Follow our CEO and Founder Stephanie Chai as she stays at Niseko’s newest luxury property, Setsu Niseko.
One perk of working at The Luxe Nomad is there’s always somewhere new to visit. After a rather long three years, I was pleased to finally be heading back to Niseko, Japan.
Arguably Asia’s leading ski destination, Niseko is home to the famous JAPOW (“Japanese Powder” aka very soft fluffy snow) and some fantastic food options thanks to Hokkaido’s fresh produce. What was once a quiet ski town is now fast becoming an international ski destination for the advent skier (or Instagrammer in designer gear!).
I was lucky enough to stay at the newest property in town, Setsu Niseko, and attend its grand opening. My colleague and I chose to drive from New Chitose Airport—well, he drove since I don’t have a license, ha! To be fair, this was an easy drive albeit we did circle around a lake twice due to my Google Maps failings. Two hours later, we reached Setsu Niseko located in Middle Hirafu.
Once you enter Setsu’s lobby, you’re greeted by a sight of dark velvet tones, a beautiful fireplace, and notable art pieces such as Kohei Nawa’s PixCell-Deer. The service at Setsu is world-class, and I’m welcomed by Yumi who checks us in quickly.
We stayed in the 2-bedroom Tatami Apartment which had a lovely view of the resort. I loved the light timber used throughout the apartment as it gave the rooms a very light feeling. As for first impressions, the bedrooms are spacious and my bathroom is huge.
About 100 sqm in size, the apartment is designed to feel spacious: there are traditional soji screens, built-in window daybed seating, and in-suite Tatami spaces that seamlessly extend the living space for families and groups. The extensive use of natural wood, complemented by local artwork, creates a home that is warm and inviting.
Setsu has indoor and outdoor onsens as well as public and private ones, making “sanctuary” an apt word to describe the resort. They are kept in an ideal temperature of 40°C, perfect for relaxation and healing. Not only are onsens known to help calm the mind, it also releases muscle tension, and renews your energy–tons of mental and physical benefits, and all the more reason to get a good soak in.
To cap off the experience, guests can choose to visit the Onsen Lounge, sauna, or the cool dipping pool.
Rikka means “snow” in Japanese, and Rikka Spa is as beautiful and intricate as the hexagonal snowflake it was inspired by. All their spa treatments and programs are curated by the award-winning Lapidem Tokyo, well-known for titles like Best Luxury Spa and Best Day Spa in Japan.
Rikka Spa uses a selection of Lapidem products that focus on natural ingredients, such as local seasonal herb compresses sourced within Niseko. Calming and holistic, one session immerses you in the practice of Eastern medicine while “harnessing the ancient spa rituals of local plant and herbal healing therapies and techniques.”
Setsu Niseko has 7 restaurants on-site that offer a wide range of cuisines, all while serving Hokkaido’s natural flavors and produce on a silver platter. Here are some we loved:
- méli mélo for all-day gastro dining with French and Italian cuisine. They use only locally-sourced vegetables, meat, and seafood prepared with a sophisticated art of cooking. The restaurant, positioned on the ground floor, gives guests a dramatic view of Mount Yotei. Good to know: there are private rooms for more intimate and exclusive gatherings.
- Afuri, named after the sacred Mount Afuri, is famous worldwide for its delicious ramen that focuses on the quality and purity of the water used for the broth. If not for their freshly-made ramen, their bite-sized delicacies and signature cocktails will make you go for another round.
- Sushi Kato INORI serves the ultimate ocean-to-table Japanese kaiseki experience (a traditional multi-course dinner). Expect the freshest seafood like sea urchin, hairy crab, fresh flounder, enormous scallops, and fatty tuna caught only the night before and served in an intimate and authentic setting. With over 50 years of experience and a stellar reputation across Sapporo and Niseko, an evening here is a gastronomic journey of the finest quality–a must-try when in Niseko.
- Tempura Araki is the sister restaurant of Sapporo’s two-Michelin star restaurant, Tempura Araki and offers traditional Omakase. Guests are in for an intimate dining experience that’s a feast for the senses, with delicate tempura treated as an art piece and created right in front of you.
Setsu Niseko is only a 10-minute walk to the Grand Hirafu Ski Lift, but to make life easy, they offer complimentary ski shuttles during the day. The shuttle goes to Grand Hirafu Village, Kutchan JR Station, and other nearby destinations.
As for the slopes, there are activities to try for all ages and levels of expertise–from heli skiing (yes, as in helicopter), backcountry guide, cat skiing, snowmobiling, snow rafting and more.
Right in between Upper and Middle Hirafu, Setsu Niseko gets great views of Mt. Yotei, Mt. Annupuri, and the powdery ski slopes. Its convenient location allows guests to walk around on foot and explore nearby cafés, restaurants, bars, stores, and ski lifts. But the true convenience lies in never having to leave, as there are dining options and boutiques on the ground floor, and even an open-air courtyard in the heart of the resort.