A trip to Niseko is a time in your life that you will never forget. A visit here will be filled with unique moments that create memories that will last a life time. These are memories you will share with your family and firends, those who were there to enjoy it with you and those who you will never stop convincing to join you on the next trip.
The more time you spend in Niseko the more picture perfect postcard winter scenes you will see, the more hidden gem restaurants you will discover and the more incredible runs you will find. Whether you come to teach the kids to ski in some of the softest snow in the world, to taste that mystical umami flavour or find easy access to some of the best back country riding in Japan, Niseko promises to deliver magical moments accross the board.
You will find more of these majical moments at the bottom of your deepest turn, at the top of your longest hike and in the laugh of your youngest who just clipped Mum with a snowball. You can create incredible memories at any time of the season here, December through April be they in the cold early season snowfalls that produce some of the best powder in the world, one of the incredible blue bird powder days we often experience in February or during April with settled weather, sunny days and great spring skiing.
For many the next trip to Niseko stands with a question mark above its peak, right now travel here is an uncertainty but this winter will likely be even more snowy than the last and the one after that may be even better. Niseko will always be here waiting for you and we at Holiday Niseko are looking forward to helping you discover more Niseko moments and incredible memories that you will treasure for ever.
Last month we took a look the Toyoura / Okishi area to the south of Niseko and before this Kamoenai which is a stop on the way to the tip of the stunning Shakotan Peninsular. Shakotan is a fantastic place to visit well known for its crystal clear blue waters, delicious sea urchin, onsens, sunsets and much more. The trip is easily done in a day and from Hirafu can be approached from either the east or west side.
If you have more than a day and are interested in camping on the coast Shakotan is hard to beat. It is approximately 1.5 hours drive via the western coast or just under 2 hours via the east. Both routes have some great attractions along the way the way. If you are basing yourself in Hirafu Peak Niseko Car Rentals offer excellent camper van options. The camping ground there is simple clean and free with toilets and dish washing facilities and the views and sunsets beautiful and from mid July to September the Sea of Japan is warm enough to swim in and usually reasonably calm.
If you are just doing a day trip, the drive there and back is very doable and if you leave early enough you may even be able to get in some cherry picking in Nikki on the way home. So what should you see in Shakotan? There are 3 major sightseeing points the Shimamui Coast 島武意海岸, Kamui Misaki 神威岬 and in the middle of the two the Misaki onsen 岬の湯しゃこたん where if you time it right you can watch the sunset set accross the ocean from the outdoor onsen.
The Shimamui Coast is spectacular, crystal clear waters, dramatic cliffs and it's accessed by miny tunnel the kids will love. There is a well maintained track down to the beach that takes about 5 minutes to descend. Alternatively you can head north from the parking lot and in a few minutes walk find more spectacular views and a great lighthouse, there is also a walking track that extends further around the coast for the more adventurous.
If you have taken the option down the hill to the beach you will likely have worked up an appetite and it just so happens that there is an excellent seafood restaurant right there beside the parking lot. Here they specialise in serving the freshest, tastiest sea urchin or uni as it is locally known. The menu isn't limited to uni though and here you can feast on locally caught delicacies plucked from the seas below and served on your plate.
Once you have had your fill of seafood it may be a good time to move on down the coast to Kamui Misaki the most eastern tip of the peninsular. The journey takes you through quaint villages and past more great restaurant options that are well sign posted and hard to miss. Kamui Misaki is the most famous point in the area with a great walking trail to the end of the peninsular and best of all another restaurant which specialises in not only seafood delights but also Shakotan Blue ICE CREAM! Perfect for cooling down on a hot day.
The Shakotan Peninsular is a must do on any Hokkaido travellers itinerary and is a fantastic way to spend a day or two if you are basing yourself here in the Hirafu Village area. If you'd like to know more about Shakotan or have any Niseko travel related questions please feel free to contact us anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The range of accommodation available in Niseko for 2020 is fantastic and Holiday Niseko are proud to be able to offer a huge selection of choices that we know can please every taste, budget and group size. If you are looking for a cozy studio for two, a luxury penthouse apartment or a spacious chalet for the whole family we have you covered. If it is a spacious chalet you are looking for one fantastic option that ticks all the boxes is Yoteiyama House.
Winter or summer this large 4 bedroom home can sleep up to 12 guests with 4 full westerrn style bedrooms plus a traditional tatami area that is great for the kids. During the winter Yoteiyama is one of the lucky properties we offer with a vehicle which means you are not only able to get to the slopes with ease it also gives you the freedon to explore other areas such as Rusutsu and Kiroro. All you need to bring to make use of the van is an international driving permit and your own drivers license, freedom! The van is a late model 4WD Toyota Hiace which seats up to 9 passengers and has plenty of room for ski equipment.
Yoteiyama is located just outside of the Hirafu village in the peaceful neighbourhood of Yotei No Sato. The area is within easy walking distance of a shuttle stop, a 711 convenience store and a number of restaurants including 2 bakeries, Ichimura Soba, L'ocanda Italian and more. The property is just a couple of minutes drive from the Hirafu Gondola and the main Hirafu Village area and also well positioned for anyone looking to access the Hanazono resort area which is just 7.6 kilometers away.
If you are interested in booking Yoteiyama House, you'd like to know about the property or you'd like an introduction to similar properties please feel free to get in contact any time (email@example.com).
You can also find full details of the property here - https://holidayniseko.com/yoteiyama-house
If you are visiting Niseko but interested in seeing a little more of Hokkaido during the summer or the winter the Asahikawa region / city is well worth a place on your itinerary. There are plenty of things to see, do and of course eat from skiing on active volcanoe Asahi Dake and enjoying a hot bowl of ramen to summertime visits to the zoo and ice cream with the kids. This time around it was the summer option with the zoo as the goal in mind, starting with breakfast to north east of the city.
Although the area is better known for its rice production and ramen noodles a lesser known but still very popular culinary attraction is the Boulangerie Mawarimichi a quaint little french bakery that has found fame accross the country. The bakery is located just outside of Asahikawa in Toma front of the Toma Railway Station and serves up a fantastic selection of French breads. The journey to the bakery is as usual is a great part of the pleasure and takes you through lush green rice paddies surrounded by distant mountain peaks.
The bakery fits nicely with its rural surroundings but its crisp yet rustic style could be equally at home on the hippest of urban street corners.
The bakery has a fantastic array of breads just perfect for lunch with takeaway cheese sandwhich options made to order. If a sweet breakfast is what you are after look no further than the croissants chocolate or plain these are melt in your mouth morsels of goodness. If you are looking for souvenirs there is also a great range of jams and longer lasting baked goods for you to take home to the family.
With breakfast taken care of it is on to the main event, the Asahikawa Zoo. The zoo has a wide range of animals in mostly large and spacious enclosures with many of the usual suspects you'd expect to find, highlights being the primates, seals and giraffes. The zoo also has a great number of native Hokkaido animals featured such as Blakiston's Fish Owl a bird revered by Hokkaido's native Ainu people and one the largest owls in the world. Also worthy of mention is the variety of penguins which along with the polar bears are said to be best visited during the colder months. Pehaps good to fit in with that trip to ski Asahidake.
Getting up close and personal with one of the tallest animals in the world was definitely a hit with the kids and as one of the last animals too see on the way out it was a great finish to the day.
What day at the zoo would be complete without ice cream !? Just 15 minutes from the zoo back into the city outskirts is patisserie-fou. This cakes and sweets shop has a mouth watering selection of delicious gateaus, cakes, sweets and of course ice cream!
The ice cream choices are also as good as the cake department, with soft serve ice cream, gelato and puddings to choose from or to combine for a truly decadent desert.
Asahikawa is approximately 3.5 hours drive from Hirafu, Niseko lying right in the middle of Hokkaido. The city has plenty of accommodation options from hotels to campgrounds. Although a day trip from Hirafu would be a push if you can schedule an overnight in Asahikawa or surrounds it is well worth the journey winter or summer.
Are you an intermediate skier or boarder that's keen to take things to the next level of powder coated pleasure? Riding powder is the ultimate for any skier or boarder and the rewards it brings just keep getting better and better. Below are 6 tips that we hope will help you make the transition from the piste to the pow and beyond!
Tip one - As predictable as this sounds, come to Niseko! If you are looking to learn how to ride powder Niseko is arguably the best place in the world to do so. The best time to come if you want the best chance at the powder of your dreams is between December 15th and February 15th. Before and after these dates can be fantasic too but this is when the storms are most consistent and temperatures are likely to be at their coldest. Cold temps = light dry snow and as you'll find out the lighter and drier the better! More on when to visit Niseko here.
Tip two - As above, if you're riding powder in Niseko or anywhere else in the world it's going to be cold and cold in Niseko can mean negative 10 degrees and snowing all day! Personal preference will play a part here but outerwear should be made of Goretex or something similar rated to 20,000mm+. If you want to stay warm you need to stay dry. Base layers are also very important in the battle against the elements and as they say cotton kills, a little dramatic maybe but you're best to lose the hoody and cotton tee. Either Merino or polypropylene are a great place to start. You can see more on layering systems here.
Tip Three - One tip is easier than two. Powder riding is a lot easier to learn on a snowboard than on skis and a lower level snowboarder will generally be able to make the transition from piste to powder considerably easier than a skier at a similar ability level. Many snowboarders are able to advance to powder riding without extra instruction and you'll never have to worry about losing your skis or poles in the snow, goggles on the other hand are fair game!
Tip Four - Speed is your friend, on skis or a snowboard you'll need to commit to pointing it all down hill and getting your skis or board up on the plane before you drive a rail deep into the goodness. Be prepared to go a bit faster than what you might be comfortable with and don't worry too much about falling, Niseko powder is softer than cotton wool! Essentially you need to get you tip or tips up above the snow and gaining momentum before you initiate a turn that will slow it.
Tip Five - The right gear is the best idea. If you're skiing you might lean toward a ski with extra length and especially important extra width, this means ski waist widths of from 98mm to 130mm and beyond. Remember when choosing powder skis that even in Niseko some days aren't powder days so if you aren't buying a 2nd pair of powder specific skis you may want to think about an all mountain set that will perform in a variety of conditions not just powder. The same goes with snowboarding, your 154 twin tip that you brought because one day you want to learn 360s won't perform anywhere near as well in the powder as an all mountain rockered board with a nicely set back stance. Similarly a fish tail with twice as much nose as tail is going to give you a beautiful surf feel in the pow but won't be the best board to learn 180s on.
Tip six - Take it easy! Ease into your turns don't try to turn too fast or hard, remember you don't need to lock your edge into the hard pack you need to float on the powder. Ease into the terrain, first try riding through the powder on the edge of the trail, get a feel for the difference Strawberry Fields and all the other incredible powder runs you've heard about will be waiting when you're ready!
The Niseko Local Rules have been in place since 1999 and have helped to put Niseko on the map as one of the ultimate powder destinations in the world. The implementation of the rules were at the time of their inception ground breaking in Japan, opening up back country and off piste terrain that had previously been off limits.
This allowed powder hounds from all over the world to fill their boots with Niseko's incredible powder and word quickly got out that this was the place to be. The introduction of the locals rules allowed the resort to set up a gate system that provides riders with access to the backcountry at key points accross the greater Niseko United resorts. The map below marks where the gates are on the resort and the back country areas that are permanently closed.
The rules are pretty simple, only enter the back / side country via the gates shown above and adhere to the following:
As you can see above, there has been an addition to the rules with beacons and helmets soon to be a mandatory requirement for those wishing to use enter the backcountry from the resort gates. For most this won't be much of a change as most wear helmets and if you're entering the back country you should be wearing a beacon as well as carrying a probe and shovel. Why the last two items are not mandatory is a good question and how the new rules will be policed is another. Although the new rules aren't without flaw and given this there may be some resistance from backcountry enthusiasts, as a whole it can be seen as a step in the right direction and should work to provide mountain users with a heightened level of safety.
If you have any questions on the new rules or backcountry skiing and snowboarding in Niseko please feel free to conatct us anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org) otherwise we'll hope to see you on the peak next winter!
As you read this many southern hemisphere ski resort chairlifts have already begun spinning, a positive sign for the ski industry the world over. Here in Niseko we are hoping that the resort opening will also go ahead as planned too and that travel to Japan will be possible and practical. There is of course still uncertainty as to how things will unfold and due to this Holiday Niseko and a number of other accommodation providers in the area have increased the scope of their new Covid 19 flexible cancellation policies.
We are very happy to announce that in addition to all Holiday Niseko managed properties the following properties bookings can be cancelled with just a ¥5000 service to do so up until August 31st:
If you'd like to know more about our extended cancellation policy for the 2020/ 21 winter please click here and if you have any questions on these policies or any of the properties please feel free to contact a Holiday Niseko agent anytime (email@example.com). Thanks for reading and we will look forward to hearing from you soon.
In the last look at the seaside adventures close to Niseko we headed north west to Kamoenai, this time around we head south west to the Toyoura District and the beaches around Okishi and Rebun. Here we are greeted by long sandy beaches and a sea speckled with sunshine and fishing buoys that mark the oyster and scallop farms stretching accross Uchiura Bay.
Toyoura is well known for its beaches and seaviews which are every where you look stretching from North to South. On the water, boats work the shell fish farms and bring their delicious cargo into shore. The photo below taken from the look out point of a historical Ainu site just above the beach in Kamuichashishiseki Park, the stairs of which will test anyones calves!
Water temperatures in the spring are cool, around 12 degrees but through July and August things warm up with refreshing temperatures in the low twenties.
Sea food is not the only delicious delight either, strawberries are a staple crop of the area and these can be enjoyed, with icecream of course, at the Toyoura Michi No Eki or Road Station. There are also a number of Strawberry stalls to the south of the Route 97 / 37 intersection, yum!
After a swim in the sea you might feel like a shower to wash the salt off, why not make it an Onsen! Toyoura is home to a a fantastic modern Onsen facility right on the water front, this also has a restaurant serving traditional hearty Japanese fare. A trip to the Toyoura area is a must and an easy way to fill in a day swimming, taking in the sights, lounging on the beach, relaxing in the onsen and of course eating strawberries and ice cream!
When people think of Niseko, they usually imagine incredible powder skiing, hot ramen and snowy vistas. Contrastingly few people associate Niseko with the ocean but surprisingly our snowy mountain town is just a 45 minute drive to closest coast and not much further to 7 distinctly different coastal areas including Toyoura, Shakotan, Otaru, Minato, Kamoenai, Noboribetsu and Shimamaki. Below we share a little of some of the great experiences these Hokkaido destinations offer all of which are on Niseko's door step.
The first of which is Kamoenai, about an hours drive drive to the north west of Hirafu.
The drive to Kamoenai is a pleasure in its self, long stright roads through rice paddies and farm land provide a window into rural japan. Route 5 follws the path of Horikappu River from its headwaters to it's mouth at the sea.
Once the road reaches the sea the landscape changes dramatically with coastal cliffs, tunnels and a impressive viaduct structures negotiating rugged terrain. Once you hit these you know you are have reached the destination and the road swiftly descends in the Kamoenai Village.
Here you will find a quaint little sea side communituy that has a surpring amount to offer including an onsen, great coastal views, camping, fishing, surfing and delicious sushi. In the summer months the water warms to around 20 degress so a dip in the sea is a must and if you like what you're seeing why not make a night of it with camping facilities right on the beach.
If you are in the area late in summer or early autumn there may even be an opportunity for surfing, with a left hand point break breaking consistently on the right day. Later in the year the surf gets bigger as the same storms that bring snow to Niseko push in for winter. The water not surprisingly gets dranatically colder then too!
If camping on the beach isn't to your taste there are fantastic cabins on the cliffs above with sea views, tons of space for the kids to play and a variety of accommodation options. Kamoenai is a great place to explore on a day trip, for a night or two camping or as a stop off on the way to the blue waters of Shakotan another adventure we will bring you soon!
If you have any questions on Kamoenai or any other summer or winter activities please feel free to get in touch, you can reach us anytime on (firstname.lastname@example.org).
After what has seemed like an eternity, the possibility of international travel has finally begun to show promise with talk of select borders opening accross the world. If that wasn't enough to get you fizzing about a potential ski holiday the news that the majority of Southern Hemisphere ski fileds will be opening this winter is very exciting indeed.
Sounthern Hemisphere opening dates
Thredbo - June 22nd, Perisher, Hothem, Falls Creek - June 24th, Coronet Peak - Friday 26 June, The Remarkables - Saturday 4 July, Mt Hutt - Friday 12 June, Treble Cone - June 27th, Cardrona - June 26th
In New Zealand and Australia most ski resorts are scheduled to open at the end of this month, which means for those in the right place powder days may only be a few sleeps away. So what will skiing be like post Covid 19? So far New Zealand will likely have the most "normal" winter with, so far few restrictions on the skiing and snowboarding experience but social distancing measures will of course be in place. In Wanaka Cardrona and Treble Cone will both be initially open but Treble Cone's weekly operating times may change dependent on demand (Source - Cardrona.com). Accross the range in Queenstown Coronet Peak will be open 7 days but it's neighbour The Remarkables open daily for school holidays and then just weekends after with potential for extra days too. Northwards, Mt Hutt will be open the best 5 weather days of the week (Source - Coronetpeak.co.nz).
Accross the ditch in Australia most resorts will be open but at limited capacity with Thredbo reported to be run at 50% capacity and Persisher currently developing a Safe Operatiing Plan.
So what will skiing be like in Niseko this winter? This is a questions yet to be answered but with a full 6 months to go before opening day we are hoping for a positive out come. As to the possibility of travel to Japan the news so far has been promising with the Yahoo news reporting on May 31st that the government is currently considering opening restrictions first to the following 4 countries Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand. We see this as a solid step forward and one of the first toward the normalising of international travel here. For many Niseko powder days maybe coming back within sight! It has to be acknowledged we have only just stepped foot on the road to recovery but every inch we move forward represents a step closer to days like these below.