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Summer time in Niseko

2021

Every season in Niseko offers something special, with cherry blossoms in the spring, festivals through the summer and the emotive colours of the Autumn. Summer is of course one of the best times to visit with warm settled weather and temperatures hovering around 25 degrees, just perfect for sightseeing, hiking, rafting and many more of the fantastic activities the area has to offer. Below are 5 awesome summer activities Niseko has on offer.

Rafting season begins in the spring and runs through to Autumn. In the spring time the snow melt raises the river level and it is at this time it is the most exciting. During the summer the river runs slower and the experinece is a little less action packed but the water and weather is warmer and the surroundings more scenic with lush greenery colouring the riverside. There are number of excellent rafting operations in the area and Holiday Niseko will be more than happy to make bookings for you or put you in touch with the right people.

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A sun sets behind the waves at a sandy beach in Shakotan
You can find great coastal spot for camping, sightseeing and much more less than 90 minutes drive from Hirafu.

In keeping with the watery theme, the next on the list is a trip to the coast. Although not what we usually associate with Niseko the area is a fantastic base from which you can access some incredible coastlines to the south and to the west. Shakotan is a crowd favourite with spectacular coastal scenery, delicious seafood, camping, fishing, onsens, sea kayaking and plenty of places for a swim. If you are staying in Niseko for more than a couple of nights a seasside excursion is an easy and rewarding activity.  Check out the following links for more on some of the great coastal adventures at your finger tips from your Hirafu accommodation Bikuni, Shakotan, Kamoenai, Okishi.

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People climbing across a trees ropes course in Hirafu.
Are you up for the challenge? The NAC Adventure Park has courses for everyones age and level of confidence.

Take to the trees! One of the few activities that can be enjoyed winter or summer is one of the areas 3 tree adventure parks, the largest and first to be opened is the NAC adventure park which is also conveniently located in Hirafu, so just a few minutes walk from any lower village property you'll book through Holiday NIseko. Test your confidence, emerse your self in nature, enjoy great views and keep the kids entertained. There are a total of 8 courses suitable for kids over 115cm in height, and 2 courses for those that are 140cm or taller, all courses are completely supervised and have 100% emphasis on safety.

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A golfer drives down a fairway with Mount Yotei in the back ground
Incredible views compliment the Fukui Golf Course to a tee.

Get into golf. If you are a golfer you will love the courses around Niseko. With a wide variety to choose from and the Hilton and Hanazono courses on Hirafu's doorstep you don't have to go far to enjoy some of the best courses the area has. If you looking to go a little further a field there are more excellent options too check out  more on A Brand, Rusustu and Hanazono here and more on Fukui, Hilton and Niseko Golf & Resort here.

 


Night Rider

2021

Ever dreamed of riding bottomless powder all through the day and into the night? Well, in Niseko you can do exactly that with the lifts running until 9:00pm and a huge skiable area illuminated, so much in fact that it even possible to ride powder in the sidecountry trees. The night skiing experience is truly one like no other and not to missed if make a trip to the area. 

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An aerial view of Hirafu Village at night with ski resort illuminated by flood lights.
Hirafu village from above and below showing the area skiable at night.

10 years ago the night skiing area was even bigger with lights running all the way to the top of the 6C or Roku C lift (now known as the Kind Hooded Quad Lift #3) and down the length of the family course. With so much illuminated you could almost ski as if it were day time! Currently only the area pictured above is lit up. When we say only this is still a huge area and it is still arguably the best night skiing in the world!

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A skier throws up a spray of powder snow at night.
Night skiing turns like these will have you coming back to Niseko time after time.

It is not just deep powder turns on offer either the groomed slopes are less busy at night and night time can often present an opportunity to leave the kids with the better half or baby sitter and get your self into the zone. Night time brings cold temps, better snow quality and less crowds and the novelty of skiing under lights is one quite like no other.

Night skiing in Niseko is incredible and an experience not to be missed and below we've got 3 key tips tips to make the most of your Niseko Nighta experience.

# 1. Dress for the occaision - Night temps are significantly colder than the day time so you need to dress warmly, really warmly. Merino or polyprop base layers, fleece and a layer of down beneath a goretex shell are a good good start. You'll also want a face mask / balaclava, warm beanie and extra warm gloves or mittens. Bonus tip, stop by the Sapporo Drug Store on Hirafu Zakka and pick up some hand warmers to go inside your gloves.

# 2. Night vision - A clear goggle lense is the weapon of choice, if you don't have one yellow is probably the next best option. An interesting note on vision, on a heavy snow day if you get the goggles right visibility at night can actually be better than during the day as the light is coming from below the clouds rather than above it and the artificial lights provide better definition.

#3. Timing is key - For the best visibility wait until it is completely dark before heading up, during twilight the light will be considerably flatter than when it's dark.

If you'd like to know more about night skiing or are interested in making an accommodation booking please feel free to contact us anytime.

 


Gigi in Japan

2021

Ski and snowboard videos are what hungry powder hounds feast on during  the summer months and the more video's you watch the more you realise Japan is the place to be if you want deep, dry all you can eat powder.  Japan video parts are timeless and one man that defines snowboarding in Japan is Gigi Ruf. Gigi has been filmed in Japan by countless videographers and production companies over the last deacde and every part leaves you wanting more, none less than his part from the Union Team Movie, Stronger.  Enjoy.

 

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A snowboarder jumps through snowy trees
Gigi Ruf blasting one in the Hokkaido Backcountry

 


New Lifts for Hanazono

2021

Over the last couple of years the Hanazono area in Niseko has undergone some big changes. First the park Hyatt has built an impressive hotel at the base which features ten lounges, bars and restaurants, including French cuisine, sushi, robata, teppan, Italian and Chinese. The hotel has raised the bar for luxury hotels in the area and all Hanazono skiiers will also be raising the bar on a brand new 6 seat POMA lift complete with leather seats and footrests. This new lift will whisk you up to the 1589 meter mark in just 5 minutes and 30 seconds and although the lift will be dropping you off at the same place as the original Hanazono # 1 lift, you will get there faster and in more comfort. 

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A picture showing newly planned lifts.
Exciting news with construction already started on a new 6 seater chair and gondola. (Source - Hanazono.com)

If the new 6 seater wasn't enough, construction has also begun on a second new lift, the Hanazono Symphony Gondola. This will be delivering beginner and intermediate snow goers to the top of the newly constructed intermediate course "Colly's Folly" and has a mid way station that riders can use to access the new "Juicy Fruit" beginners course. Although not opening up much new terrain the new gondola will most defintely alleviate pressure on the Hanazono #1  lift which is great news for everybody.

  


Property Spotlight - Fumoto

2021

If you are looking for a convenient, comfortable, well laid out and nicley appointed 3 bedroom home away from home look no further than Fumoto.  Lower floor living and bedrooms up top make for a roomy lounge and kitchen plus nice views from the bedrooms. The house has a distinctly holiday home feel and is light and spacious. The lounge area has a comfy sofa and dining table beside the kitchen.

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Wooden dining table with sofa in background
The lounge and kitchen enjoy lots natural light and plenty of space to spread yourselves out.

The upstairs bedrooms can be configured as 1 double or single beds in each room and all rooms are very close to the bathroom and toilet which sits between bedroom # 2 and #3. The bedrooms have great views of the surrounding snow smothered village plus glimpses of the mountains beyond.

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two single beds with white sheets and white rolled towels
All of the 3 bedrooms can be configured as 2 singles or one double and all rooms have a nice light feel.

There is a second bathroom and toilet downstairs along with a large washer and drier. The laundry area also has plenty of places to hang gloves and outerwear out to dry. The kitchen is well laid out with plenty of bench space and of course is fully eqipped everything you need to prepare meals at home when your legs are too tired to make to to restaurant (this is a real risk, exacerbated by the back to to back powder days that are common place here). As you can see there's plenty of space for the kids in the lounge and like all Holiday Niseko managed accommodation the house comes with Apple TV and Netflix.

If you are interested in booking Fumoto for the 2021/22 winter or you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch. Winter rates start at just ¥36,720JPY per night for up to 6 guests.


Finding Niseko

2021

Niseko has is firmly established as an internationally acclaimed resort destination and the name now 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.

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A street on a hill with footpaths and trees blanketed in snow.
Hirafu Zakka is the main street of Hirafu Village leading to the base of Grad Hirafu Resort

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.

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The view of Mount Yotei across the groomed runs of Hirafu Ski resort
From wherever you are in Niseko Mount Yotei is never far from view, seen here from the slopes of Grand Hirafu.

- 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. 

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A crowd of people watch fireworks from a snowy Niseko Village.
Niseko Village is a fantastic place to enjoy New Years fireworks. (Photo - Niseko Tourism)

- 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. 

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Niseko untied ski area trail map
The Niseko United area including Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu and Hanazono

Things to remember

- The majority of restaurants 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 take the train to Niseko and are staying in Hirafu 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. An all mountain pass is more expensive but offfers much more freedom to explore the resort. You can start in Hirafu, go to Niseko Village for lunch ski Annupuri in the afternoon and ski back to Hirafu when you are done.

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Mount Annupuri from Niseko Bridge
An evening view of Mount Annupuri in the spring from the iconic yellow Niseko Bridge in Niseko Town, approximately 10 minutes drive from Annupuri Ski Area and 15 minutes from Grand Hirafu.


Kids in Niseko

2021

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 village.

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A children's play area with plastic slides a ball pit and tunnels.
The NAC kids Garden is a saviour for parents looking for place to entertain the kids on a down day.

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.

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A table set with hamburgers and orange juice
Jojo's do excellent burgers, coffee and all served with a view of Mount Yotei

#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. 

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A family enjoys snow tubing
lots of fun for 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.

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A large swimming pool
The Alpen is home to a pool, an onsen, childcare facilities and a hot stone sauna.

# 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.

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Two people climbing on a ropes adventure course in snowy surrounds
Are you ready for this adventure!?

#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).

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A man and child ride a sled pulled by a reindeer
Kids will love Reindeer sledding in Niseko Village.

 


A farewell

2021

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.

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Trevor Ponting throwing daughter above his head with Mount Yotei in the back ground
Trevor moved to Niseko from Methven NZ 4 years ago but had been a winter regular since the mid nineties.

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.

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A snowboarder throws up a spray of powder snow
On a snowboard or skateboard Trev always rode with a timeless powerful style

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.

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Trevors daughter swings in a rock climbing harness
Trevor was always keen to share his passions with daughter Mia

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.

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Trevor a top a rock tower
It's better at the top, Trev high above the sea of Japan on the Shakotan Peninsular

 

 

 

 


Niseko home away from home

2021

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.

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dining table set for dinner
A large stand alone villa or chalet such as Sekka House is ideal for a couple of families to reconnect and share the incredible experience that is a ski holiday in Niseko.

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.

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exterior view of Kabayama House at night
Kabayama House is a superb in a quiet neighbourhood for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the village.

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.

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white dining table
Every house comes with a fully equipped kitchen so feeding the troops is a breeze.

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.

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master bedroom with grey carpet and a made double bed.
The right stand alone home will afford you luxury, space and privacy at a fraction of the cost of an equivalent hotel stay.

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 (res@holidayniseko.com). 


Lake Toya

2021

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.

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Lake Toya on a calm day, with islands reflected in the lake
Just a 45 minute drive from the Hirafu Village, Lake Toya makes for an excellent day trip

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.

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A family play in the shallows of a glassy blue lake
During the summer Lake Toya's waters warm enough for a refreshing swim.

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.

Onsen 

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.

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A lake view from a hotel onsen
Incredible views from the onsen at Toya Nonokaze Resort

Swimming

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)

Fire Works

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!

Hamburgers

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

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.

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The view accross lake Toya to the volcanic cone of Mount Yotei
Breathtaking vistas from the top of the Usuzan ropeway

 


Hokkaido Government Travel agent Licence No. 3-777
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