For back country and mountaineering enthusiasts Mt Rishiri in the far north of Hokkaido may be the ultimate adventure.
Mt Rishiri juts up from Rishiri Island, stands at 1,700 meters and is an impressive sight during the winter or summer. The island sits just to the west of Wakanai Hokkaido's northern most city, a 5 hour drive from Sapporo. The island is then accessed by ferry which takes around 2 hours. During the summer Rishiri and neighbouring Rebun Island are popular tourist destinations known of course for mountaineering and hiking but also for wildflowers, onsens, fishing and sea kayaking. There are an abundance of pension style accommodations on the island and the delicious seafod served in many is a draw card in itself.
The skaible terrain on Mt Rishiri is mini Alaska esque with an abundance of steep pitches and couloirs and ocean views to boot. These are captured beautifully in the video by Toshiya Watanabe below, most definitely the stuff back country dreams are made of.
Anyone looking for more information on tours on Mt Rishiri may be best served by the following link https://en.activityjapan.com/publish/plan/16074
If you've been to Niseko before you've undoubtedly uncovered the delights of the conveneince stores. There are now 3 to choose from here in Hirafu, a 7/11 at the eatsern side opposite My Ecolodge and moving in from there Lawson begins it's reign with a new store freshly opened in the newly developed Mid Town. Now both these are a little out of the way unless you are either staying in Izumkyou, My Eco Lodge or Mid Town but moving further into the village the original Lawson we all love is still there and offers not only a host of extra convenient treats but also one of the greatest Yotei selfie spots in the village.
Back into the heart of Hirafu we find old faithful Seicomart. The orange and white beacon in the night serving the hungry masses their tuna onegirri's (riceballs), Asahi Super Dry and of course the ever popular katsu curry (pork cutlet curry).
So which convenience store to choose? By default most will choose Seicomart due to it's central location but if you are looking for a little more try Lawson just a couple of minutes down the road, less ques, a better selection and don't forget that selfie spot!
Lawson also just happens to serve ¥200 double espresso latte's that aren't quite Green Farm Cafe pedrigree but aren't bad for price! Other notable products that you don't want to miss are of course the fried chicken, curry maans (steamed curry buns) and if you're feeling a little dusty after a night out try a bottle of Pocari Sweat, if you can get past the name, this refereshing beverage is about as close as you can get to a saline drip and will have back on track in no time. If you want a serious hangover cure go straight to the topshelf, a tall Lemon Strong will get you there even quicker (disclaimer, not recommended before hitting the slopes!).
All of the convenience stores will aslo have your staples, milk, eggs, bread, noodles, beer, instant coffee, jam etc plus a host of surprisingly good and healthy takeaway food options mixed in with a few surprises you may never be able to identify. If they haven't sold out Lawson also carry Iphone chords, international adapters, data cards and all of the convenience stores in the village have international ATM's that usually work with major credit cards and cards maked with Cirrus/ Maestro.
Take me to powder heaven, take me to Gate 11!
The Niseko gate system has allowed terrain to be opened up to the public that never has been before and one of the most recent additions to this is Gate 11 or Mizuno Sawa.
Gate 11 provides some of the steepest pitches on the mountain, open bowls, epic trees and an awesome natural halfpipe to finish things off at the bottom.
So where is this chosen land? The terrain belongs to Niseko Village but it can also be easily accessed from Hirafu or Annupuri.
From Hirafu the quickest way to Gate 11 is to take the gondola or Ace quad up and then head to the King Hooded Quad #3. From here head skiers right and head to accross the hill so that you end up at the top of the Niseko Gondola. Snowboarders you might need to one foot at somepoint along the way.
Now head straight down the groomed face to the base of a little rope tow that will pull you up 50 meters to the entry point of Gate 11. There is usually someone in the hut at the top checking (very loosely) to see if everyone has their avy gear. As this is a controlled gate, from it you are entering the back country so having the right equipment and knowledge is essential.
If you are coming from Niseko Village you simply take the Gondola up and from the top head skiiers right and point it toward the rope tow.
Once you go past the man in the box walk or skate accross the cat track and you'll soon find yourself at the top of the bowl. From here head far left (but not past the boundary rope) for some nicely gladed trees that eventually funnel right back into the main gulley.
Alternatively take a line straight down and left to a couple of fun windlips and then head straight down the gulley for some steep open turns. You can also head skiiers right and accross onto the ridge toward Country Road Chair where you will find a mixture of tight trees and open pitches with plenty of fun stuff amongst the two.
Gate 11 is a must do for any Niseko powder hound and undoubtedly some of the funnest and more challenging terrain anywhere in the area.
Just a 20 minute drive from Hirafu is a small town named Kyogoku which sits at the foot of Mt Moiwa on the north eatsern side.
This quaint farming town was founded by Takanori Kyōgoku (1858-1928) and first settled back in 1897. The main attraction today is Fukidashi Park which winter or summer is well worth a visit.
The park is home to a large natural spring which is recognised as one of the top 100 spring waters in Japan. The spring feeds into two small man made lakes which are adorned with maple trees, a walk way, rolling grass verges,manicured trees and even have some rainbow trout swimming in them.
Water bottles can be purchased on site and visitors from near a far flock to collect it and for good reason, it is delicious!
There are two sides to the park, one of which is on route 478 and has a number of food stalls selling fried potatoe treats and ice creams. This side is also home to a childrens playgrough and amphitheatre / stage as well as a michi no eki or road station names Meisui-no-Sato Kyogoku where you will find fresh produce and souvenirs.
Cross the bridge from here and a quaint row of shops lines the road selling fresh produce and delcious coffee. It is from this side you can access the spring water taps and water fall area.
Travel opprotunities are endless here in Hokkaido especially in the summer time, in every direction there is a destination to travel to or a unique attraction to see.
Erimo Misaki is the south eastern most tip of Hokkaido, a rugged windswept cape with a striking line of small islands extending from dramatic cliffs.
At the top of the cliffs is a small comunity of accommodations, one of which is Osashimi Ryokan Sansuikaku a simple yet delightful Japanese hotel / lodge style accommodation with ocean views and an absolutely incedible Sashimi dinner menu.
A short walk from the Ryokan and you will be standing a top the cliffs of Cape Erimo with beautiful sea views from north to south.
At night the sky is eerily lit by the rotating beam of the lighthouse warning ships from the rocks below.
More culinary delights await in the souvenir shop with a fresh sushi bar, barbeque and sea urchin stand.
Tanks inside bubble and move with delicious inhabitants such as uni (sea urchin) welks, crabs and prawns all of which can be purchased and eaten on site.
Erimo Misaki is best accessed by car and from Hirafu Village and takes apprximatley 5 hours. The drive there provides a mixture of coastal and rural scenes from small fishing villages to the rolling hills and pastures of Hidaka, an area famous for horse breeding. Past Erimo Misaki can be found some of the best surfing on the island along with excellent salmon fishing in the autumn. Further afield you will find Akan Mashu National Park, Kushiro Shitsugen National Park and further still the World Herriatge, Shiretoko National Park, all of which are must sees on any Hokkaido itinerary
If you've ever been to Niseko with a little luck you will have had the pleasure of Mt Yotei's presence beaming down on the Hirafu Village and surrounds.
Mt Yotei's summit stands at 1,590m which isn't huge in mountaineering terms but it is the highest peak in the area and one that just begs to conquered.
Mount Yotei is an active strato volcano which most recently erupted back in 1050BC and lucky for us hasn't done a lot since!
Both winter and summer are a great time to take on the Mt Yotei challenge with summer being the most accessible time. Although summer doesn't have the adrenaline fueled descent to look forward to that winter offers it certainly has its own more tranquil rewards.
In summer the hike takes between 3 to 5 hours to reach the summit and although much less demanding than in winter it can still be a challenge and it pays to do it on a fine day as the trails are narrow and rocky in parts and become very slippery when wet. The descent is a bit quicker but is quite steep so hiking poles are strongly recommended. The route runs through pine and silver birch forest and alpine plants and flowers color the lanscape above the treeline. On your way up you may be greeted by a squirrel or 2, foxes are often spotted and don't forget to keep an ear out for wood peckers which you may catch a glimpse of in the trees.
During the winter if you or another memeber of your party haven't been up Yotei before it is strongly recommended that you enlist the services of a guide, which Holiday Niseko can help you to arrange. If you are confident in the montains and have the necessary avalanche and touring gear Mt Yotei is of course yours for the taking. In winter snow shoes or touring skis are essential as is the aforementioned avalanche equipment. The hike up with snow shoes takes most about 4 - 6 hours and of course the descent is just a few minutes depending on how may selfies you take.
The ride down can be a bit of a roller coaster with the top 3rd sometimes being wind effected but the bottom half below tree line almost always serves up some aweseome turns. Once you reach the summit it will be hard not to drop into the crater which can offer some epic turns and is an experience in it self. Check this cool clip made by one of our 2017 - 2019 drivers Toby Coulter, what a day!
Summer is a time for celebration here in Hokkaido and every year the calendar is dotted with great events. Closest to home and coming right up we have the Kutchan Jaga Festival (2019-08-03) a celebration of summer and of course Kutchan's most prized and all important crop, the potato. This features scores of delicious food carts, local produce, spectaucular floats and processions and a fire works display.
Soon following the Jaga Matsuri is the Hirafu festival (2019-08-24) which features live bands, seated food tents and a very spectacular fireworks display to finish.
One of the last festivals of the year is the inaugural Niseko Autumn Food Festival, which has cemented its place as one of the final and most delicious festivals of the year. This festival even has a free shuttle running from Odori Park in Sapporo.
Festivals in Hokkaido are by no means limited to those above also well worth checking out is the seafood festival in Bikuni, The Iwanai Fireworks Festival (04 Aug - 05 Aug), The Sapporo Beer Festival (Jul 19, 2019 – Aug 16, 2019) and the Sapporo Autumn Festival (Sept 7 - Sept 30).
The Niseko United boasts some of the greatest tree skiing in the world thanks to ample supplies of powder and plenty of nicely spaced Silver Birch forest. It also has some incredible stuff above the tree line too and in this installment we will cover a little of both with a quick look at what the Annupuri Summit or The Peak has to offer.
When we refer to The Peak this is the highest point of Mount Annupuri (1308m) or The Niseko United Area, usually accessed via a slightly sketchy feeling single chair know by many as "the meat hook" or King Lift #4 . You can access this from either Hirafu via the The King Hooded Lift # 3 or The Hanazono Quad Lift#3. This will swing you up to the easiest starting point if you are looking to hike the peak.
Peak access is governed by Niseko Local rules, get familiar with these before you go - https://www.niseko.ne.jp/en/niseko/niseko-rules/ . Gate 3 gives you access to the Peak Hike and this being open is weather dependent. If the weather is bad and the gate happens to be open, if you are not familiar with the area you will probably best to leave it for another day as it is easy to get lost if you can't see where you are going.
The hike to the peak takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on your fitness level and remember if you drop in skiiers left you will have to hike out too. Neither one is too strenuous though and well worth the effort. The views are incredible and the terrrain that the hike opens up is awesome starting with nicely pitched open powder fields and leading into beautifully gladed tree runs.
If you want to get the best out of your peak experience get to the single chair as soon as you can in the morning as the peaks goodness is no secret. Although the secret may be out the terrian and snow is almost always incredible and it's still always worth a shot when the rest of the mountain hasn't seen snow for a few days.
Remember the peak is out of bounds and it is the back country and although easily accessible the usual precautions must be taken, which means riding with friends, taking avalanche equipment that you know how to use and preferably going with a guide or someone who has been before.
It is also important to check the weather and avalanche reports before you go -
Avalanche Reports - http://niseko.nadare.info/
Enjoy the ride!
It has never been easier to access Niseko from all over the world with greater numbers of direct flights coming to Chitose every year. We thought we’d take a look at what’s on offer at Flight Center from some of the more popular departure points accross the world.
All flights departing Friday Jan 10th, returning Jan 19th.
As you may know Holiday Niseko don't book flights but we we can take care of your transfers once you've landed in Chitose all the way to the door of your accommodation!
~ Flying from Australia? Check out these beaut deals.
Get here quick with ANA, this flight will have you on the ground in Chitose in just 12 hours and 50 minutes and it’s an overnight flight so all going well you’ll get some sleep. Listed at $2,176 this gem could see you enjoying lunch at Green Farm on the Saturday.
Get here cheaper with China Air, this flight takes a bit longer and you’ll be lunching in Taipei rather than Hirafu. But she’s cheap as chips, listed at just $1530 return and easily doable 17 hours travel time.
~ Flying From Hong Kong? Get here in time for dinner!
Book today with Cathay Pacific and you’ll be getting in a solid weeks skiing and with a 09:10 departure time you’ll be in time for dinner at Rin at 20:00 listed at just $8,058.61 HKD
~ Flying From Honolulu ? Deep powder awaits..
Non stop on the way home with ANA and Hawaiian Air. Listed at $1,062 USD this is a 14 hour journey with a stopover in Osaka. You’ll arrive at Chitose around 10pm so best to grab a little shut eye and an Onsen in one of the convenient and well priced airport hotels before coming up to Hirafu on Saturday morning.
~ Flying from Singapore? The early bird gets the best snow and the best deals!
Leaving SIN at a brisk 05:55am you’ll be grabbing a sushi snack at Chitose by 15:00 before jumping on the 16:40 resort liner bus to Niseko. Listed at around $946 SGD
Holiday Niseko still have some great accommodation options open at the dates above too so if are keen to see what’s available get in touch today!
There's nothing much more exciting than visiting a ski resort for the first time and just imagine visiting a resort in Hokkaido Japan for the first time, wow!
You will have no doubt seen the photos, watched the videos and even heard the vocab with phrases and hashtags like Japow, Japanuary and many more that will, with out a doubt, have you frothin' ! After a seemingly endless summer (or winter), you are here in Niseko, standing at the base of the Hirafu Gondola, fresh after a comfortable sleep in your Holiday Niseko arranged accommodation and staring up at snow caked trees and runs. The big question you have is where to go?
Niseko United is a big ski area with 3 gondolas, 30 lifts and thousands of acres of skiable terrain plus further incredible front, side, slack and back country opportunites. The area is made up of 4 connected resorts Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri and each one of these have there own secret pow stashes. We're not going to tell you them all but we'll shed some light on some of the gems, starting with Hirafu. Hirafu can be seen as the center of the Niseko area and leads the way in terms of accommodation, shopping, restaurants and bars and if this wasn't enough it is also one of the funnest places to ride with a great mix of terrain and of course plenty of awesome tree skiing.
Need pow fast? Take the Ace Quad / Center 4 quad straight up, strap in, head skiiers right and you're on your way to Hone or Super Ridge. Drop in early for some great steep tree runs or stay on the traverse to the ridge and choose your line down from there. These are some of the best inbounds steeps you'll find on Hirafu. Alternatively you can keep traversing accross the bowl to where the trees begin again and here's where you can usually find some awesome pow stashes even late in the day. Always stay skiiers left of the main ridge and keep in mind there is a creek at the bottom, especially early season!
Don't miss Miharashi! If you've started from the Hirafu Gondola when you get to the top walk down the stairs and turmn right, walk up the hill 50m and pick your line down. From the top of the ridge heading skiiers left will take you into some great trees and you will come out about midway down the Family Course, heading right into the open slope will take you to the areas name sake run, Miharashi. This is a great wide open run and pretty epic if you are the first down but if you've partied the night before and missed the first gondola stick to the treed side for some of that hangover curing cherry cherry pow pow you came for, yeooow!