Niseko, Japan – Asia’s Winter holiday destination


A recent online survey with participants from a dozen different countries listed Japan as their top choice of destination once the worldwide travel hiatus finally ends. Their reasons include obvious agendas such as the food (Japan is also among the top culinary destinations in Asia) and visiting specific cultural and themed attractions, like Universal Studios Japan.

But notably, the survey also reflects the yearning of travellers for Japan’s skiing regions, the most popular among them being the well-beloved Niseko.

While many of us picture a vacation in this side of the world lounging on the beach and tanning under the sun, Niseko showcases a very different facade of the Asian holiday experience. Due to its picturesque mountains, powdery winter snow, and naturally-occurring hot spring baths, this once humble potato-farming village now proudly bears the title as the skiing mecca of Asia.

Though the travel community is still waiting to see if Japan’s borders will open for this year’s skiing season, let us take some time to discover and rediscover the wonders of this magical winter holiday destination.

Perfect snow

Though Asia boasts many other skiing venues, such as Yongpyong in South Korea, Yabuli in China, and Gulmarg in India, Niseko remains among one of the top-most choices due to several reasons. One of them for certain is the snow.

Due to specific natural conditions, the region’s snow cover is blessed with a remarkable combination of quality, consistency, and quantity. Light winds and ambient temperatures create the perfect formula for “stellar dendrite” snow crystals, the lightest and fluffiest kind of all. Niseko’s home island of Hokkaido is also positioned geographically so that it is able to sustain below zero temperatures and ensure a consistent quality of snow throughout the entire winter. This makes Niseko’s slopes ideal for skiing, snowboarding, snow rafting, snow tubing, snow shoeing, and pretty much any activity that starts with ‘snow’.

Onsens

Even before the very first skis sled down its virgin hills in 1912, Niseko was already known locally as a retreat destination for its natural hot springs. These onsens, or Japanese hot spring baths, are considered a must-try when you visit Niseko and a perfect way to relax after an exhilarating day out in the cold.

Onsens are offered in several resorts around town and are traditionally separated between male and female users. Onsens also entail certain customs shared by the Japanese, a people known for their profound respect towards one another. It is definitely no ordinary hot bath but truly a cultural experience. Not to mention it involves being completely naked with other people.

In any case, there are several establishments that offer private onsens too.

Breathtaking Alpine scenery

There are four independent ski resorts operating in Niseko, collectively known as Niseko United. And all four are found on the southeast face of Mt. Annupuri. This alpine region forms a portion of one of Japan’s national parks. Dramatic woodlands cover the land and one of Japan’s cleanest rivers, the Shiribetsu, cuts across the landscape.

The crowning highlight, however, is the majestic Mt. Yotei which visibly rises from the horizon. This dormant volcano is popularly nicknamed the “Mount Fuji of Hokkaido” for its striking resemblance to the iconic mountain.

Unique culinary experience

Niseko is not just about having activities in the snow. Like any visit to a new place, it is also a fascinating cultural adventure. A visit here is also about getting to know the people, learning the history of the town, and most pleasurably, having a taste of the local food.

Niseko’s  ski resorts are dotted with high-class restaurants some of which are serviced by Michelin star chefs. Despite its transformation into a tourist hot spot, many parts of the region remain true to its origins as a farming village and is known for the quality of its produce. Fresh catch from the sea of Japan finds its way directly to Niseko too. There is a wide range of restaurants including traditional Japanese and Western cuisines. For a more personalized experience, you can also hire a local chef to serve your group in your private accommodation.

Luxury accommodations

There are plenty of accommodation choices in Niseko. In addition to the four prevailing ski resorts, the rising popularity of the destination has attracted high-end hotel brands whose establishments are now found within the resort complex. Several of these places are found in ski-in and ski-out locations and feature their own onsen facilities.

While Asia’s tropics offer lavish private villas, like the ones we see in Thailand and in Bali, Niseko has its wide range of luxury chalets. These impressive home rentals come with features such as hot tubs, entertainment and gaming rooms, and balconies with BBQ facilities. Niseko chalets are a great choice for families and groups looking to spend a memorable stay in this magical winter holiday destination.

Silvan Kitma is General Manager of The Private World. The Private World is a villa rentals company offering some the most top-rated luxury vacation home rentals in the world’s top tourist destinations.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.


Comments (5)

  1. Kenny Ralph says:

    That’s the closest I’ve ever come to understanding why some snow is better than others. Not sure that I could fully explain how light winds and ambient temperatures create stellar dendrite snow crystals but at least it goes some way to proving that there are differences in snow quality.

    • Sharon Harris says:

      Always wondered why some of my affluent friends fly all the way to Japan for some skiing when they could be on the French or Swiss slopes in a few hours. Obviously the snow is too notch.

      Then again maybe there’s more to it than just the snow, perhaps it’s food,culture, onsens etc as well.

  2. Steve says:

    I find it hard to believe that nobody saw the snow at Niseko before 1912 and wasn’t tempted to ski. Though I’m not tempted by an Onsen. God didn’t give me a body for public exhibition, I wouldn’t find being naked in hot springs at all relaxing.

  3. Emma Oliver says:

    Japan has been number one on my bucket list since I was a teenager, so I can see why so many have it as their top destination on their wish lists too. To be honest, I’ve always thought of going in warmer months but that’s probably because I’m not a fan of the cold, but you’re right, there’s definite a lot to love about the winters there. Are those spring baths still hot in the cold months then? That’s probably a stupid question. I’m not sure I’d fancy going naked but I’d definitely want to visit if I go just to say I’ve been. The scenery looks so beautiful covered in snow and it sounds like a great option if you like your skiing.

  4. Willie P. says:

    Growing up in a tropical country with only wet and dry seasons, visiting a country with snow is on top of my list. And since I am in Asia, Japan is really only natural. I’m not sure when I will be able to visit Japan again, but I always pick sakura or autumn season as I like the cold. I’ve never tried winter before, and I might just do it so I can experience something different. I like to try the onsens, but I wonder how safe that would be now. I’ve yet to try skiing, but it’s a big possibility now that winter travel is on my mind.

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