better known is your go to for keeping the kids busy and somewhere where you can easily spend a few hours. The center has a large indoor climbing wall complex, an excellent cafe and one of the best kids spaces in the vilage.
The NAC Kids Garden is open from 09:30am to 9:00pm and features a fun playground and space for kids 2- 12 years old. If your children are primary school age or above you can also enroll them in climbing school, if they still have energy to burn after skiing, this runs from 17:00 to 19:00. The bouldering section is also a great option anytime of the day for ages 13 and above. All this activity will work up an apetite and you need look no further than JoJo's cafe upstairs for a wholesome healthy lunch.
#2 Hanazono snow tubing - Not quite off the slopes but you won't need to buy a lift pass or ride the chair lift. Snowtubing at Hanazono is a brilliant option for sharing fun times with the whole family.
From Hirafu Village acessing Hanazono is easy and free on the village shuttle which during a normal winter runs every ten minutes. Snowtubing is suitable for ages 3 and above and costs ¥2500 for one hour pp, operating hours from 09:00am - 4:00pm.
# 3 - Niseko Alpen Pool Many of you may have walked past the Niseko Alpen thinking it was just another hotel but did you know it is also home to a full size swimming pool, onsens and a hot stone sauna facility all of which are open to the public? The pool has a shallow kids zone plus some great spa baths to sit back and relax in.
#4 - The NAC Adventure Park - Bought to you once again by the masters of Niseko adventure NAC brings you challenge and excitement. This is a climbimg and ropes course quite like no other and it can be accessed on foor from anywhere in Hirafu. With an emphasis on safety and adventure there are courses to suit all levels, kids just need to be 115 cm or taller and there are kids specific courses. Everything is done under the supervision of a guide so you family will be 100% safe all of the time. One of the beauties of the adventure park is it's location, located along the side of the Ace Family Quad it can be easily accessed from anywhere in the village.
#5 Reindeer rides. Possibly the ultimate kids Christmas activity in the snow! Niseko Village hosts daily Reindeer sledding form 12/23/2020 - 2/14/2021. The rides last just 5 minutes (for the protection of the animals) and cost ¥3,100 for an adult and ¥2,100 for children. Niseko Village is easy to access via the village shuttle which departs from Hirafu every 15 minutes. Open days can be weather dependent so please check before you go T: +81(0)136-44-2211. Please also note the following unavialble dates. 2020: 12/28,29 2021: 1/4,5,12,13,18,19,25,26 2/1,2,8,9. The Holiday Niseko front desk team is always more than happy to assist with any enquiries you have on reindeer sledding or any of the activities above and can also make bookings where needed. Please feel free to contact us anytime (frontdesk holidayniseko.com).
Last week was an emotional one here in Niseko as on Friday we said farewell to Trever Ponting a kiwi born Niseko local who had been coming to the area for more than 20 years. Trevor or Trev as he was better known was also a valued member of the Holiday Niseko team working as our head of snow clearing in the winter and staff carpenter in the warmer months. If you had ever come accross Trev while staying with us you would likely have seen the lengths he would go to help others and to share his experience of the area with anyone who was interested. We take a closer look at Trev the father, pioneering snowboarder and skateboarder, rock climber, teacher and so much more to the many people he came into contact with.
Trevor first came to Niseko in the mid nineties with good friend Quentin Robbins drawn by the areas incredible snow and lucrative snowboard sponsorship contracts that were on offer in Japan at the time. Trev was living his life as most can only dream of without fixed abode, foot loose and fancy free. It is to people like Trev who we owe the global discovery of Niseko for without them the early pioneers, word may never have gotten out as to how amazing the place is. If you had ever stood at the bar for a chat with Trev you would know his early days in Niseko were not without drama and on more than one occasion he was responsible for saving the lives of those trapped in avalanches and many more eye opening adventures. Since those early pioneering days Trev enjoyed more untracked runs down the slopes of Hirafu than any of us and ten friends could ever hope to do but he did not try to keep Niseko to himself and was responsible for introducing and guiding countless numbers of people here. Bringing people to Niseko was the ultimate for Trev and for him sharing smiles, turns and experiences was what he loved best.
Trevor was one of the forefathers of skateboarding and snowboarding in New Zealand and he passed on his wisdom and experience to many. He built up a skate scene in Methven literally with his own hands first with a ramp in his back yard and later getting the Methven community skatepark up and runnning. If you were a snowboarder and passed through Methven most likley you stopped at Trevs place for a skate, a beer and a yarn. Trevs ramp was skated by some of the greatest snowboarders in history, even Terje Haakonsen stopped by for a roll. If you stopped by Trevors place you were welcomed with open arms, he was a man that gave whenever the opportunity arose and his contributions to the New Zealand skate and snow scene will last a life time.
At the beginning of 2020 Trevor under went brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and once he was released from hospital and was able, set about pursuing his passions once more. With the support of his wife Aiko Trev was able to share these passions with his young family, Mia pictured above and 1 year old Toa who although was not quite ready for climbing was definitely keen on lego with Dad, which Trev informed us he was very good at, Trev that is. Trev spent last summer where he wanted to be perched high on the cliffs of Hokkaido making every reach and hold count.
From everyone here at Holiday Niseko we send our love and condolences to Trevors family and friends at his home in New Zealand and those here Niseko and elsewhere. We will miss ya mate, Rest in Powder good friend.
So the time has finally come, your Niseko dream holiday is but a couple of clicks away from being comfirmed. The question now is where to stay. The last couple of years has seen the Niseko development boom continue explosively despite the ravages of Covid 19 giving guests even more fantastic options to choose from. The majority of the new accommodations are hotel or serviced apartments which are excellent choices if you are looking for a full service luxury stay. However if you are looking for a more home away from home kind of luxury a stand alone villa or chalet may be just what you need. Holiday Niseko have a wide range of stand alone homes from 7 bedroom luxury properties to cozy cheap & cheerful 1 bedroom chalets.
The key here is space and plenty of it, with a 4 bedroom option such as Sekka House above you will have 4 bedrooms to choose from, an ensuite each and 220 sqm in which to spread yourselves across plus a fully equipped kitchen, dining and generously sized lounge area. If you compare this to the space typically offered by a 2 x 2 bedroom hotel rooms the choice between the two is an easy one! Other similar large stand alone homes you might like to consider are ISE, Nero, Ori and Yoteiyama House.
If you are looking to enjoy some of the best snow in the world and emerse yourself in the beauty, peace and tranquility the area offers, a stand alone home such as Kabayama House may be just what you are looking for. This beautifully appointed 3 bedroom home is nestled amongst the trees in the quiet neighbour hood of Kabayama. Just picture yourself sitting back with a glass of your favourite while you watch the snow flakes fall. When you compare this to the experience of staying at a hotel with hundreds of other guests the choice is once again an easy one. Check these three more great 3 bedroom places here Ikigai, Fumoto and Ruby Chalet.
They say the family that eats together stays together and a stand alone home gives you a more intimate chance to spend time with your loved ones enjoying delicious home cooked (or takeaway) food on those nights that tired legs don't allow exploring the many great restaurants the Hirafu Village has on offer. Midori House above is a great value 2 bedroom home just perfect for a family of 4 or a small group of friends with a total of 6 beds on offer. The Green House is another great value smaller stand alone option to consider especially good or a family of 3.
By choosing a stand alone home such as one of the above you get privacy, peace and quiet, a chance to spend quality time with those closest, the opportunity to get closer to the natural beauty that draws people to the area and a space all of your own to enjoy the ultimate holiday in the snow. Holiday Niseko have a great number of superb stand alone homes acrosss Hirafu Village and surronds so if you are interested in any of the places featured above or you'd like to see some more great options please feel free to conatct us anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Niseko Hokkaido is one of Japan's most popular destinations for domestic and international tourists a like. It put itself on the map for its incredible snow and has since built on this to establish a reputation as Asia's premier winter play ground with excellent restaurants and an incredible range of accommodation. Another of Hirafu's draw cards is its close proximity to many other must see destinations from the city scapes of Sapporo to the stunning coast lines along the sea of Japan. Niseko puts the incredible natural beauty of Hokkaido at your finger tips with rivers, mountains and lakes within easy access. Lake Toya is one such natural beauty and is less than one hours drive from HIrafu Village.
Lake toya is gorgeous anytime of the year with stunning views wherever you look. From the starkness of winter's black and white foot print to the lush greens of the summer. The easiest way to access Lake Toya from your Holiday Niseko accommodation is by car and rentals can be arranged upon request. It is also possible to catch a local bus but having your own vehicle is far more convenient. Lake Toya is Hokkaido's the 3rd biggest caldera lake and as this may suggest it lies in volcanic area which is still very much active. You can make the most of this by enjoying one of the fantastic onsens in the area. You can find out more about Toya's volcanic history here.
People are drawn to Lake Toya for its scenery, onsens and outdoor activities such as hiking and water sports. Below are 5 must see and do activities the area has to offer.
There are many onsens in the area and some excellent hotel options avaialble if you with to spread your stay accross Niseko and Lake Toya. Most hotels come complete with incredible lake views looking accross to Nakajima Island pictured above and many will come with a similar view from the onsen, simply blissful.
During the summer months the air temperature sits around 25 - 30 degrees and the lake is refreshing and comfortable to swim in. There are many places to swim along the edge of the lake and the many public parks provide some of the best locations with shallow water extending out from the beaches makeing them safer for the kids. The great family swimming spot pictured above can be found here at Ukimido Park (浮見堂公園)
The fireworks are a spectacular nightly event during the summer and run for 20 minutes from 20:45 to 21:05 4/28 to 10/31. The fireworks are a great way to finish a day at the lake whilst you sip on the last beer of the barbeque or lay back in the comfort of your hotel room or better yet onsen!
With all this activity you will have worked up an apetite and if you are looking for a non hotel meal in a disitinctly local setting look no further than Hydune ハイドゥン a speciality hamburger shop brimming with flavour, character and delicious onion rings. Hydune is locted in the heart of Lake Toya's onsen hotel district and is great place for a quick meal and a drink. You can find Hydune here.
Sight seeing options abound at lake Toya, simply driving around the lake is a nice way to take in the surroundings or you might like to look from above at one of the areas many look outs. One of the best and most elevated is the Usuzan Ropeway from which you can see all the way back to Mount Yotei in Niseko. There are also restaurants and souvenir stores at the top.
The Niseko United Resort area is one of the most popular resorts in Japan and for good reason. The ski areas encircles Mount Annupuri from Annupuri Ski area to the south to Hanazono to the north with Niseko Village and Niseko Grand Hirafu in between. The summit of Mount Annupuri stands at 1308 meters, giving a vertical drop of over 1000m from the peak to the bottom of the lifts making for a very solid run from top to bottom. Of course if you want the pleasure of every available meter you will need to ascend the to 100m or so on foot. What most refer to as "hiking the peak".
The easiest way to access the peak is from either the Hanazono or Hirafu resort areas making the last chair assisted ascent on the single chair which is part of the Grand Hirafu area. It' a bit rickety but delivers you to where you need to go but you'll probbly want to keep a firm frip on the pole or seat if you're at all adverse to heights!
The higher you climb the better the view gets and by the time you get to the top of the single you are looking down to Hirafu Village Kutchan and beyond. Of course the journey doesn't fininsh here, to get to the peak you'll need to take off your equipment and put one foot in front of the other. Access to the peak is governed by the the Niseko Local Rules gate system so it is out of bounds and if you plan to go there you should do so with a the right equipment, knowledge of the back country and best with a guide or someone who knows the area. As far as hikes to the summit of mountains go this one is a breeze and most people will get up in about 20 minutes. It is a fairly steep ascent to start with but the pitch mellows out as you near the top.
From the top there are a number of options for the descent, the shot above shows a rider dropping down toward Annupuri with Goshiki Onsen in the back ground. Another option is to head straight down from the peak back toward Hirafu, here if you pull out early enough you can make it back to the single chair or keep going down to the base area of Hanazono or Hirafu. The shot below shows a rider taking this route.
Another popular route (and arguably the best vertical bang for buck powder run on the greater Niseko United are) is to head slightly skiers left from the peak toward the Hanazono area. If you take this route remeber that you will need to hike out and once you hit the cat track this is the end of the line. The hike out is also an easy one as the resort grooms the cat track daily and it is a gentle pitch all the way up and out to Hanazono. The hike is scenic and there's nothing better than walking out with friends after some of the best powder turns of your life!
When you think of a ski trip to Japan you will likely be dreaming of endless snowfall, delicious sushi, onsens and given the chance you'll want to absorb some of the rich culture the country has to offer too. A visit to a Japanese shrine is a means of connection to the culture, history and and serenity that is held within their gates.
In Japan you will find two kinds of temple or shrine specifically Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines. The structure above is the entrance way to a Buddhist temple the one below the Tori gates of a Shinto shrine.
Any one can enter a shrine in Japan but before you go there is an etiquette that should be followed. When you approach the the entry way or gates you should pay your respects before you enter, done so by bowing respectfully. From here you can enter, walking on the edge of the pathway toward the main shrine.
The Makari shrine above is a classic example of a smaller shrine that you will find in the Hokkaido countryside here entry is simple but in a larger shrine you may find a washing area where one can purify themselves before entering the shrine. The idea here is not to actually wash your hands and face but to to so symbolically. To do so pour a little water from the ladle (or hishaku) provided onto your hands , first the left and then the right. After this symbolic hand washing pour more water onto your left hand and bring this to your mouth so it just brushes your lips, following this rinse you hand again by pouring on water from the hishaku. To complete the washing lay the the hishaku back on the shelf where you picked it up from, bowl first so that water runs down the handle cleansing it for the next person.
From here you can move on to the main hall or Honden, outside you will often find a large bell which you should ring with a swing of the rope or chords that hang from it. In front of the Honden you will also find a box where people will drop coins as an offering, usually a ¥5 coin or "goen" which interestingly also means good luck. Once you have moved through this process you can pay your respects to the deity, you do so by bowing twice, ringing the bell twice and clapping your hands twice then finishing with your hands locked in the prayer position to finish release your hands and bow a final time. The ringing, clapping and bowing ritual is known in Japanese as nirei nihakushu ichirei or simply put 2 bows, 2 claps and a bow.
Finally when you leave one last bow is traditioanlly made when you exit through the tori gates. At larger shrines such as the Hokkaido Shrine in Maruyama, Sapporo you will find plenty of other tourists and it is not expected that you follow the ritual when you visit but why not give it a go and visit and pay your respects as a local would. You can read more about the Hokkaido Shrine here. Visiting a shrine while you are on a ski holiday in Niseko is a great way to experience Japanese history and culture and a must do if you are visiting a city or have access to a vehicle while in Niseko.
Made up of 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms Mountain Butterfly is perfect for families even two of them, with the kids accommodated in the bunkroom and the 2 sets of parents with a bedroom each. There is also plenty of space for up to 8 guests to kick back in the comfortable lounge, distract the kids with the telly and sip on a glass of your favourite while you watch the snowflakes fall.
The master bedroom is ensuited with a bath tub and both bathrooms are fully tiled, modern and sleek. Just think how good this bath will be after your long fulfiling days on the mountain.
If you're just too tired to make it to the restaurant why not eat in? Making meals is a breeze in the modern well laid out kitchen that has everything you need to prepare delicious dinners, lunches or breakfasts coming complete with pots, pans, crockery, cutlery a coffee maker, dishwasher and much more.
Although out of the hustle and bustle of the village Mountain Butterfly is just a 2 minute drive to the lifts, is very close to Lupicia Restaurant and Deli and is within easy walking distance of Elements restaurant. During a regualr winter the property comes with a 4WD drive, 9 seat Hiace Van so getting around is a breeze and you have the freedom to explore more resorts, sightseeing and restaurants. The supply of the van for this property will be confirmed in September when there is more clarity on likely guest numbers. If you have any questions on this or anything else regarding Mountain Butterfly please feel free to contact us anytime (Res@holidayniseko.com). You can find all the finer details on Mountain butterfly on it's listing page here.
Ishi Couloir is a fantstic apartment building well located in Hirafu, Niseko. With 3 different apartments to choose from it can be booked for almost any sized group with 2, 3 and 4 bedroom options available.
From the moment you walk through the door of Ishi Couloir you feel at home with its carpeted floors, vaulted ceilings and warm wood finish. Built by West Canada Homes the apartments have a distinctly North American feel that is consitant both inside and out with stone work, large exposed beams, spacious rooms and ample kitchen space.
If you are looking for accommodation that is convenient but just out of the hustle and bustle of central Hirafu, Ishi Couloir is an excellent choice. Just a stones throw from the The Niseko Adventure Center (NAC) and Jo Jo's cafe and only a couple of minutes walk from the Lawson convenience store. To get to the lifts each morning you only need to jump on the village shuttle which will have you to the base of the Hirafu Gondola in no time or accross to Hanazono if you prefer to start the day from that side of the mountain.
Living areas are tastefully appointed, again with carpeted floors through out and complete with leather lounge suites, big screen televisions and pleasing wood finishes.
The kitchens of course have everything you need to cook delicious dinners and entertain guests. They come complete with dishwashers, coffee makers, rice cookers and all utensils, cook ware and crockery. An added bonus is a large didning table in each apartment plus seating at the island benches.
Following the theme of the building the bathrooms are elegantly finished in tile and wood, each with a heated towel rail and louvered blinds. The basement floor also has plenty of room to store and dry equipment.
Ishi Couloir is the perfect home away from home that will have you never wanting to leave, if you are looking to visit summer 2021 or winter 2021/22 bookings are now open so if you would like to know more or you have any questions please feel free to contact us anytime (email@example.com).
If you've ever been to Niseko or Japan before most likely you've enjoyed a meal Hokkaido is famous for, ramen noodles. A simple yet satisfying meal with its deep delicious flavours it is an awesome winter warmer that makes the perfect lunch or dinner, especially if you are pressed for time. It also goes very well washed down with a beer. A little out of Niseko you can find a fantastic ramen shop that is hard to beat and there is plenty of competition out there.
In Japanese this store is known as えぞらーめん勝二 or Ezo Ramen Katsuji and it is located in the small country side village of Rankoshi. The shop is a 30 minute scenic drive from Hirafu that follows route 343 to route 5. During the winter months you will enjoy a beautiful snowscape and glimpses of the Shiribetsu river.
But what about the Ramen, tell me about the ramen! The restaurant is small and cozy and has half a dozen tables and a few bar seats. The staff are very friendly and accommodating and the pride they take in the food they serve is very obvious, everything is of course immaculately clean and nicely presented. Don't expect luxurious leather seating and oak table tops but you can expect great service and excellent food. There are a choice of ramen flavours to choose from, the one pictured is possibly the most delicious 濃厚(Rich thick) miso. There is also regular miso, soya sauce, kimichi, spicy and salt flavours along with a small slection of delicious side dishes.
If you are in Niseko winter or summer the journey to Ezo Ramen Katsuji is well worth the journey, the scenery is beautiful and the Ramen second to none!