Perfect Winter Duo: A Complete Guide for Skiing in Niseko, Japan — Plus Exploring Tokyo
Niseko is known worldwide for its fantastic powder and is a bucket list destination for many skiers and snowboarders. Off the slopes, Niseko also offers a diverse food and après ski scene that manages to balance the quaintness of an old school ski town with new modern luxury comforts. Combine the amazing skiing in Niseko with a few days exploring Tokyo and you have the recipe for a ski trip of a lifetime.
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Where to stay
Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono
Luxury mountain resort in scenic Niseko with seven onsite dining options, a spa and an indoor pool.
Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Nestled in Niseko Village, this luxurious sanctuary offers guests everything they need after a day on the slopes.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Best known from 'Lost in Translation,' but a showstopper in its own right thanks to the exceptional restaurants and unmatched skyline views.
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Day 1: Arrival to Niseko
Niseko is located on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, a short 90 minute flight from Tokyo where most travelers will enter Japan. After arriving in New Chitose Airport (CTS), Niseko is a 2-3 hour bus or car ride. A seasoned Japan travel advisor can advise you of the best way to arrive and save you a lot of time and potential headaches.
Day 2-5: Hitting the Slopes in Niseko
What to do
Skiing/snowboarding at Niseko United: Niseko is made up of four base areas that form Niseko United (Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri). We recommend getting a pass that covers all four mountains since it is fun to explore each resort and it gives you the best opportunity to find great powder. It is easy to transfer between the resorts as they all come together at the top of the mountain. We have found that about 4-5 days on the slopes is the perfect amount of time to see everything and gives you a good chance for at least one great powder day.
Hire a Powder Guide: For more advanced skiers, Niseko offers great “sidecountry” and backcountry skiing that can be accessed from Niseko’s lifts. Guides can teach you how to use avalanche gear safely and can even show you secret stashes of powder that others might miss. We recommend Hanazono Powder Guides as they offer an early bird service that lets you up the lifts before the general public.
Hike Niseko-Annupuri: From the top lifts of the resort it is a 20-minute hike up to the top of the Niseko-Annupuri mountain. Once at the top you will have amazing views of the surrounding area and will get to experience a great run back to the bottom. If you are unfamiliar with backcountry skiing we highly recommend taking a guide.
Enjoy a Spa Day: After a long day of skiing, nothing is better than a dip in an onsen, a traditional Japanese bath or a massage at a luxury spa. In Niseko, you are spoiled for choice with numerous spa and onsen options. The spa at the Park Hyatt or onsen at the Hilton are some of our favorites.
Take a day trip to another resort: If you somehow see everything there is to see in Niseko, the resorts of Niseko Moiwa or Rusutsu are short car/bus rides away.
What to eat/drink
On Mountain Options:
Bo-yo-so – Mid mountain lodge in Hirafu serving up noodles and curry that is sure to warm you up.
Paradise Hut / Bears Cafe – Cozy hut in the middle of the Annupuri ski area warmed by an old school stove.
Apres ski / bars:
Wild Bills – Happening après ski bar serving cold beer and tex-mex favorites.
Bar Gyu+ - Behind a secret door meant to look like a beverage machine, you will find some of the best craft cocktails in Niseko.
Japanese comfort food:
Izakaya Raku – Traditional Izakaya serving Japanese comfort food in a casual environment.
Bang bang – Cozy yakitori restaurant serving grilled meat sticks.
Teppan – Fine dining French inspired teppanyaki experience in the Park Hyatt that serves the highest quality wagyu and freshest local vegetables.
Sushi Kato INORI – Traditional sushi kaiseki restaurant that promises an ocean to plate experience.
Day 6: Tokyo
After a few days skiing Niseko’s amazing powder it’s time to head back to Tokyo for a few days before heading home. Flights are plentiful between New Chitose Airport and Tokyo and are reasonably priced if booked in advance. Top tip: Booking JAL’s “Class J” can get you a larger seat and more legroom for a reasonable upgrade cost.
What to do
Visit Sensoji Temple – A beautiful Buddhist temple located in Asakusa with an extensive shopping street surrounding it.
Explore Shibuya – Shibuya is home to the famous scramble intersection and is lively at night with many great restaurants and bars.
Take a food tour – Many of the best places to eat and drink are small hole in the wall places that few tourists would find. Touring with a local who knows their way around is a great way to make sure that you will be able to experience the best food Tokyo has to offer.
Immerse yourself in art at TeamLab – TeamLab operates at least one permanent interactive art experience in Tokyo (currently called Planets, but switches to Borderless in 2024). It is the perfect place to be amazed by infinite rooms of glass or snap the perfect Instagram picture. Be sure to book an early time to avoid some of the crowds.
Tokyo Disneyland – If you are a Disney parks fan at all, a trip to Tokyo is not complete without at least one day at Tokyo Disneyland. DisneySea is especially a standout and may be the best theme park in the world. Be sure to get there early and avoid weekends to lower your wait times.
Win a prize at a Japanese arcade – Try to win a prize in one of Japan’s numerous claw machines or enjoy arcade games that you can only find in Japan.
What to eat/drink
There are too many great restaurants and bars in Tokyo to build a comprehensive list but here are some of our favorite foods and places to eat:
Ichiran ramen – A large chain of ramen restaurants where you eat in “focus booths” meant to enhance your enjoyment of the flavors. They have a few locations in the US but the ones in Japan are so much better.
Yakitori – Literally meaning “grilled bird”, Yakitori is chicken skewers grilled over a charcoal grill. Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku is a winding alley where you can find dozens of small izakaya serving these tasty snacks.
Conveyor belt sushi – Conveyor belt sushi restaurants are a casual and generally inexpensive way to enjoy some great sushi. Uobei is a chain that allows you to order off a touch screen with English menus. Kids will love watching the sushi speed by.
Drinking in Golden Gai – Keep the party going late into the night at one of 200+ tiny bars spread across 6 alleyways. Some bars are even themed.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Mica Sangiacomo’s guide, 3-Day Mountain Getaway to Niseko, Japan.
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