So you've made it to Niseko, checked into your accommodation in Hirafu village, already snuck in a couple of runs to get your feet back and now you've returned to your comfy apartment or chalet with one thing on your mind, delicious Japanese food! Hirafu has over the last decade cemented itself a place in the culinary guide books of the world and is home to Michelin starred restaurants such as Kamimura and crowd favourites such as Abucha, Ezo Seafoods, Rin, Tsubara Tsubara and many more. If there is one food we associate with Japan more than any though it is of course sushi, bite sized mouth watering seafood delights seasoned simply with soya sauce and spiced with wasabi.
If you are looking for an instant sushi fix to enjoy in the comfort of your home away from home a quick jaunt to the supermarket is an easy way to go. If you haven't already been to a supermarket in Japan you need to go! There are 3 main supermarkets in Kutchan which is the closest town to Hirafu Village Lucky, Co-Op and Max Valu the closest of the 3. The jury is out as to which chain has the best sushi but as a general shopping experience Lucky is a good bet.
So what are we actually eating here? Rest assured it is very unlikely you'll find a slice of marine mammal mixed in with your salmon or anywhere in the supermarket for that matter but if you are new to this it's good to know what you are about to feast upon! First things first is it sushi or sashimi? Above we have a fairly standard assortment of Sashimi. Below a box of Sushi.
The difference between the two is simple, sushi comes with rice and depending on the kind usually has a little wasabi hidden between the rice and the seafood. Sashimi is straight up, just the protein, no carbs and no additional flavours though it will often be served on a bed of daikon radish or as pictured above the very flavoursome leafy herb, Shiso.
So what is it that I'm gonna eat? Above is a typical supermarket assortment, containing the usual suspects, lets dive in. From left to right.
1. A sushi staple and one of the best known as Maguro in Japanese and tuna in English. It is usually blue or yellow fin tuna and it doesn't get much better than if dipped in wasabi and soya sauce.
2. Next up we have the good old fashioned non threatening salmon, not much explanation needed, it's delicious every time.
3. The next one will probably be the last one left on the plate, if you're with travellers because no one knows what it is and if you're with locals because no one wants to take the best bit! This delicious morsel is ikura or marinated salmon roe which is set a top of rice and wrapped in a skirt of nori or seaweed. Just imagine salty soya sauce bubbles popping between your teeth, this again is delicious!
4. Here we have the slightly more challenging crunchy textured Hokigai or surf clam, it looks a little strange but rest assured it is once again delicious!
5. By reputation this one is definitely tricky for some to to get their mouth around. It is of course the much demonised raw prawn. Ebi in Japanese you will find surprisingly sweet and pleasently textured, the tail you can leave.
6. This transperant beauty goes by the name of Ika, known to English speakers of course as squid. It has a similarly sweet flavour to Ebi but is a lot chewier with a certain delectable creaminess.
7. Next in the line up we have a salmon variation, aburri or seared salmon. The searing brings an extra richness that will have you reaching for the second bite.
8. In every platter you will usually find some kind of white fish often red snapper or tai in Japanese, in this case it is kare or flounder. White fish is usually a little chewier than the darker fleshes such as tuna but also brings an extra sweetness.
9. This sauce smothered morsel is eel and it is one of the rare sushi's that is always cooked. There are two kinds of eel used in sushi, unagi a freshwater eel or anago a saltwater eel, this one is anago and is lighter in appearance.
So there you have the full platter which I might add goes excellently with the beer above, Yebisu. Another point to mention when buying sushi from the supermarket is to look out for the complimentary soya sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger sachets. If you are interested in finding out more about getting to the supermarket from Hirafu or you have any other NIseko related questions please feel free to contact us anytime (email@example.com).
If you are looking for a 3 bedroom stand alone home in Hirafu Village, Zangestu is hard to beat. With upstairs living and spacious open plan kitchen and dining areas Zangetsu is perfect for entertaining guests or enjoying time with the family after an epic day on the slopes.
Like the living areas the bedrooms are well thought out and stylish. The master bedroom is ensuited and has a generous queen bed. The second bedroom is also set as a queen and shares a bathroom with the third bedroom which is made up with two single beds. The special surprise in the 2nd bathroom is the sauna, the perfect remedy for those aches and pains after long days enjoying the incredible snow Niseko is renowned for.
"Perfect Family holiday house. We loved our stay at Zangetsu, the service we received from the moment we enquired to being picked up and dropped at the train station, was fantastic! Thank you we will stay again! " (Hilary, Australia)
Zangetsu is located in the lower Hirafu Vilage within easy walking distance of the village shuttle which runs every 10 minutes to deliver you to the Center 4 chair, the Ace Family Chair or the Hirafu Gondola. It is also close to Rin Restaurant, a number of other eateries and the famous fridge door Bar Gyu+. For those times when you'd rather enjoy time at home the sleek modern kitchen comes fully equipped and ready to prepare a feast for the troops. If you'd like to know more about Zangetsu take a look at the clip below or check out our property page for all the details.
Due to an increased interest in bookings for the 2021 /22 winter but a continuing lack of clarity on the possibility of international travel Holiday Niseko has updated it's booking policy to fit with the current conditions and your needs.
For anyone wishing to lock in their favourite Holiday Niseko accommodation for winter 2021/22 we are asking for no money down until September 2021. That means you can secure the accommodation of your choice without the risk. If by August it has been confirmed that travel from your country will be possible at the dates you have booked we will ask for a 20% deposit due by September 1st, 2021 to hold your booking going forward. Your balance will then be due 60 days prior to your arrival. Should things change between times and government imposed travel restrictions make travel at your dates not possible we will give you a credit for what ever amount you have paid, which can be used for any accommodation booking with us valid until April 2024.
If you are keen to lock something in and have an incredible holiday in Niseko to look forward to or you have any questions please feel free to contact us anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can view our terms and conditions here.
Many people who travel to Hokkaido will often not see much more than Chitose Airport and the resort area of Niseko. While this is in fact more than enough adventure for most and makes for an incredible ski holiday, with just a little deviation from the more well trodden path there is a whole island of adventures to embark on. Just an hour and a half by car lies Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido and 5th largest in Japan. This vibrant metropolis is of course a detsination of its own full of fantastic eatieries, restaurants and shopping opportunities. It also has plenty of open spaces to enjoy with some fantastic hiking trails and beautiful parks dotted through out.
Incredibly depite freezing temperatures and meters of snowfall every year the city barely bats an eyelid at a climate that could be described as siberian. The snow or the temperatures don't slow the city down a bit and many parks including are maintained year round for the city folk and tourists a like to enjoy. One such park is Maruyama Park or Maruyama Koen in Japanese.
The park is home to the largest shrine in Hokkaido, the Hokkaido Jingu. The shrine area of the park is dotted with statues, shrines and tori gates and if you have never experienced this side of Japan it is a unique way to do so amongst the snowy surrounds. You can wander freely through out the park, sharing it with commuters, photographers and sightseers alike. Crows will caw in the trees waiting for a passerby to drop some crumbs and you will often see squirells darting accross the path. School kids also shuffle their way through the snow on their way to class.
Maruyama park stretches over 70 hectares and also includes a zoo and sports facilities. In the spring it is one of the most popular spots in the city for Hanami, a celebration of the annual cherry blossom bloom, these aspects of the park are an adventure in themselves and best saved for another story. If you happen to be in Sapporo during the winter and are loking for a unique and easily accessed experience why not take a look at the winter wonders Maruyama Koen has to offer.
Getting there is easy and the city's excellent subway system will have you there in minutes. You will need to first make your way to Sapporo station or any subway station on the Tozai line and from there simply jump on the subway on the Tozai line and head to Maruyama, all fare information and stops are clearly sign posted in English. You can buy a day pass for just ¥830 giving you the freedon to explore more of the city too. If you do stop by Sapporo on your way to or from Niseko Maruyma makes for a quick change of pace from the busy city and in the winter is a unique experience fusing culture and the outdoors. Once you've done a lap of the park and shrine area you will have worked up an appetite and one of the best lunches you will find is a steaming bowl of world famous Sapporo ramen but that too is another story..
Once you've done a lap of the park and explored shrine area you will have worked up an appetite and one of the best lunches you will find is a steaming bowl of world famous Sapporo ramen but that too is another story..
If you have ever visited Niseko the first thing you will usually remember is the snow! The amount of snow the area gets is really quite incredible with many years seeing more than 15m of snowfall a season. So far this winter has been no different with countless deep dry powder days through December and January.
Now depending on where you are from, the snow you will see in Niseko is probably going to be the most you've ever seen in you life. Where I am from in New Zealand it might snow to sea or city level 2 or maybe 3 times a year and when it does roads close and cities and towns are brought to a standstill. Here in Hokkaido of course this is far from the case.The familiar shot above shows the mainstreet of Hirafu Village free of snow due of course to road heating but even with the road heating the snow has been known to stop buses in their tracks! So how does the area deal with so much snow?
The answer is simple, they do so by the truck load! The machine you see above is a mighty Rotary Jyosetsushya or rotary snow blowing machine, that in part makes life here in Hokkaido possible through the long snowy winter. Of course they don't work alone are assisted by an army of tire shovels, fleets of dumptrucks and plenty of hardy men and women regulating things with glowing sticks.
Just a few kilometers down the road from Hirafu lies Kutchan, which according to wikapedia is one of the snowiest towns on earth. During the winter space becomes a premium as every spare inch is slowly but surely taken up by snow. The only relief is the truck loads of it that are removed on a daily basis, freeing up roads, foot paths and driveways.
When the snow is falling public roads are cleared with clock work efficiency but for every grader pass the snow banks encroach a little further onto the roads until many morph into a one way impassable for two cars at a time. Until the Josetsushya and its many support vehicles return to clear the streets and fill the trucks once again.
The endless tonnage of snow is taken to snow dumps on the outskirts of the town where it sits until the spring rains help it on its journey back to whence it came, back into the sea of Japan.
Winter 2021 is in full swing and showing no signs of slowing down, the amount of snow is quite incredible and even after spending many winters in Hokkaido the snow Niseko has received this winter amazes on a daily basis. Everyday cars need to be dug out as do driveways, roads and roofs. Aside from the admin though the skiing and snowboarding just keeps getting better and better, the snow has been in a word incredible.
So is this a big winter for Niseko? We'd love to say "yes 2020/21 has been the biggest in years" but in fact it is just plain old average. This is illustrated in the graph below which shows average snowfall (black dotted line), this seasons snowfall (blue line) and last years snow fall (yellow line) in our neighbouring Kutchan town. The Niseko United resort area has received even more snow than what the graph shows but this does illustrate the fact the incredible winter so far has been just plain old average.
So after last winters below average snowfall we are right back to normal, a happy reminder of just how much snow the area gets, it's consistency and just how good the skiing and snowboarding really is here. It isn't just the good times on the mountain either, the entire landsacpe is transformed into a winter wonderland where even a trip the the convenience store is an experience in itself.
As amazing as the winter is, the resort has been decidedly quiet which has been fantastic for our domestic guests but the place is a definitely lonely without you guys! We are confident this year will be a one off and hope that we will be able to welcome you back soon!
Opening day is always an exciting one, you've waited the whole summer and a seemingly an even longer autumn and finally the day has arrived! Now you're standing in line for the first chair of the winter, your gear is waxed, the new jacket and pants are looking aweseome, boots still feel good and you're ready to roll. Hope the technique's still there!
Opening day 2020 was no different and Hirafu / Hanazono was the place to be. What made this opening day just a little bit more special was the fact that it had been snowing for a week solid leading up to it and things were looking epic! With a mixture of clear skys and light snow the weather was good and while waiting in line occaisional snowflakes fluttered down illuminated by the sun behind, winter was here and it felt great! For those lucky enough to be in attendance lift lines were predictably sparse too. Over the hill at Niseko Village things were also looking powdery check out the video below for a glimpse at how things were on that side of the hill.
With almost 1 meter of snow to kick things off excitement levels were predictably high and there was some awesome skiing to be had. Although 1 meter sounds like a considerable amount of snow the resort still has a long way to go before everything is accessible as is usually the case this early in December. There was of great skiing on the piste and some fun powder turns to be had on the sides of the courses as you can see from the video below.
Over all it was a great start to the 2020 winter for Niseko at least in terms of snow. The streets are quite empty as is the accommodation for most of December until around Christmas when a never seen before influx of domestic guests will arrive to make the most of the powder and discounted room rates. We look forward to things getting back to normal so that we can welcome both domestic and international guests back to the snowy Niseko we all love.
Nero is one of the latest properties to be added to the Holiday Niseko portfolio and it is an exceptional one. Nero is your Niseko gateway to indulgence, a no expenses spared snow chalet that can be seen to rival any other in the area. Spread over 3 luxurious floors this 4 bedroom property is your ultimate Niseko home away from home.
On the ground floor you will find the 3 guest bedrooms all of course ensuited and tastfully appointed, 2 with views out accross the tree tops. Comfort of course is well accounted with all floors heated and cozy. As we move up the stairs or the elevator if you prefer, the 2nd floor holds another 3 of the buildings gems. The sauna, the hot tub and master bedroom.
Enter the jacquzi area with genrously sized tub where you can soak away the aches and pains of the day whilst sipping a glass of crisp glass of champagne. If a sauna is more to your liking enjoy the sumptuous heat as you peak out accross the forest and beyond.
Now if you are lucky enough to be the one or two staying in the master bedroom simply step through from the sauna to the double rain showers that you'll find in the luxurious master ensuite. The master bedroom is as opulent as it is spacious with a moveable Bang & Ollufsen television, incredible floor to ceiling windows, lush carpets and furnishings and of course the forementioned his and hers twin showers in the ensuite. From here lay your self down for the night in the incredible master suite or head up stairs for cocktails with the team.
On the third floor you will find the spacious kitchen, dining and lounge areas. Dine in style around the large dining table which has 3 built in hot pot hot plates perfect for nabe, shyabu shyabu or sukiyaki. If it's sushi or a roast dinner on the menu the hot plates are covered seamlessly. If you are cooking yourself or bringing in a chef the kitchen is fully equipped with Meile appliances and bench and cooking space a plenty.
Once dinner is done you can drop down a level to the ample lounge suite enjoy an after dinner tipple, watch the snowfalkes fall or take in a movie on the 85 inch Bang & Ollufsen television. Not quite ready sit down? Why not grab a beer, rack up the balls and make the most of the Italian made pool table all while enjoying your favourite tunes through the state of the art stereo system.
When the day is finally done guests can retire to their respective rooms, sleep deeply, wake to more fresh snow and head to the slopes and do it all again. Sleep, ski, indulge and repeat. If you'd like to know more about this incredible property please feel free to contact us anytime (email@example.com).
The 2020/21 winter for better or worse is going to be a bit different to usual in Niseko with unfortunately little or no international tourism possible, at least for the moment. Due to the subsequent decrease in customers there have been some changes made to the lift operations and opening dates.
Grand Hirafu, Hanazono and Niseko Village are scheduled to open on the 5th of December, about 2 weeks later than usual . Annupuri plans to open on November 28th, which fingers crossed should go ahead as planned as snow is forecasted throughout this week.
lucky for those that will be able to visit there aren't too many changes to what lifts will run this winter with Hirafu being the only resort choosing not to run all of their lifts. Not running this winter will be the Ace pair Lift # 1, Ace Pair Lift #3, Ace Pair # 4, KIng Pair Lift #1, King Quad #2. The major change that this brings is that it will leave Hirafu without a terrain park chair.
The good news however is this leaves the staple lifts such as the Gondola, Ace Quad Quad (Center 4) and the King Hooded Quad open for business. Night skiing will run from 2020/12/19 - 2021/3/7 on the Ace Family and Ace Quads chairs. You can view the full trail map here.
Another major change for the winter will be the lack of lessons being taught, with Go Snow the areas largest ski school removing group lessons from their programme and only offering private lessons. Many other smaller schools have paused operations for the winter but will no doubt be back in operation for next winter.
For those lucky enough to be in Japan and looking for a private instructor Go Snow, Niseko Black and Pure Hokkaido are options for the 2020/21 winter.
The first snow for the 2020/21 winter has arrived here in Hirafu. The snow to village level began on November 9th 2020, with snow to the base of Hirafu pushing away the subtle colours of autumn and replacing them with the stark yet beautiful black and white vistas that define the Niseko winter landscape.
The snow continued through the night transforming the area back into a winter wonderland with almost 40cm to shovel off the car in the morning.
Aside from the admin excitement levels are high and we are hoping this will be the start of an epic winter.
There is just something about that first real snow fall that brings out the kid in all of us, maybe it is incredible transformation or perhaps just that it marks the beginning of another of the incredible winters that have put Niseko on the map.
Although the lifts aren't open yet first tracks were taken by the keen skiers and riders keen to earn their turns and by the eager powder hounds below!
The transformation from autumn to winter was as abrupt as it was spectacular and we can't wait to bring you more beautiful winter scenes from Hirafu, Niseko and the greater Hokkaido area. Winter is back, already looking great and we cant wait until the lifts start turning!