Last March, the team flew to Niseko, Japan for the experience of a lifetime! And if Niseko isn’t on your travel list, then hopefully this article will change your mind.
It’s never too early to start planning your winter holiday with us so we’ve got you covered with the things to do, places to stay, restaurants to try, and more. The charm of Niseko is that there is something new around every corner. There’s more to this town than the best powder snow in the world. Whether you’re looking for a snow-filled getaway or a new experience, there is something for you here.
How to Get There
For how to get to Niseko by plane, train, and private car, check out this article. We’ve listed down some of the general requirements below but don’t forget to do your own research too because some countries have more specific requirements!
- Passport (or Japanese Residency Card)
- Japan Visa (check if you are in one of the visa-free countries here)
- Valid Vaccination Certification (3+ doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines)
- If no Valid Vaccination Certificate, present negative pre-departure COVID-19 test certificate
- Before departure, register at Visit Japan Web (https://vjw-lp.digital.go.jp/en/)
What To Do
If you’re going to be in a town that is known for the softest powder snow you’ll experience, might as well take advantage of the opportunity to learn some snow sports. Whether that is skiing or snowboarding, the slopes of Niseko are friendly for every level of skill.
The Luxe Nomad Tip: Go night skiing. Trust us.
There are many to choose from but The Luxe Nomad has tried and tested three that are definitely top-recommended namely; Hokkaido Ski Club, Summit Ski School, and Whiteroom. We walked in those classes with some trepidation. Despite that, their highly trained, international, and extremely patient instructors made it a one-of-a-kind, and exciting experience.
The Luxe Nomad Tip: Don’t be afraid to fall! The powder snow is nature’s cushion to protect you from getting too hurt and it’s all part of the experience.
If you don’t have any existing ski gear or clothes, Rhythm Japan has what you need to get you suited up and prepped for your snow runs. As soon as you enter any of their retail or rental locations, you are greeted with such vibrant energy from the lovely staff and the upbeat music. The sound of bustling conversations between ecstatic travellers and clinking ski poles are guaranteed to induce that feeling of anticipation in you. From fitting you with the perfect boots to finding the perfect size of skis or boards, the Rhythm staff are ready to equip you with everything you need for a perfect snow run.
Snowmobiling gives you that action-packed snow adventure without the stress on your legs or body. If there’s one way we can describe how it feels, it is exactly like driving a jet ski but on snow! Glide along trails while following an experienced guide and be sure to follow every instruction they give you to ensure your safety. This was definitely a must-do activity because it is an experience that we will never forget. The scenic views of snow capped mountains and trees covered in snow that surround these paths are what made this thrilling experience magical.
The Luxe Nomad Tip: Wear layers, gloves, and goggles! It’s a cold ride.
For something a little more kid-friendly, go on a quick backcountry horseback ride with Niseko Country Farm. Picture clear, blue skies, surrounded by a winter wonderland with Mt Yotei as your backdrop, while riding a beautiful horse through the snow. As soon as we entered Niseko Country Farm, they equipped us with waterproof pants and a safety helmet. We walked out into the outdoor stables and they introduced us to our horses and gave us some instructions on how to ride them. Before heading out on the trail ride, they made us do a few laps around the outdoor arena to practice turning and stopping the horses. This was an absolutely perfect way to spend an afternoon to just relax and enjoy the scenery.
The Luxe Nomad Tip: Feed them carrots for a little extra cost to say thank you!
Although skiing and snowboarding are kid-friendly activities as well, Hanazono is dubbed as the ultimate playground for families. If mom and dad want to hit the harder slopes, Hanazono has many other activities for the littles ones such as the Tube Park and the Galaxy of Kidz.
Where To Eat
Breakfast is an important meal of the day especially before hitting the slopes. Eating just enough to fuel you for the run. For delicious pastries, check out KOKO Bakery for buttery and flakey croissants. Pair it with some Soy or Spanish Lattes from Arabica% Coffee from the cart just around the corner for the perfect meal before getting to the slopes.
For days when you decide to skip the slopes, head over to Green Farm Cafe for the perfect brunch spot. They serve a range of beautifully plated food from yoghurt bowls to burgers which you can also pair with a delicious cup of coffee. If one meal isn’t enough, the good news is that they also serve a range of sandwiches that you can take home with you. The little ones won’t be left behind here because they have a small selection of dishes on their kids menu.
The Luxe Nomad Tip: Make sure to arrive before 10:15am to reach their breakfast menu and after 11:15am for the lunch menu.
Another personal favourite post-ski meal is from the Indian restaurant, Taj Mahal. With extremely hardworking and friendly owners, this restaurant sells large servings of incredibly flavorful dishes. Quick serving time plus large portions equals the perfect meal to indulge in after a long morning on the slopes.
For a delicious dinner, there are two restaurants that we especially loved. Ryunabe is a hotpot restaurant that pairs best with the cold weather. Tucked in a quiet street and close to some bars to have a nightcap, this restaurant is definitely one to try! The cosy atmosphere paired with flavorful soup bases made it the perfect last-stop of the day. Enjoy extremely fresh seafood and high-grade wagyu beef that is guaranteed to take you on a culinary journey.
The Luxe Nomad Tip: Spice levels are off the charts here! (but still delicious) Friendly warning to those with low tolerances for spicy food.
Another perfect dinner spot is Steak Rosso Rosso. In a quaint street, a black and red box illuminates from a distance with the restaurant name displayed on the top right corner. Watch out for the dishes that serve creamy potatoes on a plate, sweet and fresh scallops, and one of the most tender steaks we have ever tasted because these are just a few of the must-trys on our list!
The Luxe Nomad Tip: Pair the meal with a chilled bottle of Sake.
To end the night, make sure to stop by the famous “fridge” bar known as Bar Gyu. Located just a few minutes away from Steak Rosso Rosso, you definitely need to stop by here before or after your dinner. Inside the dimly-lit space, you are greeted with warmth and soft jazz music playing in the background. An illustrated menu will be given to you where you can choose from a wide range of drinks. From specialty cocktails to classic concoctions, no doubt you will find the perfect drink to quench your thirst.
Where To Stay
The Luxe Nomad hosts a number of properties for every kind of traveller for a wide range of budgets on the website.
Snow Crystal is located in Upper Hirafu, close to a number of restaurants, shops, and convenience stores! This building comprises 2 and 3-bedroom apartments that are well equipped with a kitchen and bathroom with modern amenities. The rooms are contemporary in design and are perfect for couples, families, or even a group of friends. Enjoy magnificent views of Mt. Yotei from the floor to ceiling windows of your rooms. To top it off, Snow Crystal is just a minute away from the Ace Family Quad Lift.
The Maples Niseko is also located in Upper Hirafu. This luxury ski-in ski-out condominium hotel with views of the ski slopes, Mt. Yotei or Hirafu Village. This is the perfect accommodation for those who have snow sports in their blood because as soon as you wake up, you can hit the slopes just outside of the in-house ski lockers! The Maples Niseko is also located just a walking distance away from restaurants, souvenir shops, shops, and convenience stores. There are a wide variety of room configurations to choose from, making it friendly for all kinds of travellers.
This year, we ventured outside of Niseko to find what else is out there. Niseko is a gem but neighbouring areas like Rusutsu and Furano are hidden jewels.
Rusutsu is just a 30-40 minutes drive away from Niseko. This is a very small and quiet area where you can completely enjoy the peace and company of your travel companions. The Vale Rusutsu is a ski-in ski-out luxury hotel that is connected to the Rusutsu Resort. Enjoy impeccable views of the slopes and access to a variety of restaurants just within walking distance. What makes this place special is that it is a year-round destination. Snow sports during the winter, and amusement parks during the summer. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, walk down the hill a little bit and you’ll find Youtei, a charming little restaurant-slash-hostel where you can eat delicious food, meet the local crowd, and enjoy a night of karaoke!
Furano has been described to us as “Niseko 20 years ago”. The same charm and the same powdery white snow but a lot less touristy. Fenix Furano is a newly built luxury condominium hotel located just adjacent to the ski lifts. The rooms are neatly designed with a contemporary flare and extremely comfortable beds. Enjoy a delicious set breakfast right at the bottom floor and don’t worry about leaving your ski gear behind because there is a Rhythm rental shop just downstairs. The charm of Furano is their authenticity. Many of the restaurants and establishments are family-owned or run by locals. For one of the most authentic and delicious curries, check out Yuiga Doxon, for mouth watering gyoza check out Shirona, and for a mom-and-pop authentic Japanese restaurant, make sure to stop by Robata. Take a day to walk around Ningle Terrace, a charming area with little shops of artisanal items and a coffee shop. We spent 2 nights here but places on our must-visit list were still left unchecked. Furano is a road trip away but definitely worth the miles.
If you’re ready to kickstart your holiday this coming winter, the first step you need to take is reach out to The Luxe Nomad. Find the perfect accommodation for you and your travel companions, read up on the things that you want to do, to see, and to eat, let our team know and we’ll take care of the rest!