Konnichiwa Niseko fans!
It’s winter again and I’ve come back to the land of the rising sun to chase more of that famous powder snow. This time though, I’m on the north island of Hokkaido where the powder is light, the ramen hot, and the onsens a-plenty! I’m living it up in Japan’s most well-known resort and wanted to share some of my top things to do in Niseko.
Working as a catski guide, I get to hear about all the best places from both the locals I work with and the tourists. So here after three month’s of trial and error, here are a few secrets and some not-so-secret, things to do in Niseko.
If you haven’t got your travel insurance yet, I highly recommend World Nomads. I wrote a whole page on why I recommend them. One big reason is that you can even purchase or extend it, while you are away.
Top 11 things to do in Niseko
Hidden away on the Hanazono side of the Niseko ski resort, the onsen at the Niseko Weiss Hotel is nestled in the snow, surrounded by trees in the most magical setting. They rotate the men’s and women’s onsens twice a day so you have the opportunity to enjoy both the different views. Chose from one outdoor, or three indoor baths of varying temperatures plus a sauna and ice bath. It is one of the best onsens in Niseko.
#2 Milk Kobo
Hokkaido is known for its dairy farming and Milk Kobo is THE place to go for the best local delights. Choose from drinking yogurt, cream puffs, creme caramel, cheese cake, cheese tarts…. oh and ICE CREAM! It’s a great family spot on the road to Niseko village, towards the Green Leaf or the Hilton Hotel.
On a clear day, you can enjoy your treats with views across to Mount Yotei (great photo spot). The snow plow pushes a sizeable amount of snow into a heap outside, for kids to play on with the free toboggans provided by Milk Kobo. Go during the day time. They also have really good coffee and hot chocolate.
#3 Cat skiing
Are you going to Japan to ski powder? If the answer is yes, you have to go cat skiing! What is not to love about your own private ski area with 4 for your mates, in a rustic snowcat from 1980! The best cat skiing in Niseko is located out of Hirafu, in the Yamanashi range, run by Big Wave Snow Cats. Two snow cats (one yellow, one red) will run 5 of you in each machine, with two qualified guides, up to your own private mountain. Lap untracked and deep pow all day. Drop pillows, carve through open fields or chose your own line through those famous Japanese trees.
You also get photos taken of you in the deep deep powder by a professional photographer and guide from Niseko Photography & Guiding. Drop me a message using the contact form at the bottom of this page or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You never know, I might be your guide! I can answer any questions you have.
- ¥54,000 per seat
- Price includes return transfers, lunch, safety equipment, guiding and a professional photographer who will capture all the action.
#4 Hike and ski Mount Yotei
Mount Yotei is the jewel in Hokkaido’s crown. The mountain you will spend your whole trip photographing and staring at longingly. It’s the big one if you are looking for a challenging day to ski the most vert in the Niseko area. Sitting at 1,898m and towering above Niseko resort, Yotei is a dormant volcano that lets you ski in its snow filled crater! With a 360 degree radius, it is possible to find good snow, as you have all sides to chose from.
I highly recommend hiring a guide to hike and ski Yotei as it can be tricky especially if the weather comes in. I work as a guide for Niseko Photography and Guiding so hit me up on the contact form below, or at email@example.com if you need any more info.
Always go out with avalanche gear and know how to use it. This is a great resource to check out.
#5 Bar Gyu – The fridge door
This is one of those places you stumble across and wish you could bring your best friend for a long chat over an aged Japanese whiskey. With the outside trees lit up at night and old vinyl on the walls, the rustic smell of quality whiskey lingers making this bar a gem and truly unique. You even enter through a tiny fridge door! There is a whiskey tasting menu if you want to sample the incredible choice of Japanese whiskey. The ‘Old Fashioned‘ cocktail was also incredible., as is my favorite local YUZU liqueur. You’ll want to go back again and again.
#6 Yoteimaru sushi train in Kutchan town
If you are after some food somewhat more affordable than in Niskeo or Hirafu, head into Kutchan. It’s the neighboring town about a 10-minute drive from Hirafu. They have INCREDIBLE local restaurants and a great sushi train with private traditional back rooms where you sit on the floor. You will leave full of delicious food for about ¥2,000.
There is also exceptional sushi available in the supermarkets in Kutchan. If you want to save money, go pick up an absolute feast for around ¥1,000!
This is really a thing and it’s BLOODY AWESOME! If you ride motor bikes you are going to love this. A guided day out in the backcountry riding a Timberline high spec 450cc snow bike through deep pow, pillows, and fun terrain. Get airborne or just spray your way through the trees. Everything is included from insurance, snow boots to lunch. Come dressed for a day on the mountain and have a day that you will never forget. Tell them Alexa @Still Stoked sent you! I may even be there to say hi!
- Price per Person – ¥69,000
- Group Size – Min 3 / Max 6
If craft beer is your thing, you should definitely go check out the new Niseko Brewing in Niseko town (not the village so you’ll need a car or taxi). It’s famous for their Pumpkin Ale which is quite the experience. They also have three types of black beer and delicious food. I like to go here to get out of the crows in Hirafu and Niseko. Check them out at the Niseko Tap House.
#9 Rakuichi Soba restaurant
If you haven’t booked months in advance it’s almost impossible to get a table for dinner. This is one of the most sought after and best restaurants in Niseko. Just read the Trip Advisor reviews! Family owned and only sitting only 12 people for lunch and dinner, the Rakuichi soba restaurant is famous for all the right reasons. Book for dinner well in advance. By well, I mean around 2-3 months in peak winter months.
Lunch is a little bit easier to get a table. Doors open at 11.30 so wait in line before that to secure your spot. Try the duck soba.
- Call them on 0136-58-3170 to reserve. The daughter speaks really good English.
- Like most of Japan, only cash accepted.
Imagine the cutest little yoga studio within the warmest, welcoming community and you have Power Yoga Niseko. The owner Kanami and her team of awesome yogis, offer classes in the heart of Hirafu catering to all parts of the body that need a good stretch after a long day on the slopes.
- Private classes also available. So don’t skip on yoga during your Niseko ski holiday!
- Drop-in classes ¥2,200, one week unlimited ¥8,000 and a full season pass ¥40,000.
Do you like wine? Silly question really. Well if the answer is yes then you absolutely have to check out Mick’s wine bar right at the cross roads in Hirafu. If you were allowed to ski on the road, this would be a ski right up to the bar sort of affair! Mick has wines from all over the world and a delicious selection of local Hokkaido cheeses and delicacies. Mick’s is aprés at its finest. And Mick is an absolute legend. Make sure you try his Yuzu liqueur – a Japanese citrus fruit, that is absolutely divine.
#12 All you can eat buffet lunch at Hilton Niseko
Ski straight off the slopes and into the Hilton Hotel. It’s the ugly building in Niseko village that looks like something out of the Hunger Games. The Niseko Village Gondola (& the bus) goes from the outside of the Hilton, making access easy. They do a really awesome all-you-can-eat lunch-time buffet in the Melt Bar and Grill. Warning, it may mean you have no chance of skiing after but it is well worth it… you could even go for an onsen in the hotel if you really can’t move far!
The Ezo Pub in the Hilton is also worth checking out for a bit of Aprés.
#13 Go snow-shoeing or go ski another resort
Want a day off skiing to go snow-shoeing, see the local sites, or learn photography? Or maybe you want to go ski another awesome resort like Rusutsu or Kiroro with a qualified guide and photographer? Niseko Photography and Guiding will pick up from your accommodation and drop you off with the best stories to tell your mates. What is even better, a week later in your inbox will be the best photos you can share with friends back home.
- Tours start from ¥35,000.
Use the contact form below or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or if you have any questions 🙂
For more info on Niseko Cat skiing (where I am a guide) or any backcountry or snowshoe tour with Niseko Photography & Guiding (where I also guide), drop me a message below and I’ll share all my knowledge and can maybe hook you up with a discount!