Niseko is located on the South Western side of Japan’s North Island, Hokkaido. To get there, fly into New-Chitose Airport, just outside Hokkaido’s capital of Sapporo, then transfer approximately 3 hours to Hirafu Village.
Niseko is a mecca for powder hounds, with the consistent powder or JaPow keeping visitors coming back every year. The unique weather pattern that Niseko receives is usually referred to as ‘The Lake Effect’. The Lake Effect is amplified here, winds cross the cold, vast and dry Siberian plains, which then collect moisture as they blow over the ‘lake’ in this instance, the Sea of Japan. When this front hits the land of the rising sun, these conditions provide the best conditions for light, dry, powder snow to fall, and lots of it. There you have it – the perfect (powder) storm!
Most of Niseko’s accommodation is located in Hirafu Village, which is nestled onto the side of Grand Hirafu ski area, with stunning views across the valley to Mt Yotei. Accommodation in the snow covered Hirafu Village can be split into Upper and Lower village areas. The most coveted locations are slope side and true ski in ski out in the upper village. Niseko’s Upper Village streets provide easy walking access to the Ace Quad chair and Hirafu Gondola. The Lower Village accommodation can be slightly cheaper, and require an uphill walk to the base area, or a quick shuttle bus trip to save the legs for the powder turns!
Wrapped around the base of the mountain is neighbouring Niseko Village, about a 15 minute drive on from Hirafu. Niseko Village is a resort area, mainly comprising of the ski in ski our Hilton and the Green Leaf Hotels and their dining and retail options.
Niseko United comprises of four ski areas, wrapping around the faces of Mt Annupuri – Annupuri, Niseko, Hirafu and Hanazono are all inter-linked at the summit for easy access. Combined these for areas equate to nearly 2,200 acres of skiable terrain.
Niseko boasts an annual average snowfall of 14m, which is why powder-lovers flock to the region. To compare to local Australian ski resorts generally get 2 or 3m a year. Night skiing is very popular in Niseko, the flood lit areas for night skiing are extensive, open until 8:30-9pm daily during most of the season, and included on our Niseko United lift pass. Cat skiing, off piste and tree skiing is also popular in Niseko, with lots of varied terrain and fresh powder pockets to be discovered.
Walking from the top to the bottom of Hirafu Village should only take 20 minutes - if you don’t get distracted along the way! We understand if that might be a little too much to handle after a day of waist deep powder turns, shuttle buses operate throughout the village on a number of routes, to get you where to need to go around Hirafu, Niseko Village & Hanazono.
How to Get to Niseko:
Flights from Australia into Niseko usually fly via Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong, althought Qantas has been talking about a direct Sydney to Niseko flight. From Tokyo it is only 1.5 hours into New-Chitose Airport and approximately 3 hours from the airport to Hirafu Village in Niseko. A range of carriers operate flights that connect easily to Niseko including Qantas, Japan Air Lines, Nippon Air, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific as well as low cost carriers Jetstar and Air Asia.
Chat to our team of ski speacialists to decide which airline is best for you; if you have time, you may like to add a stopover into your ski holiday.
Things to do in Niseko:
Got some downtime but haven’t had enough snow yet? Try Tubing, Snowshoeing or Snowmobiling! If you need a bit of a stretch or some downtime, try Powder Yoga & Pilates at the Aya in this beautiful space. Or relax at one of the local day spas for massage and treatments – try Aya Spa, or Ryko at the Skye. Alternatively, take the opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese Onsen. These natural hot springs are filled with water rich in mineral qualities, and work magic on sore muscles and leave skin soft and rejuvenated, try The Hilton or Yugokorotei.
There is lots of shopping in Hirafu village, keep an eye out for small shops and galleries featuring talented local artists, and traditional objects.
If you have a whole day to fill, take a day trip to the historic town of Otaru, and take in the shops, galleries and restaurants. We recommend Otaru Times Garten, and the incredible skill of glass blowing at KItaichi Glass.
Best Après in Niseko:
While après-ski is not very popular in smaller Japanese ski resorts, Niseko is quite developed and there are plenty of lively venues to explore during your ski holiday. We asked our team of ski and snowboard specialists for their favourites.
Niseko Taproom is the home of Hokkaido craft beer, choose from a selection of locally crafted brews and hearty mountain food. There are a selection of vegetarian and vegan meals as well as Whiskey, sake and gin for those who want a break from beer.
Every town needs a Mexican bar, and Niseko has Wild Bills! A mix of Mexican food with the Japanese influence, check their socials for weekly specials and events while you’re in town. No trip to Niseko is complete without a visit through the red fridge door to Bar Gyu+. Be greeted with a space far bigger than imagined, and a great cocktail menu.
Our last recommendation is Blo Blo, a great bar to chill out. Perch yourself on the large cushions and hide in the corner with a cocktail or beers late into the night. Make sure you try their delicious gyoza while you are there.
Best Restaurants in Niseko:
Japan is well know as being a foodies paradise and Niseko will not disappoint! Some of our favourite restaurants in Niseko operate multiple sites in the village, each with its own charm and style.
A-Bu-Cha is a must do while in Niseko! Try one of the many hot pots on offer, including traditional shabu shabu and sukiyaki, add on as many side dishes as you can fit in! Bang Bang is a super popular restaurant and has been a Niseko favourite for years. Try the yakitori, sashimi and ask the staff for a sake recommendation! Architecturally stunning, The Barn offers farm to table cuisine and a world wine list, original cocktails and Hokkaido Craft Beer, in the heart of Lower Hirafu Village.
Finally, for a delightful fine dining experience we recommend incredible Michelin star restaurant Kamimura, located at Hyatt House. Make sure to make reservations in advance if you have a specific place you want to eat, especially if travelling in a group or over peak travel dates.
Niseko is known for having incredible powder, while its hard not to get caught up in the lively apres scene, we recommend keeping an eye on the forcast to plan your big nights. If the weather predicts a good snow dump overnight, head up to the peak as early as possible to get the best untouched lines. Also, don't be afraid of the Pizza box lifts, they take you to some of the best terrain in Niseko.
If you have time to venture further, there are day trips to Rusutsu and Kiroro that depart Niseko daily. This is a great way to get a taste of some of the other resorts in Hokkaido, without committing to moving hotels!