When you think about Hokkaido, one of the can’t-miss spots has to be Niseko. Having seen an explosive growth in interest in the last decade, a swath of new hotels, eateries and bars have popped up in the resort town over this period. But the main draw is and was the incredible nature, with especially the region’s powder snow being renowned the world over. But with so many options, what are some of the hottest spots in town? In this article, we will introduce a curated selection of our favorites in the area, with a special focus on experiences that are perfect if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary.
Niseko’s rapid development since the early 2000s has resulted in the area’s accommodations rising to a level that rivals those of the world’s top winter destinations such as Aspen, Whistler and Courchevel. The crowning glory of Niseko’s top-tier luxury lodgings are two of the exclusive properties that make up the HakuLife Collection by the H2 Group: the seven-bedroom chalet, Hakuchozan (“swan mountain”), which boast an alfresco jacuzzi and expansive living spaces, and the ultra-luxurious HakuVillas in Upper Hirafu Village, a mere 200 meters from the Hirafu gondola. Each of the four spectacularly elegant onsen villas provide guests with dramatic views of Mount Yotei and a private team of butlers and chefs. The indulgent experience begins the moment guests make an inquiry and remains resolutely opulent as they arrive at New Chitose Airport, where they will be picked up by staff. It continues throughout their entire stay at the villas, where the interiors feature rich textures of gleaming glass, stone walls, fragrant wood finishing and leather upholstery. Full-floor villas can comfortably accommodate 10 people and come with their own dedicated 10-seater vehicle. On the other hand, the Super Penthouse, spread across three floors, can house up to 16 people and comes with both an outdoor and indoor Onsen.
183-38 Yamada, Kutchan, Abuta District,
Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono
Park Hyatt Niseko HanazonoThe growth of Niseko in the past few decades has also gotten the attention of some of the world’s leading global hotel chains. Opened in January of 2020, Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono is one such example and brings the hallmarks of the global luxury hotel brand to the magnificent mountain resort. Guests can expect thoroughly luxurious offerings, from ultra-plush and spacious guest rooms offering a sophisticated, minimalist aesthetic to dining experiences featuring acclaimed chefs and the finest, locally sourced ingredients; to ethereal spa journeys that reinvigorate mind, body and spirit. Of course, the hotel makes use of the surrounding nature throughout, guaranteeing stunning views of the nearby Annupuri mountain range and Mount Yotei, meaning that you can expect to enjoy the stunning scenery of the nearby mountains while being pampered.
328-47 Aza Iwaobetsu, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun,
Located on the first floor of the H2 Group’s HakuVillas luxury chalet accommodation, HakuSteak is an experiment in striving for perfection. The gastronomic experience, led by Chef Luiz, is the result of a 15-year-long quest to create the ultimate steak, which began as a grilling competition between family members. First, the meat had to be selected.
Combing over 30 different wagyu farms in Hokkaido, the perfect cut from a farm in nearby Shiraoi was found. As for the seasoning, different salts, from the Celtic Sea to the Himalayas, were tried and discarded. Pink, black, and green peppercorns, some hand-crushed, some machine ground, were tested in combination with the meat. Cooking temperatures and resting times were painstakingly explored. Eventually, the HakuSteak was born. Still fueled by his original mission to impress his relatives, the founder of HakuLife leaves nothing to chance when it comes to his signature steak. For anybody
seeking perfection and an extraordinary culinary experience, HakuSteak is a must-go.
183-38 Yamada, Kutchan, Abuta District,
Hokkaido has a huge variety of locally produced alcohol. One mainstay, Hakkaisan Brewery, a brewing company known for its Japanese sake, has now taken on a new challenge, producing whiskey and gin in its newly opened “Niseko Distillery”. The distillery building was constructed on a 9,990 square meter plot leased from the town, located near the Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area. The distillery itself is operated by a subsidiary of Hakkaisan Brewery. When the large Scottish-made distillery machinery started operating on March 24, 2021, clear, unblended whiskey started flowing from the tap. However, due to the fact that whiskey generally has to be aged to reach optimal taste, the distillery opted to also launch its own original gin in the meantime. If you are interested in visiting this brand-new facility, tours can be arranged from their website. Of course, there is also an on-site bar and shop if you are interested in sampling the fruits of their labor.
478-15 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun,
Niseko Hanazono Resort
Without a doubt, Niseko contains Japan’s most internationally renowned ski resorts, encompassing the mountains of Yotei and Annupuri and offering optimum conditions for a world-class winter-sports sojourn in the winter. One of the most famous ski resorts, Hanazono, spreads across a forest route known as the Strawberry Fields—connecting to the pistes of Annupuri, Higashiyama, and Hirafu—and the premium conditions in this area, which receives 15 meters of snow annually, can be accessed through a private Hanazono Powder Guide, granting visitors early access to the best powder as well as insider knowledge of the resort. Booking a Niseko Weiss Powder CAT Tour allows guests to have the run of Mount Weisshorn, where scenes of immense natural beauty await skiing aficionados. Hanazono is equally reputed for its après-ski activities, highlighted by the renowned French cuisine—given a local twist—of chef Hiroshi Nakamichi at the resort’s Asperges restaurant, where the menus deploy the best of the prefecture’s produce using fresh local ingredients.
328-36 Iwaobetsu, Kutchan, Abuta District,
Niseko has made strides as a fine dining destination, and Rakuichi Soba is one of the region’s headliners. Hailed by the late Anthony Bourdain as one of the best soba restaurants in the country, here you can enjoy the fruits of owner Tatsuru Rai’s meticulous noodle making process. Starting with 100 percent local buckwheat, he adds water, and proceeds to shape the dough using his palms. The end result is one of the tastiest takes on one of Japan’s iconic type of noodles, which are served as part of a kaiseki course. This features several small and unique dishes, which utilize local and fresh ingredients to perfection and balance taste, texture, appearance, and color. Everything is served with an attention to detail that best showcases the ingredients’ flavor. Indeed, Rakuichi`s Kaiseki course is an expression of time, place, and nature, and a must visit if you are in the area.
431 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun,
SOMOZA is a combination of the essential elements that make Niseko (and indeed, Japan) unique as a destination. It features tradition, craftsmanship, design elements, history, and spectacular scenery together in one location and provides more depth to these elements by the addition of inspiring artworks and delicious cuisine. Indeed, SOMOZA has an on-site restaurant, cafe, tea room, gallery as well as space for various seminars and workshops. Everything in this unique space is designed to provide visitors a deeper connection to the region. The highlight remains the exquisite cuisine, however, which consists of a perfectly balanced menu showcasing the best of local produce as part of a French-style course. Guests are personally served a tasting menu created by SOMOZA’s team, with the dishes being in effect a sampling of the flavors, colors and seasons of Niseko and Hokkaido. The Chef incorporates ingredients, techniques and methods used by the various cultures that have made a home in Hokkaido through the centuries to represent the best of the region.
78-5 Abuta Gun, Kutchan Cho, Hanazono,
The Lounge at the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono
Perfect for pampering after a morning on the slopes enjoying Niseko’s perfect powder snow, Park Hyatt Niseko offers a special afternoon tea set in a luxurious atmosphere. The set was developed with the theme “Gourmet Journey: Travelling Through the Tastes of Hokkaido”, and the hotel has carefully curated ingredients that are fresh and local, aiming to showcase the goodness of ingredients produced in Hokkaido. The result is an afternoon tea with plenty of seasonal fruits, summer vegetables and herbs. While enjoying your tea, you will also be able to bask in a panoramic view of Mt. Yotei and the surrounding mountains, while bingeing on luxurious side dishes including 4 types of savory offerings and a total of 14 varieties of sweets, scones, and freshly baked crepes. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, enjoying an afternoon tea here will definitely give you a taste of the high life.
328-47 Aza Iwaobetsu, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun,
Tree Trekking @ Niseko Hanazono Resort
Tree Trekking has become something of a trend in recent years, and if you are visiting Niseko in the summer, you can’t go wrong at what has been described as the most thrilling take on the activity at the Hanazono Resort in Niseko. Within the forest adjacent to the resort, there are a series of 6 high rope courses laid out among the trees for an exhilarating and challenging experience. Courses include platforms to progress to, with unique paths between each to test your courage and problem-solving abilities. Four courses also have a zipline where you can fly through the trees like a bird and feel the summer breeze in your hair. Courses range in level from beginner to intermediate, so guests of all ages can be engaged. However, if you are in the mood for something more relaxed, you can also simply choose to go for a walk in the forest. Also located within the resort, this experience has the bonus of being offered completely free of charge!
Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park
Finally, another recently opened highlight is Upopoy, Japan’s first national museum dedicated to the indigenous Ainu people of northern Japan. The massive complex that houses the museum boasts an 8,600 square-meter area and also features a park and memorial. The Ainu have lived in what is today Hokkaido for centuries, and possess a unique cultural heritage that is tied to their ancestral land in an entirely different way from the Japanese settlers coming up from the south. Learning about their unique culture is highly recommended if you want to learn more about Hokkaido, and Upopoy is the perfect place to start.
2 Chome-3 Wakakusacho, Shiraoi, Shiraoi District,