Niseko is the premiere destination for powder chasers, bluebird enthusiasts, and all-round snow bunnies. If you’re looking for one of the best conditions to carve up in Japan, Niseko is the place to be. Its claim to fame is that over one winter season, it can experience up to 15 meters of snowfall! To put it in perspective, Australia measures their snowfall in millimeters, and anything over the few hundred millimeter mark is a cause for celebration.
Its snow is famously dry, super soft (like powder!), and comes in abundance. If you’re up early everyday and are one of the first ones on the ski field, you’ll be experience fresh tracks like never before. And with four incredibly massive main mountain resorts to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
For those chasing powder in winter in Japan, they say you haven’t really experienced it until you’ve visited Niseko, and for that reason alone, we recommend you spend a few days here to cover the entire mountain using the Niseko United All Mountain Pass (or just cover one or two, whichever floats your boat) to really make the most of your experience here.
Other than the fact that it may or may not house the best snow in the world, Niseko is incredibly popular during other seasons as well. Being located in Northern Japan means that summer here does not get as unbearable as the main Honshu island, and therefore you can enjoy outdoor activities such as golf, water rafting, and hiking without being worried about being burnt to a crisp or melting into a puddle.
How to get to Niseko
The easiest and quickest way to get to Niseko would be to take a flight to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, and then take a bus, train, or rented car to Niseko. The flight to and from Tokyo to Sapporo costs upwards from 5,500 yen for 1 person/one way.
The bus is the cheapest form of transport and it usually takes 3 hours, including a rest stop and some stopovers. This will cost 4,000 yen per person.
The train is a more scenic option, however it does take longer and requires more changes. You will need to catch the train from the basement level of the airport to Otaru, and then change trains to Kutchan, which is the closest station to Niseko. Once you get to Kutchan, you will need to catch a 15-minute taxi to the town. The entire trip will take around 3-4 hours, and may cost around 3,000 to 5,000 yen. If you plan to use the train often in Hokkaido, you may consider getting the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass.
Lastly, if you’re comfortable renting a car and driving in the snow, this is the most convenient option, as it allows you to hire one-way, make a stop for some food along the way, and return it at Kutchan. This will cost roughly 7,000 for 6 to 24-hour rental.
Where to Stay in Niseko
Guesthouse – Owashi Lodge
Considered to be one of the best sellers in Niseko, Owashi Lodge is a great choice for those not looking to spend over their budget but still want a relaxing and comfortable stay. It’s located literally just 100m from Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu, which is a massive bonus for those staying here during winter, because you can walk right out of the door and be at the chair lift in minutes.
It also provides entertainment in the huge shared lounge room, with a billiards table and a table tennis table, and enough spare for people to lounge in separately but still be comfortable. For convenience, there is an on-site restaurant as well as a convenience store and local restaurants close-by.
Why Guests Love It: The incredibly warming service by the staff has been commended over and over again; they will work with you to ensure you can get to and from the visitor’s center when you need to, they’ll help you plan your stay so that your time there is comfortable and well thought-out, and the location is fantastic according to everyone who’s stayed there. Also, for the price that you’re paying, the place is extraordinarily clean.
Book It Now: Owashi Lodge
Hotel – Ki Niseko
For the ultimate ski-in, ski-out resort, Ki Niseko should be your accommodation of choice. Its incredible service, perfect location, well-balanced amenities, and long list of wonderful features makes it a top-rated hotel in the area, so if you’re after a bit of luxe in the snow, we recommend booking this one in early.
Here, you’ll be located less than 100m away from the gondola at Niseko Mt Resort Grand Hirafu. Each room comes with a flat-screen TV, an en-suite bathroom, and great views of the surrounding mountains. You’ll be able to take advantage of the indoor and outdoor hot spring baths onsite after a long day of skiing (or hiking, or golfing).
Why Guests Love It: The staff are said to be incredibly mindful, friendly, and accommodating at Ki Niseko, making guests stays a whole lot more memorable. The modern and clean facilities were wholly welcomed after a long day at the slopes, and the wonderful Japanese and Western style dishes provided at the buffet breakfast are scrumptious.
Book It Now: Ki Niseko
Ryokan – Niseko Konbu Onsen Tsuruga Moku-no-sho
This ryokan is an absolute gem – it’s one of a kind. Niseko Kombu Onsen Tsuruga Mokushono leaves nothing to the imagination as it presents itself as a luxurious traditional style ryokan featuring an incredibly Zen hot spring bath, boasting breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, and housing some of the best hotel features in the region.
The rooms themselves are stunningly authentic, the lounging areas are nothing like you’ve seen before, and the multiple hot spring baths are absolutely to die for. As for location, it’s a tad further away from the main ski resorts than the aforementioned accommodations, but its stunning architecture and warming ambience of the ryokan absolutely make up for it.
Why Guests Love It: The rooms are just gorgeous, there’s nothing else to it. Everyone felt super relaxed at this ryokan, and it may have been because of the utterly tranquil surrounding scenery of the creek and the mountains. Some rooms come with a massage chair which totally helped those who came back after a long day at the slopes, and others still come with a private onsen which helped ease the muscles and reduce them to a puddle. The staff’s service has been described as on “another level”.
Book It Now: Niseko Konbu Onsen Tsuruga Moku-no-sho
Explore the Four Greats – Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri, & Hanazono
Hey guys, did you know that Niseko is famous for its snow? If you’ve missed it the first ten times that we’ve mentioned it, well, here it is again! And if you’re reading this, you’re probably after some information on whereabouts you should be going to experience this incredible snow. For your reference, there are four major ski resorts in Niseko. We will briefly run through each of them below so you have an idea about what you’re in for:
Niseko Grand Hirafu
This is the largest of all four of the resorts, and if you’re after an all-in-one ski destination that offers a bit of variety for a large group, this is the slope you should visit. Alongside a incredible variety of runs, it does host a kids snow park area where children can snow-tube and play around in a safe area in the snow. There are numerous ski lifts in Grand Hirafu for both skiiers and non-skiiers to ride up and then descend down to the base, where shops, bars and restaurants away.
- Address: 204 Yamada, Kutchan, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081, Japan
- Lift Pass: 4,900 yen (8 hours) / 5,500 yen (1 day) / 10,000 yen (2 days)
- No. of Courses: 30
- Hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Niseko Village offers some of the longest runs in Niseko, so for those chasing the pow, maybe give this resort a shot. It’s located on the southern-eastern side of the mountains, and offers a village atmosphere with a sprinkle of shops, restaurants and bars at the base. Relative to Niseko Grand Hirafu, it’s got a more relaxed vibe. The gondola here heads right up to the peak, and some of the steepest runs exist here. In saying that, there are also heaps of chairlifts that cater to novice skiiers as well.
- Address: Japan, 〒048-1592 Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, 虻田郡ニセコ町Higashiyama, 温泉
- Lift Pass: 5,000 yen (8 hours) / 5,500 yen (1 day) / 99,00 yen (2 days)
- No. of Courses: 27
- Hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Also located on the southern-eastern side of the mountain, Annupuri is even more laid-back than Niseko Village. It is marketed more towards families and those not looking for incredibly fast action in the snow. The slopes here are well maintained, and at the base there are plenty of natural onsens to choose form. The base also has a kid’s area.
- Address: Niseko-485 Niseko, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 048-1511, Japan
- Lift Pass: 4,600 yen (8 hours) / 5,000 yen (1 day) / 8,800 yen (2 days)
- No. of Courses: 13
- Hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Hanazono generally appeals to two types of skiiers: those who are looking to learn (as there is a dedicated area where beginners can practice), and those who want to rip it up at the park. It’s also great for families due to the variety of slopes available, and those looking to steer clear of the main crowds. For those after a bit of backcountry skiing, the off-piste Blueberry Fields and Strawberry Fields are popular destinations.
- Address: 328-36 Iwaobetsu, Kutchan, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0082, Japan
- Lift Pass: 4,900 yen (8 hours) / 5,500 yen (1 day) / 10,000 yen (2 days)
- No. of Courses: 8
- Hours: 8:30am – 4:00pm
If you want to try some guided backcountry skiing and snowboarding, we’ve got the perfect opportunity for you. Yohei hosts an epic tour during winter for intermediate to advance level snow enthusiasts, so if you’re interested, click on this link to learn more and book your tour!
By the way, if you are looking for more ski destinations in Japan, check out his blog post: Where to ski in Japan.
Explore the Foodie Side of Niseko
Niseko definitely doesn’t receive as much love for its food scene as much as it should. For those who are hitting it up for the slopes (or for the mountains in summer, whichever!), we recommend that you dedicate some time to check out some of the below, you’ll be doing yourself a favour!
A Michelin starred sushi restaurant offering some of the freshest sashimi and nigiri you’ll ever come across! Be taken on a food adventure as pair it up with some sake and wines.
- Address: Japan, 〒044-0081 Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kutchan, Yamada, 190-13 OdinPlace3階
- Hours: 5:30pm – 8:30pm (closed Thursdays)
Asahikawa Ramen Tozanken
Who doesn’t want to just smash down a bowl of epic hot ramen after a day up the mountains? It’s reasonably priced, it’s taste as heck, and they offer more than just ramen (although we highly, highly recommend the ramen). Be warned, during peak season there will be long lines.
- Address: 191-31 Yamada, Kutchan, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081, Japan
- Hours: 11:00am – late
Elvis King of Kebab
This tiny, unassuming food truck sits on one of the main streets of Niseko, and whilst you’d be forgiven if you didn’t give it a second glance, it’s definitely worth your time. We recommend that you order ‘the lot’, which also comes with a smearing of mashed potato (very Japanese) – we guarantee you’ll be dreaming of this for years to come.
- Address: 170-43 Yamada, Kutchan, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081, Japan
- Hours: Monday – Sat: 5:00pm – 9:00pm, Sun: 12:00am – 9:00pm
Experience Hot Air Ballooning in Hokkaido
Ever heard of a hot air balloon experience in Japan? Well, now you have! It’s one of the most underrated experiences ever, and we definitely want to shine more light on it. It’s fun, it’s easy to organize, and it’s a great activity for families as it is kid-friendly, as well as couples, because how romantic is a hot air balloon ride during the sunrise?
For your convenience, the team at klook have a great tour going on, which you can check out more information about here.
It’s one of the most affordable and fun ways to check out Niseko, so we strongly recommend dedicating one day to flying above this town! (Psst, try and get in during the morning, the views of the sunrise will be spectacular!).
Enjoy the Best of Summer by Rafting, Hiking, Golfing, and Horseback Riding
Once the snow melts away and it’s no longer a Winter Wonderland, Niseko becomes the adventure-seekers ultimate destination! The towering mountains and endless stretches of fields and roads make for a place filled with so many possibilities, so if you’re heading there during the warmer months, read on as we highlight just a few of the activities you can participate in.
Niseko is home to some of the most impressive (both in size and in scenic landscape) golf courses in the entirety of Japan. Imagine sinking a hole with the stunning snow-capped Mount Yotei just looming in the distance. Majestic, right? The Niseko Village Golf Course offers said stunning views, with 73 courses to suit all levels of golfers.
- Address: Japan, 〒048-1592 Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, 虻田郡ニセコ町 東山温泉
- Hours: 7:00am – 4:30pm
The 126km long Shiribetsu River is one of the most popular attractions in Niseko in summer. It’s a great spot for fly-fishing, picnicking, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, and white water rafting.
Address: Shiribetsu River
You can’t go to Niseko in summer and not plan at least one hike. It boasts an impressive number of trails for people of all fitness levels, with set trails that can take you all the way up the mountain where you’ll be greeted with fantastic views that stretch on endlessly.
Niseko is a wonderful place for people of all ages, with all different types of interests, at any time of the year. It truly is that versatile. It’s another side of Japan that visitors hardly consider if they’re not chasing powder, but we reckon it’s one of the most entertaining places, and if deep down you’ve got an adventurous spirit, make sure Niseko is on your list.
If you want to visit more places in Hokkaido, feel free to check out these blog posts: Hokkaido Travel Blog.
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