Getting to Niseko FAQs

Our Most Asked Questions on Hirafu Village

Are there child minding services in Niseko?

Niseko Babysitters located in Aya offers child care services. Reservations can be made through their website.

What other activities are available in the Niseko Resort Area if I don’t want to go skiing?

Niseko’s main attraction in winter is the snow.  Most non-skiing activities revolve around snow including snowmobiling, snow shoeing, horse riding and dog sledding.  For shopping or cultural experiences you will have to travel outside the resort area to either Otaru city or Sapporo city.  Trains run frequently from Kutchan station to Otaru city.

Is there an international ATM in Hirafu Village?

Yes, there will be an ATM located in Shiki Niseko that accepts Visa and Mastercard.  The main post office in Kutchan (8km's from Hirafu village) also accepts most international cards as well as the 7/11 convenience store near Coop supermarket in Kutchan.

Do restaurants and shops accept credit cards or travelers cheques?

Most bars and restaurants in the Niseko Ski resort do NOT accept credit cards or travelers cheques.  Restaurants that do accept credit cards may charge an extra service fee. Ski rental and ski goods stores accept credit cards and lift tickets can be purchased by credit card.

Can I exchange money in the village?

It is possible to exchange money in the village however it is advisable to exchange money at the airport where the rates are better.

What kind of restaurants are in Niseko?

With over 40 restaurants in Hirafu village and around 200 places to dine at in the Niseko Resort Area there is no shortage of options.  From traditional Japanese to Western style and from fine dining to burger and chips, something to suit all tastes can be found. 
Every winter the Niseko Promotion Board publishes a free wine and dine guide for the Niseko Resort Area.  Information in English is provided for the restaurants and bars in Niseko.

How much does the average meal cost in Niseko?

For middle of the range dining, lunches cost around 1,200 yen, evening meals cost around 2,000-5,000yen per person.  Naturally you can dine a lot cheaper or spend a lot more depending on the restaurant.  The free Niseko food and wine guide provides more detail to each restaurants typical dishes and prices.

Do the restaurants in Niseko cater to vegetarians or vegans?

Most restaurants have a vegetarian option on their menus. Most Japanese are familiar with the English term “vegetarian” but often are not sure what it means. Bacon and fish stock may appear in some “vegetarian” dishes. It is always advised to check with the wait staff before ordering.  Often the chef can leave out the meat or fish from some dishes if requested. For some useful phrases and more information, check out the Japan Veg Guide.

Do I need to make reservations for restaurants in Hirafu, Niseko?

During the peak periods of Christmas/New Year and Chinese New Year it is recommended to make reservations. Most restaurants have English speaking staff. Outside of these times you generally only need to make a reservation if you have a large group or want to dine at a popular restaurant.

Do I need to tip in the Niseko Ski Resort?

Tipping is not customary in Japan and you should not leave a tip at your restaurant table as the wait staff will probably think you forgot your change and will chase after you to return it.

Can I use my mobile phone in Niseko?

Yes, however it is recommended that you check with your service provider before coming to Japan to check charges etc.
 

Can I use a two way radio while skiing?

Australian and New Zealand UHF-CB/PRS radios are strictly prohibited in Japan as they use the same frequency as Japanese television and radio broadcasts. Possession or use of such radios is illegal and may lead to imprisonment or heavy fines.

Is it easy to get around Niseko speaking English only?

Generally it is very easy to get around speaking English only. Most signs and restaurant menus are in English.  Most Japanese have studied English at school but not many can speak it well. Simple written English is generally understood. There will be situations where English is not understood at all.  A simple phrase book and notebook and pen is quite useful to bring.

What's the average winter temperature around the village?

The average winter temperature in Hirafu Village is -7 °C. On the mountain temperatures can get as low as - 25°C especially during night skiing hours.  Neck warmers during skiing are recommended.

Where's the closest place to get some groceries?

Within the village there are 2 small supermarkets that stock a wide range of groeries. There are also two convenience stores in Hirafu Village, Seicomart and Lawson. Both sell alcohol, cigarettes and a limited range of foodstuffs.

I want to do a decent grocery shop, is there a big supermarket nearby?

There are a couple of small to medium sized supermarkets in Hirafu. Kutchan town is 8km from the resort and has 3 large supermarkets. Local buses and night buses go frequently from the ski resort to Kutchan. Taxis are also available from Hirafu village. The cost is around 2,000yen one way. Taxis use a fixed meter system for fares.

I want to buy some souvenirs, are there souvenir shops in the village?

Yes, there are several souvenir shops with a large range of goods. The Alpen Hotel has a good range of items.

Are the Niseko Ski and snowboard lessons in English?

Yes, Holiday Niseko recommends Niseko International Snowports School (NISS) which has over 100 instructors from around the world and offers a large range of group and private lessons at two locations.

What happens if I get injured in the Niseko backcountry?

If you are injured in the backcountry and require evacuation you will have to bear the rescue costs which are expensive.  If you are planning to venture into the Niseko backcountry make sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage.

What happens if I get sick in Niseko?

The closest medical facilities are in Kutchan. The cost of treatment is high in Japan and you are expected to pay the whole cost of any treatment you receive.  The Kutchan hospital is well equipped and staff highly trained.  Some Japanese doctors may be able to speak English and there is also a volunteer interpreter available. Make sure you have medical insurance before coming to Niseko.

I have a minor sprain or ache, is there an English speaking physio in Niseko?

Yes, Niseko Physio staff are Australian registered physiotherapists with extensive knowledge of winter sport strains and injuries.

Can I get rental ski/snowboard boots to fit my feet?

Yes, Several Australian based ski and snowboard rental shops operate in Niseko during winter and have a large selection of boots and skis to suit all sizes. Holiday Niseko can help arrange your ski rentals.

Where can I check the Niseko Snow report and Niseko forecast?

The current Niseko snow forecast, snow depth and weather forecast can be found at snow-forecast.com

What hot springs are there in Niseko?

In Hirafu village there is:

  • Yukoro onsen (lower village)
  • Hirafu-Tei (upper village)
  • J-First hotel (upper village)
  • Popolo (upper village)
Crime, safety and the law.

Niseko like the rest of Japan has a very low crime rate and is a safe place to visit with children. In recent years there have been a small number of reported petty crimes such as jackets going missing from late night bars. A very small number of unattended snowboards and skis have also been reported missing from the base of the ski field in the past.

If you are arrested in Japan, even for a minor offence, expect to spend 21 days in police custody while your case is investigated.  Bail is seldom granted to foreigners.  Japan has a zero tolerance policy towards drug crime and there are severe penalties for any drug offences.

General Etiquette

Skiing or snowboarding on the streets is strictly forbidden.
It is impolite to eat or drink anything in supermarkets and convenience stores even after the food or drink has been paid for.
Take your shoes off when entering someone's home or pension in Japan. Please do not step on the welcome wooden mat with your shoes on. If there are tatami mats or raised floor areas remove your shoes.
In mountain restaurants please clean up after yourself.

We have 3 young children aged 3-8. Is Niseko suitable for families?

A lot of families come to Niseko. They have excellent International ski schools here for children 3 years of age and up. Our preferred and recommended ski school is NISS ski school. And they also do half-day skiing lessons for kids, morning and afternoon. I'd recommend half day lessons for your children, unless you want the whole day to yourselves to ski that is. Niseko is reasonably cold, around -5 to 0 degrees in the village and -5 to -10 degrees on the hill. So good quality outwear is essential as well as goggles. Sunglasses are no good during Dec, Jan and Feb.
There are a lot of restaurants and bars in the village as well. Also shops but not what you'd call a shoppers paradise.
If you like powder snow then this is definitely the place to come. Niseko is up there in the top resorts in the world for snowfall. 13-15 meters per-season. But keep in mind due to high snowfalls, sunny days are few especially during Jan and Feb.

Is booking direct with local property companies like Holiday Niseko alot cheaper than dealing with agents in Australia/HK/Singapore etc?
I'm not sure if it's a lot cheaper. But cheaper yes as you'll be dealing direct with the source. Also as we live in Niseko year round and offer a large variety of properties here I'm confident we can provide a superior level of service. Also we can arrange airport transfers between Sapporo's Chitose airport and Niseko, lift tickets, equipment rentals and lessons. As well as give free advice on traveling in Japan.
We can't book flights but can offer advice on booking them yourself.
Lastly while you're here in Niseko we'll be looking after your stay here. i.e picking you up from the station in Niseko, checking you in the property and showing you around the village when you arrive, then dropping you off when you depart. As well as helping out while you're here if needed e.g getting medical assistance, booking day tours etc.
Where is good area to stay in Hirafu?

Lower village
Pros: Cheaper rates, close to Yukoro hot spring, walking distance to the main shopping and dining area, smaller buildings creating a more intimate feel
Cons: Uphill to get to the lifts so most take the free shuttle bus to get there, but often walk back as it is downhill

Near family ace lift
Pros: Easy walking distance to main shopping and dining area, ski in ski out or easy walking distance to lifts
Cons: Rates are most expensive in the village, family ace lift can get a bit congested in the morning

Near Hirafu Gondola
Pros: 100-200 meter walk to the all new 8 seater gondola and day center. Rates more reasonable than accommodation near family ace lift but still expensive
Cons: Bit of a hike to the main shopping and dining area in town, about a 5-7 minute walk (400-500 meter walk). You could take the shuttle bus but stops at 9pm

Above the Seicomart and between the family ace lift and the gondola 
Pros: Easy walking distance to main shopping and dining area. Some properties are easy walking distance to the family ace lift, some are not so close 
Cons: More expensive than lower village accommodation

Izumikyo Areas 
Pros: Cheaper rates than most other areas in the village. Quiet and peaceful area. 
Cons: Izumikyo 2 is 1km to the main shopping and dining area in the main village. You can take the free shuttle bus during the day but it stops at 9pm.

 



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