Niseko Travel Blog› entry 3 of 4 › view all entries
Niseko is found on the northern island of Japan, a 2.5 hour drive from Sapporo airport. Niseko actually comprises of six different villages; we stayed in Hirafu, and the other villages are accesible by bus. Mt Yotei stands impressively in the near-distance - we didn't need to see Mt Fuji with this view from our window and the ski field!
We stayed at Kamakura apartments, a 2-storey, 3-bedroom self-contained apartment in a block of four and about 10 minutes walk from one of the gondolas. The apartment was great; it had a full kitchen, plasma TV, 3 bathrooms and masses of room, as well as a common drying room near the entrance of the block.
Most people visit Niseko for the snow, of course - that wonderful Japanese powder that snowboarders and skiiers can only dream about in Australia. And although we were visiting on the tail end of the season (technically spring), Niseko didn't disappoint, snowing big fat flakes, coating the village in a lovely layer and basically making you feel like you're living in a giant snow dome. The best thing about Niseko (after the snow itself) is the enclosed gondolas which are basically cable cars - snowboards and skis go on the outside, you sit in relative warmth and comfort while you travel up the mountain, and no boarding off the ramp at the top - you climb out of the gondola, pick up your board/skis, and walk out onto the slopes. Heaven!
Over the course of the next 5 days, I explored all the main parts of the mountain, including Higashiyama, Hanazono and Annupuri (as well as Hirafu, the main/easiest part to access for us).
As for nightlife, Hirafu is full of mostly small bars and restaurants, varying in price and ambience, although on the whole eating and drinking is expensive. Places we visited included the token Irish pub, Paddy McGinty's which gave B his Kilkenny fix; Asahikawa-ramen Tozanken, a little, reasonably priced ramen restaurant; a bar with a loft, pool tables and older foreigners singing bad karaoke; the hotel at Annupuri where we had a mixed Japanese/Chinese/Western buffet lunch for 1,800 yen; Herbie's, a round bar in a tent (closed now, as the night we visited was its last night in operation); an expensive sake bar; Red Bar, across the road from our apartment which serves as a Nepalese restaurant when the guys aren't playing psy-trance and watching movies; and an ambient, wooden cafe (forgot the name) in the main village which serves great sandwiches, if you don't mind people smoking while you eat food.
One night, K and I visited an onsen which was part of a hotel near the bottom of one of the slopes. Most onsens are segregated, as this one was, so I was on my own trying to desperately remember the etiquette for undressing, washing and bathing; I think I fared okay. This particular onsen had an outdoor pool with a bamboo fence around it for privacy, but you could see snow through the cracks and it made for a very peaceful experience. There was a pool inside as well as a spa bath. I'm pretty sure I did these in the wrong order, rather than slowly acclimatising my body to the heat (and the pools were hot). By the time I emerged, 50 minutes later, I was light-headed and very thirsty.