1. The snow quality
It’s no secret that Japan has the best accessible powder snow in the world.
Hokkaido is known to receive an average of 10 meters of snow per year. That is, 10 meters of light, dry, powdery goodness!!!
That’s what is generally known. Here is our experience:
We were there during a bad season. Let me tell you, although it was bad in terms of snowfall, it was still absolutely awesome. We were still skiing a base of 190cm of snow.
Not once did I hit a rock, piece of sludge or grass. OK, maybe we didn’t get to ski much powder, but the nights where we did get light snowfall, it was enough for us to get some first tracks whilst squealing with glees of joy.
From what I knew of Niseko, I was not expecting to see much sun. The lack of snowfall at least came with nicer weather for the view.
2. The people
Japanese people are sooooooo nice and courteous. I don’t think anywhere else in the world is as polite.
The workers at the ski lifts greet you and thank you. They wipe down the snow off the seats before you get on and are always there to help you place your skis or board into the holding rack of the Gondola.
In the restaurants and shops they are just as helpful. They become extra happy if you try to speak to them in Japanese. I found that telling them their food was oishii was a hit! It means delicious, and I wasn’t lying….
3. The food
I’m not sure words are really needed for this one.
Katsu curry, yakitori, chicken don, ramen noodles, and the freshest of sushi (sashimi). The bakery in Niseko also made a mean Nutella crepe.
I consider myself lucky to be able to buy Japanese food at home, but having a whole week of eating it non-stop was heaven. See below about our hot tips!
4. The location
If you really think about it, Japan is quite accessible from around the globe. You can take direct flights to Tokyo from Europe, USA and Australia.
For us here in Australia, the time difference is so small that there isn’t even jet lag to deal with.
Flying into Hokkaido was amazing for me. I have never been anywhere where the snow goes all the way from the mountain to the ocean. Seeing beaches full of snow seemed strange to me. It does give you an understanding as to why it usually receives so much snow. The island is surrounded by an endless supply of moisture and perfect conditions to produce snowfall.
5. The toilets
Yep, I said it. This is definitely a reason to go to Japan. The buttons and the sounds can keep you entertained for much longer than you should be spending in a toilet cubicle.
Ladies, hygiene can go out the window because the toilet seats are heated!!!! When your butt is cold, there is no way you’re not going to sit on that seat.
Luckily things are very clean over there, and there are usually disposable seat protectors or cleaning solution you can use before you sit.
I had always heard about the Japanese toilets, and now I totally agree that it is something everyone should experience.
Hot tips from our experience in Niseko
For amazing katsu curry on the ski fields, try the lookout cafe (above the Hilton) or King Bell Hut on the Hirafu side.
For delicious soups, try Ace Hill at the top of lift you can take from the Alpine Hotel side of Hirafu. This is also the spot for good coffee, hot chocolate, berry pie and garlic bread!
The town has various Japanese BBQ restaurants. They are all great. During high season it’s probably best to book a table for dinner.
All you can eat sushi was a hit with us. It’s all what we know here as sashimi. It is one of the many restaurants at the Hilton, and I wouldn’t be surprise if the Hilton is broke after our two visits. Japan may also be extremely low on stocks of salmon after Ryan at them all!!
Funnily enough, on our second visit they put a limit on the all you can eat, and only allowed us to order three times! We were smart enough to order large amounts at a time.
We were based in an apartment at Hirafu village. Anywhere in that village is close enough to walk to the ski lifts.
If we were to go again we would seriously consider staying at the Hilton. They have everything, and there are some very good deals from Australia.
A Gondola even takes off directly from the Hilton. That means more opportunities for fresh powder, before the other skiers make it to that side of the mountain.
Besides, that’s where the all you can eat sushi is located!!
There is no shortage of bars in Hirafu. We particularly liked the experience in the ice bars. It is surprisingly warm once you are inside them, if you are wearing all of your warmest clothes.
They can give you drinks down an icy drink slide:
Or in a cup made of ice:
Somewhere a bit warmer is the Fridge bar (despite the name). It’s named that because you enter the building through a fridge door. It’s very cosy (and busy) whilst inside and they serve an array of drinks including scrumptious hot and cold cocktails. I’d say that’s probably the most popular bar in Hirafu.
Although we only spent time in the one area, I imagine all of Japan to be just as great. Hopefully I can make it back there one day to do some further exploring… After all, I didn’t get the chance to eat a beef sukiyaki!