Sunday, March 14, 2010

Niseko Addresses

Niseko is the one of the most popular winter resorts in the Hokkaido island in Japan. The area is known for some of the lightest and driest off-piste powder snow in the world. Among the over 500 ski resorts in Japan, Niseko is a unique place that will make every skier or snowboarder happy no matter what the weather or snow conditions.

Although it is divided up into four linked areas, Annupuri, Higashiyama (also known as Niseko Village but not the main base area), Hanazono and Grand Hirafu, making it the biggest ski resort in Hokkaido, Niseko is essentially one large mountain. The all-mountain-pass provides access to all the areas with the exception of Moiwa, a smaller resort on the western side of Annupuri. A free shuttle bus service for all-mountain-pass holders runs every 30 minutes linking all the main resorts.

Skiers are able to use the 38 lifts and gondolas, over 47km of slopes, several terrain parks and many half-pipes. Hirafu's night skiing is accessible with the all-day passes at no additional cost, and is considered to be one of the best and largest night skiing in the world.

The bottom lift starts at 280 meters and the top lift goes to 1200 meters. The summit at 1308 meters is accessible after a 15-minutes hike from the top lift, and offer an amazing panoramic view of the Japan Sea and the Niseko area, including the ever-present volcanic cone of Mt. Yotei considered as Hokkaido’s Mt. Fuji.

The best option is to get your hands on the Niseko Area Guide from the Niseko Promotion Board. The guide will give you all the latest options for food, bar, shopping, hot springs, and activities.


Kanronomori Hotel

  • Hotel Kanronomori is a boutique Ryokan style hotel located 10 minutes away by bus from the bottom of the Annupuri ski slopes. The hotel provides free bus transportation from and to Annupuri (every hour) and to and from Grand Hirafu (twice a day) for ski activities. The hotel also provides ski/board rental at a moderate price.

    The best part about the hotel is neither the modest yet convenient and quiet rooms, nor the giant Western and Japanese breakfast buffets, but the natural Onsen (hot spring public baths) that will help you to manage the very long days on the slopes. I cannot imagine what would have been my trip without my morning AND evening hot spring bath to wake or relax my muscles. A must-do if you want to enjoy a long stay in Niseko. [TripAdvisor]

  • Higashiyama (also known as Niseko Village) is hosting the famous Hilton Hotel, and is certainly a very convenient but slightly remote place to stay. If you want to sleep in style and have your ski lifts literally at the bottom of your hotel stairs, Hilton will be the place to go. Please notice that commuting time (20 minutes - 3,000 yen by taxi) to Grand Hirafu could be a problem if you wish to enjoy night life.
  • For more action-based and less commuting time (30 minutes - 4,000 yen by taxi), a a better bet would be the Grand Hirafu ski resort area. You will find many restaurants, bars and many more accommodations to make your stay more enjoyable. An interesting combination would be a place with an Onsen at Grand Hirafu.


The food in Niseko is usually fresh and amazing. It's quite difficult to find a bad place to eat but you can always try. Some of the places I tried during my stay in the area:
  • Steak Rosso Rosso (Ph: 0136 21 7100)
    Hidden in a side road of the lower Grand Hirafu village, this classy steak restaurant offers a great option for a carnivore on the roll. Salads are huge and make a great side dish for your choice cut of meat. Plates come with a round heated stone disk for you to adjust your meat's level of 'done' taste in case of need.

  • Sekka Dining Bar (Ph: 0136-21-5022; Email: )
    Sekka is a restaurant within J-Sekka. Located in one of the four corners of the main crossroads of the Grand Hirafu village, J-Sekka is a concept building where you can find a bar as well as a bakery on the first floor, large luxurious apartments and two restaurants in the basement. Mixing Hokkaido products with Western presentation, world-class chef deliver one of the most high service restaurant option in the region. For those who wants to splurge themselves with a credit card around their neck.

  • Senchou 2 (Ph: 0136 22 5454)
    Situated in the upper part of the Grand Hirafu village, the sister restaurant of Senchou 1 is one of best and freshest seafood restaurant in the area. For those who wants to eat sushi and sashimi, shellfish, fish, crabs, anything from the sea without bargaining on the quality. Fairly cheap, great and well-located, what else can you ask for?

Niseko is not the most alive place in Japan when it comes to night life, but after a full day (and sometime evening) of ski, one might just want to sleep to recoup for the next day. If you feel that you wish to swallow a couple of drinks to help you fall in the arms of Morpheus, here are some places you should check out.
  • Paddy McGintys' Irish Pub (Ph: 0136 55 8020)
    Located on the main road of the Upper Part of the Grand Hirafu village, the pub has some Guinness over the counter and some extreme ski movies projected on the wall to help you eat the crackers served at your table. Only if you need an Irish drink.

  • Mina Mina (Ph: 0136 23 4771)
    In a back alley close to the center of the Upper Part of the Grand Hirafu, the 5-table restaurant turns at night into a convivial bar where locals and foreigners mix for few shots. A great place to hang out before going to the next place.

[[To Go]]

  • The best way to go to Niseko is to land in Sapporo's New Chitose Airport, and from there take a bus or a local train to Niseko. Most of the hotels, pensions or accommodations will organize a transfer from Chitose, or if not, will point you to the best way to knock on their door.

  • Skybus for a private transportation (Ph: 011 788 4994) or privates buses (Chuo and Donan lines, see option 2, or this map, and some more explanation here) are common use to go back and forth between Chitose and Niseko. You can buy the bus ticket at the airport counters on the last minute.

  • Train Hypermedia website ( gives a full explanation for every train trip in Japan. Don't forget to look at the JR Train Pass if you wish to go further away in Japan by train in the peninsula.

  • Niseko itself is quite spread away between the villages in terms of distance and if you do not rent a car, the best way to move around would be by taxi. Most of them hang around at Seico Mart the main and only supermarket of the Grand Hirafu village.

  • The most convenient Tour Operators to book for Japan are your local JTB (Japan Tourism Board) [Singapore] or local JNTO [Singapore]. They usually offer great promotions and will help you book and translate for you at the next destination you plan to visit.

  • New Chitose Airport is a great last (or even first) minute shopping. Everything you need to by is at a finger tip for your friends to enjoy.