Vol. 7 Summer 2019
Summer Escape Discover Japanâ€™s northern island summer oasis
Creek to Coast
Farm to Fork
Run to Paradise
Fresh local flavours
Epic valleys & summits
Events, Restaurants & more
The New Level of Luxury in Niseko Luxury design and service in an unbeatable, breathtaking locationâ€“this is Skye Niseko. Relax in nature with Skye Nisekoâ€™s own day spa, onsen hot spring and new Hokkaido izakaya, Kumo Restaurant. Time to Enjoy.
firstname.lastname@example.org +81 (0) 136 55 5123 www.skyeniseko.com
Creek to Coast 52
From new convenience stores through to global political events.
10 Into The Great Outdoors
Niseko offers more than just winter fun.
16 Destination Niseko
Instagrammers tell us about their summer trip.
20 Spirit of Summer
Celebrate the season at a Japanese festival.
22 Festival Guide
Experience Japanese culture at traditional matsuri events throughout the Niseko area.
24 Farm to Fork
With a well-earned reputation as one of Niseko’s best contemporary restaurants, An Dining is synonymous with fresh Hokkaido produce.
30 Feels Like Home
Eccentric trinkets, old-world charm and the delicious home cooking at Café Nupuri have world-travellers coming back for more.
Festival Guide 22
34 Going Green
Niseko’s temperate climate makes fresh-tasting vegetables a must-try in the green season.
38 Say Cheese
Tea Room Cambridge is a place of delectable summer flavours, and a little bit of history.
40 Cloud Nine
Pleasure the palate with earth and ocean-fresh Hokkaido cuisine this summer at Kumo Restaurant.
44 Autumn Flavours
Taste the exquisite flavours of Hokkaido at this year’s Niseko Autumn Food Festival.
46 Sweet H20
Mountain spring water in is the secret ingredient in some of Niseko’s most delicious desserts.
50 Taste the Botanicals
The artisanal spirit turning heads across Asia comes to Niseko.
52 Creek to Coast
The search for beautiful lines in Hokkaido doesn’t stop when the snow melts.
Kumo Restaurant 40
60 Run to Paradise
Rain, hail, sunshine or snow, Niseko is a runner’s dream, as we discover.
68 In Full Swing
Niseko’s cool and sunny summers have made it the destination for golf lovers.
74 Pump It Up
A new biking craze is taking Niseko by storm.
78 In the Treetops
Niseko in summer is the perfect place for long hikes, river rafting and mountain bike riding, but until now, no one had thought to look up into the trees.
80 Summer Escape
From stunning natural landscapes to farmland vistas cared for by hand, summer in Niseko is bursting with colour and vitality. This is the essence of summer.
88 Vital Elements
In a world where we seem to have it all, artist and entrepreneur Shouya Grigg, reminds us what it is we really need.
92 A Day at the Museum
Exploring some of the area’s best museums and galleries.
96 Feel the Beat
Taiko drumming is an essential part of Niseko’s vibrant summer festivals.
98 Day Tripper
Niseko is the perfect starting point for day trips to lesser-known yet equally incredible locations in Hokkaido.
102 Taking the High Road
A local’s guide to Niseko’s most scenic autumn drive.
104 All Summer Long
Immerse yourself in the scenic nature of Niseko with these summer-long activities.
108 Float On
The float tank is a highly effective healing tool, as Ryko Spa consultant Ryko Kalinko explains.
112 Time to Relax
From age-old, time-proven techniques through to the newest alternative therapies to relax, Niseko is a mecca for those looking to unwind. experienceniseko.com
Editor’s Note When we travel, it shifts our lives into technicolour. It’s all a little more vivid and clear, and is undoubtedly more inspired. When we return home, we have still frames in our mind; moments captured that we treasure. And whether we hang these moments on a wall, a social feed or just in our hearts, these are the moments we live for. Each year, hundreds of thousands of travellers descend on Niseko during the winter season to create their moments. Metres upon metres of soft, dreamy, powder snow is the main drawcard. Though what many don’t know is that Niseko in summer is one of the most, if not the most, breath-taking, soul-shaking, memory-making destinations on the planet. Nestled in the natural grandeur of Japan’s wild north of Hokkaido, Niseko in summer is a modern-meets-traditional oasis surrounded by vast mountains, forests and farmlands. It’s a foodie’s paradise, a nature-lover’s utopia, a culture buff’s bucket-list trip and an adventurist’s next big challenge. In our third summer edition we look at some of the many pixels of summer, including the farm-to-fork and ‘green’ food culture Niseko 6 |
is growing evermore famous for; ways to push yourself from the mountain trails to the coast; we uncover old Japanese festival traditions with locals, as well as the top ways to relax and refresh. We also catch up with world-travellers, bloggers and this issue’s cover photo creators, @chopsticksontheloose, who made their own special moments in Niseko. If, after all that, you want even more inspiration head to experienceniseko.com for the latest news, restaurant guides, must-see events and more. Join our ever-growing community of Niseko fans by subscribing to our digital newsletter delivered straight to your inbox. And don’t forget to connect with us on Instagram and Facebook, and share your Niseko travel adventures by tagging #experienceniseko. Whether it’s your first summer in Niseko, your first time in Niseko or it’s your next dream holiday, we have no doubt that you will collect countless, incredible moments that will last long after your trip–long enough until your next trip back here anyway. Enjoy the issue! SOFIE LAHTINEN
EXPERIENCE NISEKO Vol. 7, Summer 2019 www.experienceniseko.com Published by HTM KK, 91-1 Aza Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081, Japan Advertising Enquiries: email@example.com FOLLOW US
Cover photo by Sarah and Eric of @chopsticksontheloose Visit: www.chopsticksontheloose.com Read more on page 16.
This magazine was published with the assistance of a national government grant from the Ministry of Tourism as a promotional project for foreign tourism within Japan.
Discover one of Asia’s best-kept secrets this summer.
For some, it’s waking up each morning to beautiful Mt Yotei views. For others, it’s the Hokkaido inspired cuisine served each night by Chef Shinichi at An Dining. The relaxing traditional onsen is the reason for many. While some simply love the unforgettable personal service from the moment they arrive. But for most, it’s all of this and more. Come and experience summer at Ki Niseko before the secret gets out. Japan’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel – Winner 2018.
Niseko News Temporada serves up Spanish flair
From new convenience stores through to global political events, here’s the latest in Niseko.
Spanish Flair Opening for its first summer season, comes new Spanish tapas restaurant and bar Temporada. Temporada means ‘seasons’ in Spanish, just as the word ‘shiki’ means ‘seasons’ in Japanese. So, it’s little wonder that Temporada is located in the Shiki building. This Hokkaido take on modern tapas showcases a wide range of delectable dishes and an expansive wine list too. Another great restaurant following the trend to open all-year-round here in Niseko.
Kutchan to Host G20 Tourist Ministers Meeting In international news, Japan is hosting the G20 Summit this year for the very first time. Global leaders and the world’s central banks will meet in Osaka June 28-29 for the Summit which will be chaired by Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. A series of other important global meetings are also part of the Summit program with Niseko’s neighbouring town of Kutchan hosting the G20 Tourism Ministers Meeting on October 25-26.
Swing Amongst the Treetops The NAC Adventure Park in Hirafu is open for its second summer, challenging those daring enough to take on the high tree course. With six different difficulty levels and over 100 elements each fitted out with world-class safety equipment, this is a great adventure activity for the whole family. www.nacadventurepark.jp 8 |
Diners soak up the atmosphere at Kumo Restaurant
Eat, Drink and Enjoy As far as location goes, few restaurants can rival Kumo Restaurant for Mt Yotei views. Better yet, the food definitely matches the view! Located in Skye Niseko, this Hokkaido izakaya serves honest, uncomplicated yet inspired dishes using traditional Japanese flavours with a touch of new wave. Large group bookings are welcome and there is also a spacious Tatami Room available for private dining. www.kumoniseko.com
Bigger and Better Interest and investment in Niseko continue to thrive with a number of high-profile developments in construction. The Park Hyatt Hanazono is scheduled for a winter 2019/20 opening and its presence at the base of the Hanazono ski runs is hard to miss. The hotel will boast the level of luxury synonymous with the Park Hyatt brand and offers priority access to Hanazono Golf. Setsu Niseko, by Singaporean developer SC Global Developments is also taking shape at the intersection opposite Lawson in Hirafu. With 190 furnished apartments, this luxury condominium hotel residence is scheduled for completion in 2021.
The Park Hyatt Hanazono
New Location, Same Great Flavours
A brand new 7-Eleven convenience store opened in Niseko over winter. Situated at the Yamada intersection between Kutchan and Hirafu, the 7-Eleven is in the new Crossroad building which also contains a Napoli style pizzeria, Seven Stars Café and the Ezo Rent-A-Car shop open all-year-round.
Float an Idea On the ground floor of the brand new Skye Niseko is Ryko Spa, offering a wide range of services to restore and refresh your mind, body and spirit. Besides massages, facial therapies, full day and multi-day packages, Ryko Spa has Hokkaido’s first and only ‘Float Tank’ for weightlessness therapy. Using local mountain spring water filled with mineral salts that make you float, this is a rare opportunity to let your body be totally free of gravity—relax completely and drift easily into a peaceful state of mind. www.rykospa.com
Green Farm Cafe
Long-time Niseko favourite Green Farm Cafe has moved from its original location at the Hirafu intersection last summer to a new space in the Shiki building which also houses the new Hyatt House hotel. It’s a change of scenery for the Green Farm team and a change in the official business name but the new Green Farm Deli Cafe Roaster thankfully delivers the same delicious café fare, inhouse roasted coffee and farmto-fork philosophy.
A Gin Lover’s Dream
The new 7-Eleven at Yamada intersection
A brand new Sapporo based distillery is making waves in the craft gin world. Benizakura Distillery, launched by Liberty Whisky Inc. has begun producing a range of gins inspired by Hokkaido and almost exclusively using Hokkaido products. Their 9148 range uses ingredients such as kelp, shiitake mushrooms and dried daikon radish to add a uniquely Hokkaido flavor to the traditional liquor. Visit An Dining this summer for a Beni Zakura G&T, or a cheeky little martini! experienceniseko.com
great Into The
Niseko offers more than just winter fun. In summer, there are a variety of outdoor activities and events to be enjoyed by all. WORDS: SHUYA ARAYA
Clockwise from left: Spring rafting; cherry blossoms line the roads; the view from the Annupuri hiking trail.
Spring SAKURA RUSH
COVERED IN GREEN
SPLASH IN SPRINGWATER
Lake Toya, Niseko-Hirafu, Makkari Shrine and Arishima Takeo Memorial Museum are some of the best spots in the area for cherry blossom viewing. Throughout spring, see Japanâ€™s iconic pink flowers bloom around Niseko.
Golf season is in full swing by the end of May. Driving ranges will open slightly earlier for you to get going pre-season.
A melting snowpack creates an exhilarating spring rafting experience. Expect stunning alpine scenery, gorgeous seasonal colours and crystal clear water.
Standing tall over Niseko, Mt Yotei offers one of the most spectacular hiking routes. Explore Nisekoâ€™s beauty with multiple mountain trails opening in late spring.
When: April and May
When: Late May until September
When: May until November
When: Early to mid-May
Clockwise from top: Niseko Classic; Strider Enjoy Cup; Mishima-san’s Garden.
Summer PINK MAGIC CARPET Immerse yourself in Mr Mishima’s shibazakura garden, free of charge. Take your camera and capture the grounds covered in shades of pink. When: Throughout June
EXPLORE FLOW TRAILS Try mountain biking during the warmer months with a growing number of “flow trails” in Niseko. When: From early June
YOTEI CIRCUIT FUN RIDE The Yotei Circuit Fun Ride is a celebration of the Niseko Classic and is a fun preliminary event for entrants and their friends and families. With regular stops between Makkari and Kyogoku’s Fukidashi Park, enjoy a relaxing ride whilst taking in the extraordinary landscape around. When: July 6
NISEKO CLASSIC Join one of the main summer cycling events, which is part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series. In addition to the “nature-immersive” 140km and 70km road race, there is also time trial race. When: July 6-7
ONSEN PANORAMA RIDE This cycling event will take you on a panoramic tour to some of the best onsens found in the Rankoshi, Niseko and Kutchan area with a stopover at a few local gourmet restaurants too. When: July 7
EASY BREEZY GONDOLA Soak in the panoramic view and snap some amazing photos of Mt Yotei at the top of Niseko-Annupuri with a ride up the Hirafu and Annupuri Gondolas. When: Mid-June until mid-September
STRIDER ENJOY CUP This fun family-friendly event encourages young kids to learn how to cycle and pick up the hobby of the increasingly popular Strider Bikes. Competitions are also open to young children who can ride their own Strider Bike. Registration essential. When: July 14
HANAZONO HILL CLIMB Calling all cyclists! Take part in the 15.5km race climbing 617 vertical metres. Or simply cheer on and enjoy the delicious street food on the day. When: August 4
The NAC Trail Run offers 5km to 30km courses.
Autumn RED BULL PUMP TRACK WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
NAC TRAIL RUN
Try out the pump track which offers something more for mountain bikers. The Akaigawa Tomo Playpark has one of only two permanent asphalt pump tracks in all of Japan. Donâ€™t forget to register before the event.
Niseko Station and the surrounding area will be decorated with real pumpkins to celebrate Halloween. Countless pumpkins will welcome passengers arriving in Niseko Station. Food stalls will align the roadside for festival-goers to grab some nibbles and drinks.
Marking its 20th anniversary this year, the NAC Trail Run offers 5km to 30km courses, catering levels for any fitness level. Join the run through mountainous terrain including log hopping and creek crossing. When: September 8
When: August 4
When: Early September until mid-October
Enjoy the summer breeze by running through the Niseko town at this community event. At the 37th Niseko Marathon Festival, a wide range of courses from 3.5km, 5km, 21km are available.
Held every year at Niseko Warehouses near Niseko Station, families enjoy Halloween festival with parents dressing their children and themselves up as well. A food hall brings a welcome taste of autumn. Entry to the event hall is free, while participants can join the costume contest and trick-or-treat trail for a fee.
See Nisekoâ€™s mesmerising fall scenery in the autumnal months. Explore the mountains, marsh trails and lakes covered in stunning foliage.
When: September 15
When: October 5
Your Niseko holiday, your way! With the largest range of accommodation in the Niseko area and exceptional service, Niseko Central can accommodate all of your needs and make your time in Hokkaido this summer an unforgettable experience.
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destination Niseko Globetrotters, Niseko-lovers and this issue’s cover photo creators, Sarah and Eric of the blog and Instagram, Chopsticks on the Loose, tell us about their summer trip in Niseko. INTERVIEW: SOFIE LAHTINEN PHOTOS: SARAH AND ERIC VIA @CHOPSTICKSONTHELOOSE
So, tell us how your travel blog all began? Eric: Chopsticks on the Loose started back in 2015. At the time we had just decided to leave our 9-5 jobs and start travelling. We came up with the idea of starting a blog as a way for our family and friends back at home to keep up with where we were and the things we got up to. It was also a great creative outlet for our photography and writing. Where are you both from originally? Eric: Sarah was originally born in Hong Kong but came over to the UK when she was around seven years old where she subsequently stayed all the way up until we left to travel. I was born and raised in the UK. When did you visit Niseko and what brought you here? Sarah: Our visit to Niseko was around the start of June 2018. We were already a month in to our year of travelling through Japan and had planned to spend one month in Hokkaido. The idea to visit Niseko came about after we heard of Mt Yotei from a fellow traveller we met. We’re big lovers of outdoors and hiking and when he told us the mountain was nicknamed Ezo Fuji, we knew we had to visit. 16 |
We just loved the photo of Sarah with Mt Yotei featured on our cover, where exactly was that shot taken? Sarah: Thank you so much! That particular photo was taken at Mr Mishima’s Shibazakura Garden. Mr Mishima’s garden features a carpet of vibrant pink Shibazakura flowers alongside a field of yellow canola flowers; seeing it with our own eyes was magical. It’s also moving to know Mr Mishima has been tending to his garden for 18 years which he opens to the public for free. We were told he does it purely because he’s passionate about the flowers. What are your top five picture-perfect spots in Niseko in summer? Eric: Mr Mishima’s Shibazakura Garden; Half Moon Lake (Hangetsu); Grand Hirafu mountain; Potato fields of Kutchan; and Lawson in Hirafu (awesome view of Mt Yotei). What was the most memorable part of your Niseko trip? Eric: Getting to see the beautiful scenery of Niseko was amazing but it’s the warmth we received from locals that was the most memorable. Niseko seemed to have a very open and friendly community, we were greeted with smiles wherever we went
Mr Mishimaâ€™s garden features a carpet of vibrant pink Shibazakura flowers alongside a field of yellow canola flowers.
From top: Dancing through the sunflower fields of Furano; the beautiful coastline at Shakotan.
and passersby would always strike up a conversation. It reminded us of our friendly countryside neighbourhoods we grew up in back in the UK. What do you think makes Niseko a great place to visit in summer? Eric: Niseko is known all around the world for its legendary winter wonderland scenes but it was the fields of multicoloured flowers and hiking trails which captivated us. In summer the roads are also much safer to drive on, coupled with perfect temperatures, this makes it the best time to rent a car and go on a road trip around the region. What are your top tips for visitors to Niseko in summer? Sarah: Definitely think about renting a car or a bike as the summer is Niseko’s off-season which means public transport will be much more infrequent. Bear bells will also be helpful if you’re considering hitting some hiking trails—always better to be safe than sorry. What are some of your favourite Hokkaido foods? Sarah: Hokkaido has so many great foods to choose from but it has to be the fresh seafood which takes top spot, we’d highly recommend making a trip to Shakotan where you’ll find the best uni-don. If you’re not so into seafood then Asahikawa has some awesome ramen shops including Aoba and Ramen Santouka. What’s it like to be travelling the world non-stop? Eric: It’s incredibly exciting, we’ve been travelling for four years now and there’s hardly a day that goes by which feels dull— new destinations, new cultures, new food, new friends, new experiences. We feel very lucky to be able to live the life we’ve always wanted. On the flip side, it can be very tiring. Where are you both headed next? Eric: We’ve just completed our 10th month in Japan which has seen us travel from Hokkaido to Okinawa. We’re heading back to Europe next with trips to Hungary, Luxembourg and the UK. Follow Sarah and Eric’s travels on Instagram @chopsticksontheloose or visit: www.chopsticksontheloose.com 18 |
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Spirit of Summer Summer in Niseko is the season of matsuri, traditional festivals in Japan. Locals celebrate a summer of sunshine and lush greenery in Niseko. Here is how to get festive like a local.
WORDS: VICTORIA YAP PHOTOS: NOLAN YOSHIAKI ISOZAKI
UTCHAN TOWN’S biggest summer festival, the Jaga Matsuri or “Potato Festival”, attracts around 40,000 people annually, with the highlight a “1,000 People Dance”. Kutchan Town resident and dance master, Hanayagi has been performing in the iconic street dance for over 30 years. Hanayagi says wearing a summer kimono, or yukata, is part of Japanese festival tradition and the best way to experience a matsuri like a local. “A yukata is traditional Japanese wear. We wear it to traditional events in the summer like dancing and matsuri, especially now when we don’t normally wear one anymore in our day to day lives. It’s part of our culture,” the dance teacher says. This Japanese summer attire is usually made from very light, breathable material making it perfect for hotter days. Coming in countless beautiful designs, choosing a colour, pattern and matching accessories can be a hard choice for many. “Children usually wear yukatas with cuter prints like butterflies or temari balls. Young women might wear brighter coloured yukata or a more eye-catching obi (sash) tie, while older women may choose slightly darker colours or a plain obi. If you wear a bright coloured yukata, pair it with a simple obi,” Hanayagi explains.
In 1978, Hanayagi was involved in choosing the official Kutchan Town Jaga Matsuri yukata which is now worn every year during the festival by dancers. Hanayagi wanted the yukata to be inclusive and to accurately represent the mountain town. “There were many yukatas with patterns like scales, waves and fish to symbolise the sea but not a lot to symbolise a dance for the mountain. I decided to go with the traditional Japanese matsuri chain pattern in white and blue,” the dance master says. “White and blue are traditional matsuri colours and go well with any coloured obi. This means anyone of any age can join in the dance. The elderly can still join and younger people can too,” Hanayagi adds. Leading the Jaga Matsuri dance, Hanayagi teaches the dance to the younger generation. “To make it easy for everyone to learn, I made a story to go with the dance moves. Gaze at Mt Yotei and look to your right with your hand above your eye, gaze at
Top Tips for getting Matsuri Ready! F Insect spray F Wear shorts under the thin summer kimono as an extra layer.
F Bring a shawl if you’re staying for the fireworks.
F Bring change for the delicious festival snacks and fun games!
Clockwise from left: Festival-goers enjoying the annual celebration; The Jaga Matsuri street parade in 2018; A top-to-toe tradition; Traditional Japanese geta shoes with colourful yukata.
Niseko and move your hands the other way.” Other dance teachers and groups have also gotten creative and added in their own stories to dance movements, like digging the potatoes out of the ground or raising your arms to make the shape of Mt Yotei. “As long as everyone is having fun that’s what matters,” Hanayagi chuckles. The dance master encourages everyone to wear a yukata at least once and believes that foreigners truly enjoy matsuri in Niseko. “Yukata is summer dancing dress. You can also join in the dance whenever you want if you feel like doing so,” Hanayagi says. “Now, many foreigners attend the matsuri and the 1,000 People Dance. They eat yakitori, ice cream, play games and laugh the hardest. These days foreigners are probably having the most fun at matsuri!” Don’t miss out on the rare chance to wear a yukata and take part in a traditional matsuri dance. To take part in the 1,000 People’s Dance, contact Kutchan Tourism Association. The event takes place in early August.
Summer Festival Guide 2019 Experience Japanese culture at traditional Matsuri events throughout the Niseko area.
KUTCHAN POTATO FESTIVAL One of the Niseko’s biggest summer festivals, Jaga Matsuri (Potato festival) celebrates Kutchan’s most famous produce; potatoes. A myriad of stalls of food and drinks will be stretched along the streets. When: Early August Where: Kutchan Town
NISEKO FIREWORKS FESTIVAL
LAKE TOYA ANIME & MANGA FESTIVAL
Enjoy special flower displays and great deals on locally grown produce and flowers, including Makkari’s iconic lilies. When: Early August Where: Makkari Road Station and Flower Centre
When: June 22-23
SHAKOTAN FIRE FESTIVAL
The largest firework festival in the Niseko area. Enjoy the evening marveling at 5,000 fireworks shooting over the Sea of Japan.
KYOGOKU FIREWORKS FESTIVAL
IWANAI SHRINE REITAISAI FESTIVAL
When: July 7-9 Where: Iwanai Town
IWANAI DOTOU FIREWORKS FESTIVAL
When: Early August Where: Iwanai Town
When: July 4-6 Where: Shakotan Town
Witness a 200-year-old tradition at Iwanai Town. Locals will carry mikoshi (portable Shinto shrines) to wish good luck upon homes and businesses. Enjoy tasty festival food at the stalls and the evening street parade.
When: August 3 Where: Niseko Athletics Park
MAKKARI FLOWER FESTIVAL
Attend Lake Toya’s annual Anime and Manga Festival and witness hundreds of fans cosplay as their favourite character. Watch the live performances, talk shows by voice actors and exhibitions on stage.
It’s a jaw-dropping sight to be seen when locals make a bolt through the scorching flames while carrying mikoshi. Beautiful embers fill the air making for a very magical atmosphere.
Celebrate summer by watching the fireworks light up the night sky. A family friendly event with a wide selection of Japanese style festival food and live music from talented performers.
Roughly 1,300 fireworks will light up the night sky at this event. Join in on the traditional bonodori dance, mochi cake making and more. Don’t forget to purchase some of local vegetables and daily products and make a visit to the beer garden. When: Mid-August Where: Kyogoku Town
KYOWA TOWN’S SCARECROW FESTIVAL Meet unique scarecrows wearing different emotions and decorated with hats and swords. The two-day festival will also feature horse-drawn cart races, Japanese folk song performances and plenty of food stores.
When: Mid-August Where: Behind Kyowa Town Hall
HIRAFU FESTIVAL Attracting large numbers of Niseko’s international community, the event is the most international festival in Hokkaido. Local restaurants and shops come together to cook up tasty food, give away prizes, and put on live performances and games. The festival ends with a spectacular finale featuring taiko drumming intermixed with fireworks. When: Mid-Summer Where: Hirafu
Makkari Flower Festival
Join Makkari Town’s local celebration of fresh harvest. On this day, it is all about fresh produce! Pay 500 yen and take as many fresh vegetables as you can stuff in a bag. When: September 1 Where: Makkari Town
NISEKO AUTUMN FOOD FESTIVAL Join this “Harvest Festival” to celebrate freshly harvested Niseko vegetables and others with internationally acclaimed cuisines. When: September 12-15 Where: Hirafu
NISEKO HARVEST THANKSGIVING FESTIVAL Kyoya Town’s Scarecrow Fesival
Shakotan Fire Festival
Give thanks to freshly harvested food from Niseko. This food festival comes alive with local people, enjoy the sake that is made from the Niseko rice, along with BBQ and end it with a sweet. When: Late October Where: Niseko Chomin Centre experienceniseko.com
Farm to Fork
With a well-earned reputation as one of Niseko’s best produce-inspired contemporary restaurants, An Dining is synonymous with fresh, Hokkaido produce, vivid presentation and palate-pleasing flavours. WORDS: VICTORIA YAP PHOTOS: NOLAN YOSHIAKI ISOZAKI
N ITS FOURTH YEAR, An Dining has been featured by World Luxury Restaurant and is well patronised by gourmet lovers from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and more. The man behind this culinary excellence, Shinichi Maeda, is a multi-award-winning chef with a cult following, stemming from his life working in some of Australia’s top restaurants. We caught up with the Executive Chef and Owner of An Dining to chat about his philosophy and the dining establishment. Shinichi Maeda’s approach to cooking embodies the Japanese philosophy of mottainai, meaning “to not be wasteful”. “I try not to waste anything. It’s not about using only the best part, I want to use everything,” Maeda says. Maximising the ingredients he is given to the fullest, Maeda gives a simple example with the common Japanese vegetable udo. “Many people will only eat the middle and throw away the leaves and outside. What we do here is we peel the skin, shred it, pickle it and make udo noodles or roast it. With the leaves we make tempura. It’s the same vegetable but different textures are created,” Maeda explains. Growing up in a traditional Japanese household in rural Hokkaido and helping on the farm, Maeda developed a strong appreciation for seasonal produce. “It was very normal for me to see the vegetables, to pick it and eat in the farm. We pick whatever we need for the day and obviously we don’t waste,” Maeda says. “I appreciate the produce because I know how long it takes, how it is grown from one season to another. Collecting seeds 24 |
for next year as a kid, I understood that every vegetable is precious.” Limiting waste, the celebrated chef also works hard to change preconceptions of seasonal catch and produce throughout the year. “In summer, [fishermen] have a lot of monkfish with slightly smaller liver, no fat and more collagen but it doesn’t mean it’s not good. There is a way to eat. The chef’s job is to make something tasty,” Maeda says. WORKING CREATIVELY with seasonal produce, Maeda is the first to make monkfish caviar while using the rest of the fish to make zangi (deep fried dishes) and salsa. Surplus is always repurposed in unconventional ways to showcase Hokkaido’s world-renowned produce. Serving such hyper-seasonal Hokkaido fare, Maeda’s connections with local farmers and fishermen allow him to source the best, which has been critical to An Dining’s success. Working with over four organic farms in Niseko and more around Hokkaido, he regularly visits amidst the busy kitchen life. “I visit the farms myself every week, two or three times in the early morning. I ask farmers and fishermen a lot of questions and see the produce.” Having spent over 12 years abroad, Maeda recalls his experience returning to Hokkaido and establishing long term relationships with local fisherman and farmers. “The first year was really hard. I knew no one, no farmers, no fishermen and a lot of people helped me.”
â€œI appreciate the produce because I know how long it takes, how it is grown from one season to another. Collecting seeds for next year as a kid, I understood that every vegetable is precious.â€?
Clockwise from left: Plump Hokkaido tomatoes roasted, Maeda preparing fresh greenery in-kitchen; local asparagus ready for prep; Maeda selecting only the very best.
Receiving help from friends, Maeda worked hard to make connections with local fishermen and farmers around the region. “In terms of finding the best produce, the second year got better, third year was even better and this year was amazing. Relationships are very important,” Maeda says. Today, Maeda is well connected in Hokkaido’s agriculture scene and has a deep understanding of the works and seasonal trends. Ninety-percent of the ingredients used at An Dining are from Hokkaido and 30% are directly sourced from producers. EACH YEAR, the varying harvest in Hokkaido and visitors are key elements in inspiring new dishes. With more guests coming from all over the world, menus have been fine-tuned to cater for the palates of international guests. “Almost 80% of Asian customers don’t drink, so I have to increase the variety of the course to create more filling meals,” Maeda explains. The menus at An Dining are carefully curated to strike a fine balance between using typical Hokkaido produce which is
recognised internationally and more unique local produce for guests to learn at the table. “I want to tell the customer who grows it, who catches it and why I use it,” Maeda says. Showcasing Niseko’s beauty through produce and his love for the area Maeda adds, “Niseko is close to the ocean, close to the mountain, and lots of fruit, vegetables and amazing produce.” Never failing to astonish, An Dining is a unique culinary experience which leaves international guests fascinated by Hokkaido produce. Amassing such culinary success, Maeda remains humble and is still searching for ways to improve. “I just want to surprise everyone. This is the best way to make people happy, and it makes me happy, being told oiishi (delicious) and arigatou (thank you)!” At An Dining, diners can expect a contemporary Japanese menu filled with innovative dishes in a serene atmosphere overlooking Mt Yotei. An Dining is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located on the 1st Floor at Ki Niseko.
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Feels Like Home Eccentric trinkets, old-world charm and the delicious home cooking at Café Nupuri have world-travellers coming back for more. WORDS: VICTORIA YAP PHOTOS: NOLAN YOSHIAKI ISOZAKI
ANDERING THROUGH the old noren (traditional Japanese curtain), the first thing many will notice is the dark wooden furniture, the aged metal kettle and rays of sunlight from the cloudy glass windows. Wafting through the air is the faint smell of caramelised onion and fragrant spices. Like a still scene from Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli films, this hidden gem tucked away at Niseko Station, is the perfect place to unwind, settle into a comfy seat and enjoy a quiet afternoon. Treating the cosy café as their home, owners Yuko and Tamotsu Matsuda have been welcoming locals and travellers for over 28 years. As seasoned travellers, the Matsudas opened the café with an aim to provide those who wander in a sense of belonging. “When people go on long travels, they will try and find something that’s familiar to home,” Tamotsu says. Having visited more than 20 countries in a small camper van and clocking over 18,000km across Europe, the couple are well-acquainted with both the excitement of travelling to new destinations but also finding home abroad. “We want people to feel comfortable, just like they’re at home,” Yuko says. Emitting a homely feel, Café Nupuri’s exterior and interior reflect the owners’ hobbies and tell the stories of their life travels. experienceniseko.com
EVERY PIECE HAS A STORY
Café Nupuri is an accumulation of the Matsudas’ life story. Combining their love for travel with meeting new people, opening the café within a station in Niseko was the perfect choice. First meeting each other here, the Matsudas decided to settle in Niseko because of its unique setting. For Tamotsu, it was because of the summer activities. “I can hike in the summer and fly fish throughout the year, really, I decided to settle here because of this!” Tamotsu chuckles. For Yuko, it was the natural scenery. “Unlike other places, Niseko is surrounded by nature and beautiful mountain ranges and I think that’s the reason for me.” Black coffee is served in dainty porcelain cups from a much bigger collection: antique wall clocks, vintage dolls sitting in the glass shelf, gas lamps, and wooden carved fish and bears. Each and every display in Café Nupuri are either tokens from their travels or handmade by the couple. Items have been collected from flea markets across the world, while others have been bought from small antique shops. Point to any ornament and the Matsudas will be able to tell a story behind it. Take the train headlamp in the corner, which is from Scotland, where they encountered a wild highland cow! The wall clocks, stopped at 2:46pm, mark the time of the Tohoku Earthquake with a caring message from the elderly couple. “Whenever someone asks us about the clock, we 32 |
always give them a gentle reminder to be safe when travelling and it is also a great conversation starter between travellers,” Yuko explains. Worldly people, the Matsudas are also extremely talented. Retiring from his professional skiing career, Tamotsu Matsuda is now a well-known fly fishing expert, enjoys wood crafting and playing the retro guitars in the corner of the café. A master in the Japanese art of flower arrangement, Yuko Matsuda decorates the window seal of Café Nupuri with evergreens but also takes care of the exterior of Niseko Station. “Even though it is a lot of work to maintain, the flowers change the atmosphere around the station,” Yuko says. During summer, expect to find the exterior of Niseko station decorated with colourful flowers hung in overhead pots and exotic plants plotted around, giving the area a distinct European touch and transforming the outdoor seating area into a small garden. NISEKO’S STATIONMASTER HARDY
Spending long hours at their café, the couple takes their young Akita dog Hardy to work every day. Delighting commuters and staff at the station, Hardy was given the title of “Stationmaster” for her popularity at the end of summer last year. Since birth, Hardy has been spotted lazing around the outside dining area of the café. Naturally curious and friendly,
Top Left: A story with every cup, Bottom Left: An earthy interior, Centre: Preparing a warm brew for guests, Top Right: Happy Hardy the Stationmaster, Bottom Right: Niseko’s famous black curry.
she greets commuters and visitors to the station like any good stationmaster should. Capturing the hearts of the local community, JR Rail made the decision to award the Akita dog with the honorary status of stationmaster. “We’re really happy that Hardy was given that title, the kids love to play with her,” Yuko says. FAMOUS HOME COOKING
Every aspect of Café Nupuri is designed with travellers in mind, in particular the food. “Located in a station, many people who come in are commuters who don’t have a lot of time to eat. I wanted to serve something people could eat quickly, be full from but is also healthy,” Yuko says. With this in mind, the menu is focused on healthy, hearty home cooking. Serving a range of traditional Japanese dishes, the choices go from curry served over white rice with a side of fresh salad, handmade udon to teriyaki chicken rice bowls, which are popular with Asian guests. Over the years, the little café has become well known for their specialty dish, black curry. “The colour makes it look more delicious and interesting than traditional yellow curry which is a lot spicier too,” Yuko says. The recipe to creating the dark colour of curry roux has been a secret for decades. However, earlier last year, the couple shared their recipe with chefs at Lupicia in Niseko, a
company famous for tea and food manufacturing in Japan. Touched by Lupicia Group Manager Hiroki Mizuguchi’s love for the area, the owners decided to share the recipe in order for more people to taste their specialty dish and introduce them to Niseko, where the black curry was born. “We wanted more people to know about Niseko through black curry,” Yuko explains. Now, Niseko’s famous black curry can be purchased at Lupicia stores across the country. Mildly spicy to foreigners, order a juicy hamburger steak or crispy bacon with Chinese yam curry; two of the most popular dishes on the menu. Take a satisfying bite into the pan-fried crunchy yam and savour the deliciously rich curry made from a unique combination of spices. Here, everything comes together as a rustic family-style meal, from the fabric woven menus and simple utensils to the black curry presented in a neat blue porcelain dish; you’ll almost forget that you’re dining out. FROZEN IN TIME
The menu and interiors have been purposely left unchanged, almost frozen in time by the Matsudas. When asked why, the couple say “so you remember this place as if you’ve come home, no matter how long it takes you to come back again.” Providing this sense of familiarity, the warm couple invites you to your second home, Café Nupuri. Café Nupuri is open every day 11am-7pm (Closed Wednesday).
Prativo Prativo, meaning “meadow” in Italian was created to embody an image of Hokkaido to diners. Restaurant Hall Manager, Minoru Endou explains this concept. “Hokkaido equals vast land, fresh air, delicious dairy and delicious vegetables. You can find that here in Prativo, with an expansive view of Mt Yotei whilst tasting fresh Hokkaido vegetables and dairy produce,” Endou says. Famous for their vegetable lunch buffet, the chefs at Prativo cook each dish with a goal to
A temperate climate, crisp spring water and nutrient rich volcanic soil makes Niseko’s fresh-tasting, bright vegetables a must-try when visiting in the green season. Fresh seasonal produce is better for many reasons: taste, texture, appearance, nutrition and the environment. Dishes created with Niseko’s vibrant bounty are healthy, yet delicious and are becoming summer’s main attraction for foodies the world-over. WORDS: VICTORIA YAP
Above and right: Pasta and buffet at Prativo.
highlight the natural flavours of local produce through simplistic cooking methods and minimal seasoning. “We might boil, steam or fry vegetables depending on what we think is best to bring out the natural sweetness of the produce. Our dishes are never a mix of vegetables so we can highlight the natural taste of one type of vegetable at a time,” Endou explains. Prativo is open for lunch every day from 11:30am–2:30pm.
Natural Food En
Above: Atsushi Maruyama and Shiori Maruyama of Natural Food En. Photos: Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki.
Natural Food En is a dining experience to reconnect with nature, reset from work and to get re-inspired. A mindfulness retreat through food, owners Atsushi Maruyama and Shiori Maruyama decided to open their restaurant in Niseko because of the area’s ability to grow deliciously nutritious seasonal produce. “There is no place like Niseko where water and soil quality are so good. It’s advantageous. Rather than setting up my business anywhere else, I wanted to do it here,” Atsushi says. With a vision that Niseko will become the centre of wellness food in the coming years, Natural Food En serves food which they believe is good for the body and good for the mind. “Produce, brown rice, dashi (soup stock), fermentation and salt are the keywords at Natural Food En. We believe that food has a healing power, eating good food affects a person’s mentality positively,” Atsushi says.
Serving a set menu based on seasonal produce, Atsushi is committed to using organic vegetables from Niseko. “There’s a boom in organic farming in Niseko right now. Farmers take pride in the vegetables they grow. The taste of the produce is the art of the farmers,” Atsushi explains. “The water in Niseko and volcanic soil is the secret behind why Niseko’s produce tastes so delicious.” Taking inspiration from traditional Japanese cooking, the set menu served at Natural Food En celebrates the abundant harvests in Niseko through simple cooking and fermentation methods. The menu changes depending on seasonal produce, varying from homemade deep-fried mountain vegetables to vinaigrette salads and can be made vegan on request. Herbal tea served at Natural Food En also uses dried plants from the Niseko area. Natural Food En is by reservation only.
Niseko Green Farmâ€™s pizza making workshop is an eye-opening experience for guests. Photos: Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki
Niseko Green Farm Providing farm-fresh produce, Niseko Green Farm was established with an aim to introduce more people to the beauty of Niseko in the summer. Believing in quality over quantity, Niseko Green Farm sticks to organic farming and does not use any chemicals. They believe that vegetables grown by hand, tended to daily, combined with the perfect farming environment in Niseko will raise the quality of produce through sweeter taste, crunchier texture and a colourful appearance. By keeping the farm small, Niseko Green Farm grows a lot of rare vegetables which are not commonly found in Japan including kohlrabi and beetroots with attractive concentric rings. Niseko Green Farmâ€™s pizza making workshop is an eyeopening experience for guests coming from urban cities who have never been on a farm. Guests from Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland Japan are often surprised by the difference in size, colour and taste compared to vegetables bought from supermarkets. Guided through the farm, guests are encouraged to touch, pick and taste the produce before assembling the pizza with the freshly-picked organic vegetables. To add to the farm experience, Niseko Green Farm has three goats which guests love to feed and pat while marveling at fields of sunflowers with Mt Yotei as the backdrop. Niseko Green Farm is open from early May until the end of September. 36 |
mentioned it tastes exactly the same as back home. “One thing that surprises all the Indonesians is actually how big Hokkaido soybeans are. The soybeans from Indonesia used to make tempeh are quite small,” Stormont says, which is something unique to using soybeans from a small family farm in Niseko and Mt Yotei spring water. “The use of tempeh is only limited by your imagination,” Stormont says. Resembling a cheese like consistency with a faint mushroom taste, restaurateurs have incorporated tempeh into different dishes including tacos, burgers, chili and even desserts. Pura Tempeh Co. will be introducing adzuki tempeh in 2019 as well as making other fermented goods during summer. Keep an eye out on local menus or buy the tempeh online at www.puratempeh.com
Green Farm Deli Cafe Roaster
Photo: Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki
A supplier to many local restaurants in the area including Somoza, Sekka Lab, The House of Machines, Bar Gyu+, Green Farm Deli Cafe Roaster and Wild Bill’s, Pura Tempeh Co. is paving the way for more vegan options in Niseko. Tempeh, a fairly new concept in Japan is a traditional soy product from Indonesia made by culturing and fermenting soybeans. High in protein, the product is good for the gut with multiple health benefits. Matt Stormont and Emily Lobsinger first decided to make their very own tempeh after they saw a lack of vegan options while eating out in izakayas. “Emily wanted to provide something for the vegan and vegetarian community. For me, I like to give people the option of not eating meat,” Stormont says. Using soybeans from Niseko to make tempeh, many Indonesian customers have
Pura Tempeh Co.
Returning in a new and improved form, ever-popular Green Farm Cafe has reopened as Green Farm Deli Cafe Roaster within Shiki building. Created by local food legend Dennis van den Brink, serving food from farm to fork has always been at the centre of his philosophy. The deli and coffee roastery focuses on using fresh Hokkaido ingredients to create simple dishes for everyday dining. Winning Best of Niseko Awards (Coffee) in 2018, Green Farm uses internationally sourced coffee beans to roast their beans in-house and create delicious blends of coffee unique to Niseko. Green Farm serves handmade pies complemented with fresh produce from surrounding local farms, house baked bread and sweet desserts also made using local ingredients. Find assorted Hokkaido cheese and premium meats well stocked in the glass counter along with pickled goods. In summer, expect to see dishes highlighting locally grown produce including summertime salads, vegetable baguettes and sandwich options. All menus incorporate vegetarian and vegan options with fresh fruits and juices sourced from neighbouring areas like Yoichi, a town famous for producing seasonal fruits. Open daily from 7am-9pm. experienceniseko.com
Say Cheese Home to Japan’s first independent Camembert cheese, Tea Room Cambridge is a place of delectable summer flavours, and a little bit of history.
WORDS: SOFIE LAHTINEN INTERVIEW: YUKO MIYAKE & SOFIE LAHTINEN TRANSLATION: SHUYA ARAYA
ESTLED AMONGST the green summer foliage along Niseko’s famous Panorama Line, the quaint country-style cottage is an idyllic stop to refresh on a sunny summer’s drive. First opened in 1994, Tea Room Cambridge is the passion project of Ikuyo Nishimura and her sister, after realising their own-brand Camembert cheese, Claire, would be the perfect pairing with tea. “We began the shop as a cheese factory but then we realised cheese goes well with tea and coffee, not only wines, which people normally like to have it with,” Nishimura explains. “Also, I wanted to have a place where people can come, rest and enjoy a tea.” With the name drawing from Nishimura’s time spent in her youth studying English literature in Cambridge, the United Kingdom, her cheesemaker husband learnt his craft in France before bringing his new-found skills and cheesy flavours to Hokkaido. “We were first anxious about making a cheese here [in Hokkaido] as Japanese people were still not into a culture of
consuming this type of cheese. Cheese is so different from our traditional food culture,” Nishimura says. “Even those who liked to have cheese, they were more used to having processed cheese and not natural cheese such as Camembert; it was still a time where natural cheeses were unknown and rare in Japan.” With the cheese sometimes mistaken by the Japanese as tofu in the early days (with some even adding soy sauce!), the Claire cheese brand has been impressing tasters from the first cheese made in 1975 and can now be purchased at Tea Room Cambridge, as well as other places around Japan and online. While a number of people simply stop-in to buy the cheese, the tea house also offers a relaxing place to take a moment, while tasting indulgent cakes, tea, coffee and the silkiest ice cream—all with a sure touch of Europe. The sisters’ adoration for France and the United Kingdom is just one part of their global perspective, with both of them having travelled the world living in countries including Australia, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
Tea Room Cambridge is the passion project of Ikuyo Nishimura and her sister. Photos: Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki.
“Japanese people were still not into a culture of consuming this type of cheese. Cheese is so different from our traditional food culture”.
A home-stay exchange visit to Malaysia and the Cameron Highlands (world-famous for English tea), saw the idea born for Tea Room Cambridge and what was to come. “The family we stayed with actually had an English tea farmer and I found their tea to taste so beautiful. When I returned to Japan, I decided to get tea from Cameron Highlands the day I open my tea room,” Nishimura says. “They had a different range of teas including flavoured tea; I had a taste of everything, and I loved it.” Since around ten years ago, the sisters have seen increased foreign visitor numbers year-on-year, proving Niseko’s growing popularly globally. “Two years ago, we had group of about 40 people come from Thailand two years ago, but it’s mainly small groups of guests from Singapore and England, a few from Canada, and rest are from Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Malaysia,” Nishimura says. Nishimura and her sister say Niseko’s scenery is the main drawcard for tourists in the summer. “It’s about the scenery. We have so much green here, it’s very beautiful especially on a sunny day. We can see mountains in Niseko from here, and also the sea. We have the best of both worlds,” she says. So on your leisurely Niseko drive from Niseko to Iwanai Town, stop in, say hello to Tea Room Cambridge’s welcoming sisters and enjoy a tea or satisfy your sweet tooth with a cool ice cream. It’s definitely worth the stop! When To Visit: From end of April till end of October
Pleasure the palate with earth and ocean-fresh Hokkaido cuisine this summer. WORDS: EVAN JOHNSON
UMO RESTAURANT, the newest and biggest player on the Niseko culinary landscape heads in to its first summer season operation. The restaurant name, Kumo, means “cloud” in Japanese, which is fitting, as the restaurant hovers high above Hirafu village in Skye Niseko, seemingly parallel with the stunning Mt Yotei peak to which it looks out. Head Chef Kiyoshi Burgess has spent the winter delighting the restaurant’s first guests with authentic Japanese soul-food by day and dazzling Hokkaido-inspired izakaya-style dining by night. Bringing culinary skills learned in famous Japanese restaurants in Australia, Tokyo and London, he looks forward to shifting the menu slightly to cater for the summer market which is made up of more domestic tourists and those from other Asian countries. “Winter has been great. Considering how difficult it can be to launch a restaurant and hire all new staff, it’s been smooth and very successful,” Burgess says. “With summer around the corner, we are now thinking about how we tweak the menu to appeal to the different guest profile. We will keep some things and change others, we might even add an izakaya osusume (chef’s selection),” he adds. experienceniseko.com
Top: Chefs in the boiler room. Bottom Right: A stunning outlook to magnificent Mt Yotei. Bottom Left: Fresh sashimi on the pass.
“We are so lucky to have access to some of the worlds best produce here in Hokkaido.”
“The predominantly Asian market who visit Niseko in summer are different to the winter clientele. We get a lot of Aussies in winter who will pick their favourite meal and leave no scraps. Our Asian guests prefer to choose a selection of dishes, and sample many flavours together as a group,” Burgess says. The one thing that will remain constant though is the restaurant’s obsession with using Hokkaido produce. “I am excited to continue working with local farmers,” Burgess says, “We are so lucky to have access to some of the worlds best produce here in Hokkaido. It is a pleasure as a chef to be able to work with such fantastic ingredients, just as it is a pleasure for our customers to be able to taste them.” “It’s a unique concept at Kumo Restaurant. On one hand, we are an izakaya, so we are unlike the restaurants our international guests find at home. But on the other, we are unlike most Japanese izakayas which are smaller and older, so it’s a new experience for our Japanese guests too,” Burgess explains. Joining Burgess in the Kumo Restaurant engine room is Restaurant Manager, Charles Perresse. The pair are from polar opposite sides of the globe (Burgess being Australianborn, Japanese-raised, and Perresse, French but with a jet-setting past), but they share a common journey to find themselves at Kumo Restaurant. “We both were running restaurants in London before we came here,” Perresse says. Kiyoshi was with London’s critically acclaimed Japanese restaurant group Bone Daddies and Perresse managed many restaurants, pubs and bars in London’s financial district as well as Tsaretta Spice, the number one restaurant in Meribel in the French Alps. “Kiyoshi and I work together on the menus. He comes up with the menu using his experience in Japan. I try it. We tweak it. We build the fixed menu, and then add specialty menus which change regularly. Ultimately, we just want to make the best food at a decent price,” Perresse explains. One of Burgess’ favourite dishes is the chargrilled Rusutsu pork with black pepper miso and pickled turnip. And for cocktail lovers, don’t miss Perresse’s favourite, the ‘Rice and Shine’, a uniquely Japanese sour cocktail which combines sake, pear cordial, lime, yuzu, egg white & lime leaf bitters. With one winter under their belt, the team at Kumo Restaurant will be stepping it up a notch this summer, so make sure you’re amongst those to try Niseko’s place to eat, drink and enjoy. Head to www.kumoniseko.com to find out more.
Autumn Flavours WORDS: EVAN JOHNSON
HE NISEKO AUTUMN FOOD FESTIVAL took place for the first time in 2018 and has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated summer events on this year’s Niseko calendar. The four-day event in September runs at the same time as the more established Sapporo Autumn Food Festival, which has been drawing crowds of tourists for years. “Sapporo Autumn Fest is quite a famous event domestically and internationally. We decided to have an event during that time to showcase Niseko culinary culture, something Niseko locals will enjoy and tourists will visit the Niseko area for,” says Acme Wu, Marketing Manager for Niseko Tourism. The opportunity to try delicious food from some of Niseko’s most internationally-acclaimed restaurants at a fraction of the regular price is just one of the many reasons why this event is not to be missed. “With restaurants such as Michelin-starred Kamimura offering meals at a max of 500 yen in 2018, everyone loved the food and also the low cost,” Wu says. Restaurants are asked to showcase the region’s autumn produce and celebrate the yearly harvest. “Not only do we have many different farms in the area developing fresh produce, most importantly, we have all the amazing chefs here to make the experience uniquely Niseko!” Wu says. The vendor list for the inaugural event was starstudded, including Kamimura, An Dining, Bang
Bang, Bar Gyu+ and Niseko Tap Room to name but a few. Restaurants such as these can be difficult to get in to during winter, so to sample their flavours and even chat to the famous chefs in a less formal, festival environment in autumn is a golden opportunity. While the 2019 vendor list is yet to be confirmed at the time of printing, fingers are crossed that these restaurants return, along with plenty of other Niseko favourites as the festival grows larger this year. The event is completely free of single-use-plastic, ensuring that despite the big crowds, no damage is caused to the local environment. “It’s a good chance for us to push more awareness of the world’s plastic crisis domestically too,” Wu adds. A line-up of talented local musicians sets the mood for the festival, playing each afternoon and in to the evening as food-lovers indulge. Four-legged friends are made more than welcome and other activities such as a bouncy castle give the event a community feel and make it truly family-friendly. For the duration of the festival, a free shuttle will run between Sapporo and Niseko, making it more accessible and allowing guests to check out both food festivals. Accommodation providers are also likely to offer great deals on autumn stays coinciding with the festival so don’t miss your chance to taste the exquisite flavours of Hokkaido at the Niseko Autumn Food Festival this year. The Niseko Autumn Food Festival runs from 12-15 September from 3pm each day in Central Hirafu.
Taste the fresh flavours of summer in Hokkaido
An izakaya with stunning Mt Yotei views and signature Hokkaido ingredients like Rusutsu Pork and seafood from the waters of Otaru and Hakodate—this is Niseko’s place to eat, drink and enjoy.
BREAKFAST • LUNCH DINNER & BAR First Floor, Skye Niseko 0136 55 6421 email@example.com www.kumoniseko.com
Niseko has been ranked as Best in Japan for its water quality 11 times since 1999.
Sweet H2O Wakimizu, mountain spring water in Japanese, is the secret ingredient in some of Nisekoâ€™s most delicious desserts. WORDS: VICTORIA YAP PHOTOS: NOLAN YOSHIAKI ISOZAKI
BLESSED BY NATURE, Niseko is famous within Japan for its pristine quality of water. Listed in the top 100 Japanese sources of water, the beautiful Shiribetsu River which flows through Niseko has been ranked as Best in Japan for its water quality 11 times since 1999. Taking between 50 to 60 years for snow melt to filter through the iconic mountain before arriving at one of the many springs throughout Niseko. The snowmelt slowly seeps into the ground and enters underground streams in the highlands before eventually emerging in one of the springs throughout the surrounding lowlands.
Gushing out over 80,000 tonnes of water each day at the foot of Mt Yotei, the power of Mother Nature is awe-inspiring. The crystal-clear spring water is highly valued as a source of drinking water in Niseko. Here, spring water is gathered daily by locals and attracts tourists from around the world. There are many sources of the famous spring water around Niseko but the three most famous spots are Kyogoku, Makkari and Kutchan. Crisp and clean, locals have incorporated the water into creating delicious udon, soba, curry and, in particular, simple must-try desserts.
Meisui Coffee Jelly with sugar syrup and milk poured over the top.
Meisui Coffee Jelly Made using spring water from Kyogoku, this cold, refreshing dessert is a local summertime favourite. Collected from Fukidashi Park, with one of the largest and most famous springs in Niseko, the purified water has a low calcium and magnesium content which makes it perfectly suited to brewing coffee. Coffee beans are first roasted using a carefully developed in-house method and then soaked in spring water. The rich and fragrant coffee is further processed to make coffee jelly that is healthy and refreshing on a warm summer day. Take a stroll through the scenic Fukidashi Park while appreciating nature and the crystal-clear water with a cold coffee jelly in hand. Approaching the spring water, the temperature drops to create a naturally air-conditioned area. Collect some spring water from the outlet like locals do or listen to the water trickling down into the large ponds. The cooling treat can be enjoyed with milk, sugar syrup or simply plain. Meisui Coffee Jelly can be purchased from Kyogoku Roadside Station, at the entrance of Fukidashi Park. Kyogoku Roadside Station is open every day from 8amâ€“6pm.
Using the mild tasting spring water in the process of preparing soybeans, the doughnuts have a distinct texture.
Tofu Doughnuts Located in Makkari Town, spring water from the outlet Yoteizan no Wakimizu is slightly softer in taste and mellow compared to Fukidashi Park. Here, spring water remains the same temperature all year round and is famously used by local stores to create tofu. Wakimizu no Sato sells an assortment of soybean related products including handmade tofu, soymilk and sweets. Offering samples of each, try their tofu doughnuts for a unique way to enjoy their famed produce. Using the mild tasting spring water in the process of preparing soybeans, the doughnuts have a distinct texture. A little denser than its fluffy American counterparts, the doughnuts have a crispier exterior and are smaller in size. Made using okara (soy pulp), the high moisture and nutrient rich by-product of soy milk and tofu, the doughnuts retain moisture when fried and are a healthy alternative. Coming in plain and seasonal flavours such as matcha, cheese and pumpkin, take a filling bite into one at this local store. Wakimizu no Sato is open every day from 8:30amâ€“6pm.
Hokkaido Liberty Whisky Inc
Taste the Botanicals The artisanal spirit that is turning heads across Asia comes to Niseko. WORDS: VICTORIA YAP
RAFTED BY Benizakura Distillery in Sapporo, ‘9148’ is Hokkaido’s first craft gin. Despite only launching in April 2018, the fledgling brand has already won several international awards including Gold at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Competition 2018. Praised by critics for its distinctive umami (savoury taste from glutamates) and floral notes, the distilled gin uses Hokkaido’s specialty produce and botanicals to create a wide range of tasting profiles. CEO of Hokkaido Liberty Whisky Inc, Hayashi Hidekuni hopes that ‘9148’ will introduce the region’s produce to more overseas guests. “We want our gin to connect Hokkaido and the world. Compared to tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetables), we don’t have to explain what it is and it’s easier to get people to try it,” Hayashi says. With a strong desire to announce the arrival of Hokkaido’s first craft gin to an international audience, Benizakura Distillery partnered with produce-inspired Niseko restaurant, An Dining in early 2019 to host one of their first gin tasting events. “We chose Niseko as this is where many foreigners who are accustomed to drinking gin gather. We were curious to see if they would like our gin, their opinion and what we should create next,” Hayashi says. Already receiving strong recognition from international visitors, An Dining have decided to stock the series of gin starting in 2019.
Spearheading the new wave of the craft spirit boom in Japan, Benizakura Distillery’s ‘9148’ is especially crafted to represent Hokkaido as a region. “In Hokkaido, we are surrounded by nature with many different types of botanicals. We thought it would good to show this, that’s why we use plants and agricultural produce from Hokkaido. We also plant our own botanicals, fruits and herbs to use,” Hayashi says. The artisan producers combine Hidaka kelp, dried shiitake mushrooms and Japanese radish to create a strong and balanced umami in the flavourful gin. Using a unique blend of Japanese botanicals from Sapporo’s 100 year-old Benizakura Park, the gin series carries refreshing floral notes. Made in small quantities, Benizakura Distillery also creates limited edition themed gin throughout the year using seasonal botanicals to reimagine the beautiful four seasons of Hokkaido. Capturing the aromas and scenery of each season, the brand has made cherry blossom infused gin in spring, momiji (red leaves) in autumn and a colour-changing gin using white birch extract in winter. For summer, ‘9148’ are in the works to create a gin based on the blue skies and expansive fields in Hokkaido. As a small-scale craft gin producer, Benizakura Distillery has plans to experiment with more of Hokkaido’s produce and make their gin more local and unique including the use of locally grown Juniper, byakushin. “As a versatile spirit, our gin can be enjoyed with crushed ice, soda water, as a cocktail or paired with the summer lunch course at An Dining,” Hayashi says. Try Hokkaido’s first craft gin in Niseko at An Dining.
creek coast TO
The search for beautiful lines in Hokkaido doesnâ€™t stop when the snow melts. WORDS & PHOTOS: NOLAN YOSHIAKI ISOZAKI
Emi Minatari, Ryoma Kohinata and Yuta Kamimura in a green paradise.
Top: Yuta Kamimura packing up the rope to head inland to bear country. Bottom Left: Yuuma Miyauchi bringing up the tail. Bottom Right: Ryoma Kohinata packing up after surfing well past sunset.
OKKAIDO’S IDENTITY is inseparable from its association with the intense hydrological cycles that storm the island year-round. Lake effect snowfall from Siberia in the winters gives way to torrents of snowmelt charging across rivers and typhoon driven storms in the spring and summer. Niseko’s proximity to the coast means that these blue veins of water crisscross over, filter through, and cascade across the landscape, giving life to this island, eventually making their way to the ocean. Niseko is between huge tracts of wilderness right in the transition zone between subarctic forests to the North and temperate forests to the South. Calling Niseko home is a choice we make so that we can walk among the trees and stone hallways to the sound of water rushing under our feet and glide across waves thrown up to us via typhoons. It is an extension of a lifestyle that revolves around immersion in water and a connection to wild swathes of Hokkaido.
The traditional Japanese style of canyoneering called sawanobori, translates roughly to “shower climbing” and consists of climbing against the current in a gorge or valley, which often involves swimming, traversing and jumping from wall to wall. Gorges in Hokkaido are cut through everything from solid granite to salt affected, rotten rock, which we must climb quite softly. The purest ascent is to climb to the water source or until the river becomes a trickle through the rock. The sawanobori season depends entirely on the snow season. If the snow is record breaking, we must wait on a window for the waterline to drop low enough to head upstream. The Niseko sawanobori season trails a bit after rafting season for this reason. Climbs are often called off due to heavy rains to avoid flash floods and landslides. Some routes that depend on punching through bits of waterfall or swimming underneath big rocks require that the water level be low and slow enough, but other climbs that have alternate routes around waterfalls have longer climbing windows. THE GEAR
There are a few unique pieces of equipment required for this form of climbing. Special mountaineering boots are outfitted with high traction rubber or felt soles for the challenge of sticking to slick rock. Traditionally, woven 54 |
straw sandals (waraji) were used, and the most hardcore of climbers still rock them. Although not absolutely necessary, a brush with hard bristles is great for scrubbing off moss. Sometimes, we only need a square centimeter of clean rock to grip onto the next move. Wetsuits, to prevent hypothermia, are used through the early and late season because water coming from deep underground or coming right off the snowpack is often quite cold, even with blaring sunshine. Mid-season water temperatures are bearable without wetsuits, depending on water levels. Drybags for electronics, food and spares clothes are also a plus. THE ACCESS
Accessing waterfall climbs is another part of the equation. The approach to these climbs can vary from walking right off an established trail, driving across dirt roads (that may or may not be closed), or walking for hours in the baking heat, through the Hokkaido forests buzzing with life, wetsuit half on, wishing for the respite in cold snowmelt. To avoid damaging the soles of our specialised boots, sometimes we switch to trail running shoes or hiking boots during the approach. There are coastal routes that require jumping into the ocean with full climbing gear and swimming around rocks and over tide pools. Great all-round fitness and comfort with the uncomfortable is a must for everything from the access, to the climbing, to getting back to civilization. The small community here means that with a mix of established routes and the potential for new ascents, Hokkaido is very much a sawanobori frontier. THE CLIMBING
Sawanobori workflow is similar to climbing on dry rock. If we are not confident we can safely ascend a section of rock without a bit of insurance, the first and most competent climber goes up with rope connected to a belayer and trad gear. This system ensures that given a fall, we will not fall the whole length of the ascent and will instead, fall to the last point of safety with the belayer taking up slack. This also means that we can cleanly climb a section of rock without damaging it or leaving behind any gear, as the first climber sets the rope and the last climber removes it on their way up. Depending on the gorge, we will sometimes leave a fixed rope for climbing out. Some sections of climb will be impossible to attach safely to, such as landslide areas, crumbling walls, and
Top Left: Yuta Kamimura on top belay. Top Right: Yuuma Miyauchi on belay as Yuta sends the slick wall. Bottom: Josh Sellens paddling out from a battered coastal wreck.
The traditional Japanese style of canyoneering called sawanobori, translates roughly to “shower climbing” and consists of climbing against the current in a gorge or valley.
extremely soft rock, which we must freeclimb one by one and gently, sometimes palming out our weight across as much surface area as possible and being very even with our power. There is also the option of a top rappel, if one climber makes it to the top and drops a rope down to others, giving them safety from above. In a deep gorge with big, featureless walls, the only option is forwards but oftentimes, there will be alternate routes around big falls or tricky zones. To avoid trapping ourselves in terrain out of our ability it is important to plan routes, study topographic maps and find out as much about local rock conditions as possible. Typhoon created features such as fallen trees, redirected rivers and crumbling walls require that we anticipate terrain not reflected on maps. The beauty and challenge of finger crimps, smearing, that burn of micro-tears on our hands, hanging on smooth rock by the friction of our skin, and locking our bodies in strange positions to vertically ascend rock keeps us going back. The hunt for aesthetic lines, beautiful walls, moss amphitheaters, and purity of climbs is very similar to backcountry skiing, where how and why something is done is more important than what has been done. We bush-bash through sassa (bamboo grass), fight off mosquitoes, run from buyo (Hokkaido horseflies), venture into bear country, and suffer through stifling forest heat for the line, for the experience, and for the stories. The places we roam are often untouched and pristine: fresh spring water gushes from rock walls, water carves through the canyons and waterfalls plunge from all directions as wildlife thrives in these uninfluenced oases. Experiencing the snowmelt in this way feels like a closing of the loop, of riding and climbing through both cycles; lake effect snowfall in winters and water rushing back to the ocean in summers.
the Sutsu-Iwanai coastline or the OshamambeMuroran side. Surfing is another expression of creativity that requires nailing the combination of good conditions. During peak typhoon season from July to November, storms coming from the main island churn up waves, with the Pacific side generally producing swell with more power than the Sea of Japan side. Consistent storms rolling up to Hokkaido mean multiple day stretches of waves pounding the coastline and keen surfers chasing waves across the island. Local knowledge of sheltered breaks is invaluable, as sometimes the whole coastline can be battered by onshore or cross-shore winds, with a tiny cove offering clean breaks in adverse conditions. That being said, there are countless beach, river, and reef breaks scattered all along the coast, which on any given search, can present amazing waves. The only challenge then, is finding a spot to haphazardly park and running down to drop in on the final product of a long chain of events: a salty, glassy, pristine wave that can become a lifelong obsession. Like the sawanobori community, the surf movement here is quite small and passionate. Spend enough time surfing in Hokkaido and you will start recognising cars parked at lots and familiar faces chasing waves before work, after work, or on weekends. It is not uncommon for the most dedicated to camp out waiting for morning swell, scoring solitary waves with the sunrise. Locals are friendly, even offering waves to each other with a “douzo” or “please, this one is yours.” Becoming a dedicated surfer is a lifestyle choice and in Hokkaido, the locals approach it in a very Japanese style. Armed with surfboard stands and warm freshwater tanks, the workflow of locals pre and post surf are a fascinating exercise in gear maintenance. There are no beach showers here and the water temperatures mean most surfing is done in a wetsuit. Dumping warm water into your suit before taking it off and having a warm parking lot shower is a very welcome luxury. As adventurers based in Niseko, we are in a unique epicenter for access, within striking distance of pristine gorges, rivers and rugged coastline. The hydrological cycle keeps pumping even when the snow melts, and we keep chasing.
The coast of Hokkaido is a combination of rugged and rocky with a few sand beaches dispersed along this surf frontier. With the right conditions, Hokkaido waves pump in from the Sea of Japan or the Pacific. Niseko is conveniently located quite centrally on the peninsula, allowing us access to both sides of Hokkaido with relative ease to
Winter is coming! Keep an eye out for Experience Niseko Vol. 8 Winter 2019/20, coming this November!
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Run to Paradise Rain, hail, sunshine or snow, Niseko is a runner’s dream, as we discover with Chris Pickering.
INTERVIEW: SOFIE LAHTINEN ILLUSTRATION: TAKAOMI KOBAYASHI
Why (seriously!) do you enjoy running in Niseko? Niseko is a wonderful place for sport—obviously in winter most people spend their time on snow and I do enjoy getting out on my board every now and again, but as someone who works here winter does tend to be the busiest time of the year. Chucking on my running shoes and a bit of warm clothing only takes a few minutes, I can then roll around the snowy back roads on my own for an hour and it really helps to clear my mind. To be honest, it’s probably that same sensation as everyone is seeking on the mountain: peace, a sense of isolation for a short time before heading back to the real world! That said, most people don’t head out in winter and once the snow melts is when Niseko’s running world really comes alive. There are great trails to explore and the views are just unreal. You can see Mt Yotei from almost anywhere and most of the time you are never far from home. There’s a great little crew of trail runners here and they are always up for exploring although they do tend to wake up early in the morning which has never been my strength! 60 |
Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki
HRIS HAS BEEN LIVING IN NISEKO for six years and in Japan since 2004. He was a runner at school and the early days of university before he “discovered beer”. Inspired by a friend to run a marathon before turning 30, he completed his first (and second) marathons in 2008. Since then he’s completed a total of 10 marathons with a personal best of two hours, 46 minutes, but now finds himself out on the trails and in the mountains looking for longer (and longer) challenges. That lets him keep on enjoying the beer of course! We caught up with Chris to gain an insight into what motivates him to move and which routes he enjoys running the most in Niseko. While he gets out even in the deepest winter months, his routes are designed for summer and there is something for everyone—whether running, or walking!
Clockwise from left: Chris in action; Mt Yotei from the outskirts of Hirafu; on the River Loop trail. Photos: Chris Pickering
What are your running goals for 2019? Last year I completed a couple of trail ultra-marathons, including a 110km race around Mt Aso down in Kyushu. I then attempted a 100-mile race later in the year but dropped out after about 65 miles. So, this year my main challenge is to conquer the 100-mile distance as I was selected to run the UTMF (Ultra Trail Mount Fuji) a 100-mile+ race around Mt Fuji. It’s actually at the end of April so lots of training in the snow and if I succeed in finishing, I’ll probably spend the rest of the year eating and drinking! What advice would you give people running around Niseko? Just enjoy the views. Whether you’re on the roads or on a trail somewhere, you are always one corner away from an incredible viewpoint. You don’t need to worry about time, just take some water and a smartphone and you’ll then be able to find your way home if you get lost. Oh, and always take some great snaps for the memories! Tell us why you have selected these routes to share? There are so many places to run around here and to be honest, it is rare that I actually plan what I’m going to do on any given day. I tend to just head out of the door and see where I end up. But these are three different routes that people might want to try. The first is relatively short and allows a nice view of the river between Hirafu and Kutchan as well as some stunning views of Mt Yotei. The second one is the full-monty of a loop around Mt Yotei, definitely something where you need to be prepared for a day out on the roads–but it is one of my dreams to actually start a marathon event which is a circle of Mt Yotei. The last one is a creation of Yoshitaka Toge, a great friend of mine and the owneroperator of Sprout Coffee down in Kutchan. It’s hitting the trails and climbing a couple of peaks and a really incredible day out with friends. So, three very different challenges on three very different routes. Chris Pickering is the Director & Group General Manager of Hokkaido Tourism Management. He uses the Strava app to track his running routes. Follow Chris and his running adventures via @nisekorunner 62 |
Route 1 River Loop
Length: 12km Vertical: Approx. 200m Start & Finish: Hirafu Intersection Type: Trail and road mix Required: Decent off-road running shoes
This route is perfect for anyone who is regularly running around 10km or perhaps wanting to spend 45-90 minutes out exercising in summer. A nice easy warmup jogging down from Hirafu along the pavement passed Izumikyo. The first photo spot would be on the St Moritz bridge where the view of Mt Yotei over the river is spectacular in the right light. After the bridge, you hook a left and drop down to the river. The path along here can be pretty muddy at times and after heavy winds there may be a few branches down but it’s peaceful and quiet for about 3-4km down into Kutchan. You’ll get another great view of Mt Yotei across the farm fields and as you run the final stretch into Kutchan you can see the Shinkansen work being done as tunnels start to be dug.
Once you reach the bridge in Kutchan you can turn around and come back the same way or turn right and run back up the road. This is a nice long hill to stretch the legs out, but before you start be sure to grab another photo from the bridge this time looking back up at Hirafu and Mt Annupuri. If I’m feeling like I have a few extra kilometres in me on this run, I might carry on up Route 5 and turn left to Lake Hangetsu and do a loop around there. This probably adds about a total of 6-7km to the length but is a beautiful addition to the run. The loop around the lake is about 2km and all single-track trail through the woods with some amazing views down into the volcanic lake.
Route 2 Yotei Loop Length: 48km Vertical: Approx. 700m Start &Finish: Hirafu Intersection Type: All road or pavement Required: Definitely water bottles and some fuel. You’ll be out for at least four hours so I’d recommend sunblock and a cap as well in summer. Shoes that work for a marathon are fine.
Before you consider setting out on this one, be sure to pack appropriately, although there are a couple of places along the way you can fill up from natural springs as well as a convenience store about half way. It sounds daunting to consider this loop, but apart from a couple of stretches it’s almost all on pavements and will afford you amazing views of each side of Mt Yotei. Car traffic in the area is really minimal, especially in summer. Until I ran this, I never really realised how different the mountain looks from each side. The view from Hirafu really does remind us of Mt Fuji with the iconic volcano shape, but out around Makkari the mountain takes on a different shape. In addition, the gently rolling hills around the foot of the mountain are really pleasant to run along. If you’re doing this in August it might be best to start early, that way you get the morning sunlight and should avoid the hottest time in the afternoon. If you are running in June or September, it will be
temperate most of the day. After running down to Route 5, I would turn left and head down towards Kutchan. Turn right just after Homac and now you have a long straight stretch most of the way to Kyogoku. This has a couple of relatively short but steep hills as well as a couple of stretches without pavement. Run on the right-hand side of the road facing the traffic so you can see what’s coming, although cars are pretty few and far between and they are very friendly to runners, hikers or cyclists. The road then winds up into Kyogoku and your first pit stop at Fukidashi Park after about 17km. Here you can drink fresh mineral water that has run down from Mt Yotei as well as refill your water bottles and Lawson convenience store is just past the park if you need a snack. Turning right after Lawson you will now head round towards Makkari. There is hardly any traffic along this stretch and if music is your thing this is the time to plug in the headphones,
but don’t forget to keep looking to your right where Mt Yotei’s face will be changing every step of the way. You’ll get some incredible vistas across farm fields and through tree clearings. After passing alongside Makkari Town through the farming roads, you have another chance to refuel at about 33km from another natural Mt Yotei spring. This is your final fuel stop so worth making sure you take enough water with you as there is still another 15km to go! About 3km after the spring you can take a short cut through to Route 5 again. You’ll have to run about 4km along the road, but there is plenty of space at the side so it’s not dangerous at all. Just before you get to the turn off for Lake Hangetsu, take a left and run down past Hirafu Station and Country Resort. This leaves you with a nice little climb up to Kabayama and then you are home and dry. It’s an epic run and something that will stick in the memory for a long time.
Mt Yoteiâ€™s iconic volcano shape changes from each side. Photo: Chris Pickering
Clockwise from top: Niseko Trail Loop creator Yoshitaka Toge enjoying the trails; trails always feel better with friends; enjoying Nisekoâ€™s marshes; stopping briefly at Shinsennuma.
Route 3 Niseko Trail Loop Length: 27km Vertical: Approx. 2,100m Start and Finish: Goshiki Onsen Type: 95% trails Required: Good trail running shoes, waterproof jacket, water bottles and fuel. You’ll have the chance to refuel about two thirds of the way around, but apart from that you need to carry everything. This is the big one! You will be out for around 5-6 hours minimum and you are heading up into the mountains. In fact, you’ll be hitting the peaks so it is really important to carry gear that is appropriate for the changeable weather and temperature difference between the valleys and the summits. But the views on a clear day will blow your mind. Do not forget your phone or camera for this one! You’ll take in the marshlands of Shinsennuma, the lake at Naganuma and the peaks of Chisenupuri, Nitonupuri and finally Niseko-Annupuri. This route is the brainchild of Sprout Coffee owner Yoshitaka Toge. A local trail running inspiration as well as a legend for delicious coffee, hitting the trails with him
is always a treat. It’s worth doing this route with a few people and running together. There are some tough climbs and descents and as it is all off-road it’s good to keep people nearby in case of injury as well as to share memories with. The car park just past Goshiki Onsen is where you want to start and this will be a spot you come back through after about 15 km, so leave some drinks and fuel in the car. This also allows you to call it a day if the weather turns or if someone gets injured. Head up the steps past the onsen and follow the route which takes you past the lake at Iwaonupuri and up into Shinsennuma where the views across the marshes of Mt Yotei are amazing. The route then winds around past another lake called Naganuma, literally “long lake”, before your first big climb up Mt Chisenupuri. On a clear day you can enjoy views down to the sea and of the whole Niseko-Annupuri range and it’s a good place to stop for a snack. The route then takes you down Chisenuppuri and up along Iwaonupuri before the descent down to the car park. Take your time to refuel here because next up is Mt Annupuri.
There is a climbers’ log book at the entrance to the climb and it’s always worth jotting your name down in case something goes wrong–the climb up to the summit is about 2 km and it is runnable though a tough section! Again, you will be afforded great views from the ridgelines and once you get to the summit, you’ll see the iconic hut at the top of the mountain which features in lots of winter photos as the start point for people’s powder adventures. In summer your view will be dominated by the imposing and perfectly shaped Ezo-Fuji—our own Mt Yotei. From the peak you descend rapidly down towards Annupuri ski resort, a fun and fast descent if you still have something in the legs! Before you reach the bottom lifts, you take a right and find yourself faced with one final cheeky ascent back up towards Goshiki. The feeling of completing this run with a group of friends is right up there with taking on a race or tearing around the mountain on skis or a snowboard in winter. If running is your thing, this is the one I would recommend wholeheartedly as a day you will never forget!
Niseko’s cool and sunny summers have made it the destination for golf lovers. WORDS EVAN JOHNSON
ARK TWAIN famously once said that golf is a good walk spoiled. I hazard a guess he never played a round in Niseko. As the world’s second biggest golfing market behind the US, Japan boasts over 2,000 golf courses. Ranging from world-class, links-style courses in the country’s most stunning locations through to local pitch-andputt, ‘Park Golf ’ courses, the meticulous nature of the Japanese people translates into some of the most intricately designed and painstakingly maintained golf courses you’ll find anywhere in the world. And Niseko’s location in Hokkaido, with its cool and sunny summers, has made it the destination for golf lovers looking to escape the often unbearable mid-year heat of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. This cooler weather combined with beautiful green fairways, blue skies, spring cherry blossom and rich autumn foliage during the golf season, means there are few better global destinations for a golfing holiday than Niseko. CLIMATE & CULTURE COMBINE
So, what is it that makes golf in Niseko so special? According to Josh Carmichael, a former pro-golfer from New Zealand who now calls Hokkaido home, it’s simple. “The environment. It’s beautiful, really special. There are courses in Hokkaido that are just unbelievable,” he says. “Horticulturally, the grasses are brilliant. The temperature extremities from summer to winter make for amazing conditions to grow grass. Just as Hokkaido farmers have the world’s best soil for growing produce, Hokkaido has the world’s best conditions for growing great golf courses too.” Combine the perfect climatic conditions with the meticulousness and pride that are hallmarks of Japanese culture and you have a recipe for outstanding golf. 68 |
“Just as Hokkaido farmers have the world’s best soil for growing produce, Hokkaido has the world’s best conditions for growing great golf courses too.”
“Not one grain of grass hasn’t been thought about and curated by the golf course staff,” says Carmichael, who now plies his trade as a caddy on the Japanese Golf Tour. “There is a strive for perfection that you just don’t see elsewhere in the world. It makes golf an easier and more enjoyable game when you are hitting every shot off a perfectly groomed piece of terrain, be it fairway, rough, bunker or green.” And thankfully, this level of golfing perfection is becoming more and more available to players of all abilities. A ROUND FOR EVERYONE
Once reserved for businessmen and government big wigs to discuss important matters and the state of the nation, golf has evolved in Japan. Female interest in the game has steadily grown over the years since Japanese woman Hisako Higuchi, in 1977, became the first Asian-born player (male or female) to win a major championship. In 2010, the nation celebrated the successes of Ai Miyazato who reached the position of No. 1 on the LPGA World Tour. And more recently, Japanese prodigy Nasa Hataoka has become a top 10 player on the world tour despite still being in her teenage years–all milestones which have encouraged girls and women to take up the sport and thrive. Yukari Nezu is a Tokyo-born, US-raised golf enthusiast now living back in Japan. She spent four years working for golf 70 |
brand Titleist and raves about how fantastic the sport is for women. “Japanese people spend too much time in front of the computer screen. I love how you can feel the nature when you go on to the golf course. It’s exercise without being too intense,” Nezu says. “There are more women playing the sport now too. I think men like women who play golf,” Nezu says with a smile. Nezu also notes that golf clubs are doing everything they can to make it easy for anyone and everyone to play. “A junior golf training program called SNAG (Starting New At Golf) is beginning to become more popular as an introductory program for young golfers,” she explains. “And a lot of clubs now have courtesy buses to help players get to and from the course.” “In the past, in places like Tokyo, where it is uncommon for people to own cars, you would quite regularly see Japanese people with their golf bag on the train…I’d never seen that anywhere else!” MORE THAN JUST A GOLFING HOLIDAY
People like Kent Prior from Niseko Golf are making it easy not just for local golfers but for travellers coming to Niseko to play golf too, with all-inclusive and tailor-made golf holiday packages available.
Clockwise from left: The sun sets over the greens at Niseko Village Golf Course; snow-capped mountains overlook manicured fairways at Niseko Golf Course; women’s participation in golf continues to rise.
According to Prior, the type of golfing tourist visiting Niseko has evolved somewhat over the years. “We attracted mainly Australian guests when we first started running golf tours 10 years ago. Golf lovers looking to escape the southern hemisphere winter to play in beautiful midyear weather,” he says. “Now we see more and more guests from Asia, particularly South Korea, Thailand and even the Philippines. Comparatively, it’s quite cheap to play golf here than it is elsewhere in Asia.” And you get what you pay for, and more, when playing in Hokkaido. “The courses are so well maintained and the service you get is unmatched. From the moment you walk into the clubhouse, you are treated as a VIP. A host will take your bags, you get given a cart, a locker, the people are very hospitable. Lunch is included, and at some courses you even get an onsen at the end of the day,” Prior elaborates. “Plus, visiting Niseko is more than just a golfing holiday. The food is simply amazing, plus tours to places such as the Yoichi Whisky Distillery and Niseko’s local onsens make it a perfect holiday destination not only for golf lovers but their families as well.” Hokkaido also boasts a more laid back and relaxed golfing culture than elsewhere in Japan which both international tourists and Japanese domestic tourists seem to enjoy.
Such is the popularity of golf in Niseko, that nine incredible golf courses can be reached within a 45-minute drive from Hirafu. “You can play nine holes, or 18 holes. You can even play 27 if you want. You can stop for lunch if you choose, but you don’t have to. And the dress codes are less strict here too,” Prior says. A WALK IN THE PARK
Another innovation which has brought golf to the masses is Park Golf. This Hokkaido creation was designed for children and families as an introduction to golf, but has become a credible new sport in its own right. Park Golf requires less space, less equipment and therefore less cost to the player than regular golf. Each ‘Parker’ (as a Park Golf player is known) uses one club only. This unique, flat-faced club, which looks like a driver but with a much shorter and thicker shaft, is used to hit a brightly coloured plastic resin ball roughly the size of a hockey ball. The aim of the game is the same as regular golf; get the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes possible. That experienceniseko.com
Clockwise from top: Niseko Village Golf Course; A Brand Golf Course; Hanazono Golf Course. Photos: www.nisekogolf.com
said, the smaller club and larger ball means no holes are longer than 100 metres, and a par 4 might be as short as just 50 metres. Most towns in Japan have a Park Golf course, available for you to play, usually without a reservation, during the summer months. Nicola Burton is a Niseko year-rounder originally from New Zealand who, despite not growing up as a golfer, has fallen in love with this shortened format of the game. “I’d heard about Park Golf from some Japanese friends over winter and was told that it was a must do activity in the green season,” she says. “So, in the late spring after the snow had melted, I got a few friends together to try out this new activity and was hooked from the start.” “It’s a great way to spend an afternoon in the Niseko sunshine, walking around the course, taking in the beautiful views and having a laugh with some friends,” Nicola adds, though admits that she and her friends do sometimes get a little competitive. “We set some of our own rules from the start; the loser of each hole has to do 20 press-ups or something increasingly annoying as we progress!” “All of the Japanese locals seem to enjoy seeing us foreigners giving it a go and they always give us plenty of encouragement.” GOING OFF COURSE
When weather conditions don’t suit a traditional round of golf, there are other options available to golfers in Niseko. Boot Solutions, a leading ski and snowboard boot retailer, have recently installed a state-of-the-art golf simulator in their Niseko-Hirafu store for the summer months. So, even when it’s wet outside, you can still tee up and play. Better yet, their screen golf system has many world-renowned courses installed, allowing you to teleport to such courses as Banff Springs Resort in Canada or Pinehurst in the United States. Check out bootsolutionsjapan.com for more info. Two undercover driving ranges on Route 5, just outside Hirafu, also operate for most of the year, giving golfers the chance to hone their skills on the range even during the off-season. So there really is no excuse not to pick up a club and get swinging in Niseko this summer. 72 |
HANAZONO GOLF COURSE Stunning 18-hole, par 72 course with a spectacular view. In addition to the course and clubhouse, an onsen provides post-round relaxation.
NISEKO VILLAGE GOLF COURSE A par 73 championship-style golf course that was awarded Japan’s Best Golf Course at the 2015 World Golf Awards and shortlisted every year since.
NISEKO GOLF COURSE 15 minutes from Hirafu lies this Arnold Palmer-designed course. The famous par 3 5th hole here is memorable—shoot accurately over a pond to the green in the shadows of Mt Yotei.
OTARU JISAN GOLF CLUB Between Niseko and Otaru lies this challenging 18-hole course and majestic clubhouse.
RUSUTSU TOWER GOLF COURSE Situated on the winter ski runs, 9 of its 18 holes are floodlit for play at night, this course is a favourite of Josh Carmichael.
RUSUTSU GOLF RIVER COURSE Designed by former PGA pro Curtis Strange, the River Course is spectacularly pretty.
RUSUTSU GOLF WOOD COURSE Situated alongside the River Course, this course boasts beautiful birch-lined fairways, gobsmacking views and challenging elevation changes.
RUSUTSU IZUMIKAWA GOLF COURSE The last of the four courses located in Rusutsu, the Izumikawa course is shorter and suited perfectly to beginner golfers (or those of us who are just no good!)
A-BRAND GOLF COURSE This course in Akaigawa features a European-style castle clubhouse. A great photo opportunity, and a great course as well.
Pump it Up A new biking craze is taking Niseko by storm. WORDS: EVAN JOHNSON TRANSLATIONS: SHUYA ARAYA
ISEKO HAS LONG BEEN a destination for bike lovers, with road cycling events such as the Niseko Classic attracting professional cyclists and more leisurely riders alike to our summer wonderland each year. Mountain biking is another sport which has grown in popularity over the years as Niseko’s summer visitors increasingly take to the bare ski slopes to test out their two-wheel skills and take in Hokkaido nature. But now there’s an all-new style, one which is taking Niseko by storm—pump track cycling. WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
A pump track is a bicycle course with many continuous bumps and banks, similar to a BMX track but smaller and without the extreme ups and downs. Using the ebbs and flows of the track, a pump track cyclist uses a pumping motion without pedaling to gather momentum and propel themselves smoothly around the course. There are two world-class pump tracks nearby Niseko for summer 2019. The first, at Akaigawa Tomo Playpark, is a 35-minute drive from Hirafu. Built last year, it’s one of only two permanent asphalt pump tracks in all of Japan. Such is the quality of the track that it played host to a leg of the Red Bull Pump Track World Championships last year, and will again in August 2019. The other is in Hirafu and is managed by Niseko institution Rhythm Japan, who are one of the leading adventure activity facilitators in the area, particularly when it comes to all things cycling. The Rhythm Hirafu pump track is a ‘modular’ track, built in Europe, shipped in pieces to Niseko and put together on-site. Long-time Niseko local and Rhythm Japan Operations Manager Andy Meadows, and Ryuta Tanaka and Kenta Suzuki from Akaigawa Tomo Playpark shared their thoughts on the new pump track craze.
IT’S EASY TO JOIN THE FUN
“Looking at a pump track for the very first time can be a little daunting,” Suzuki says. “But once you give it a go, you realise it is actually quite easy for anyone.” “Anyone who knows how to ride a bike can ride a pump track,” Tanaka adds. “That’s the great thing about the sport. experienceniseko.com
Clockwise from left: The picturesque Akaigawa Tomo pump track plays host to a leg of the Red Bull Pump Track World Championships; an emerging sport, pump track cycling has growing female participation; as extreme or as laid-back as you make it, pump track cycling is sport for everyone to enjoy.
It started off being a way to improve your skills for other cycling styles but is becoming a sport in its own right.
It’s as much fun for children as young as four or five as it is for experienced cyclists. It’s as challenging as you want it to be.” Unlike mountain biking, where some courses are simply too dangerous if you’re new to the sport, or road cycling, where the distance you travel and the courses you can take are dictated by your level of fitness, pump track cycling can be done by anyone, as intensely as they choose and for as long as they want. There is a small but growing community of pump track lovers in Niseko, made up of beginners and experts, locals and tourists. Most are cycling, some are skateboarding and the odd few are inline-skating. The diverseness of the group means it’s welcoming of newbies too, so there should be no nervousness for anyone wanting to give it a go for the very first time. “It’s a sport which is really finding its own identity,” Meadows says. “It started off being a way to improve your skills for other cycling styles but is becoming a sport in its own right, so it’s good to see new people getting on board.” 76 |
THE DAILY GRIND
Despite the lack of pedaling, pump track cycling is still a great form of exercise. “We hire our pump track out to guests in two-hour slots, but I don’t remember ever seeing anyone ride for that whole time!” Suzuki says. “They usually need a break every 15 or 20 minutes,” Tanaka adds. Some cyclists may challenge themselves to ride for as long as possible without losing momentum and stopping. Others are out to beat their own or someone else’s best time for one single lap of the course. According to Meadows, “It’s really good exercise, it develops strength in areas which other sports don’t. You can ride slowly for a long time and work on endurance or ride as fast as possible and work on strength and power. For me, pump track cycling is the perfect workout and I try and get out there every day. Any sport I am doing outside beats the gym, especially during Niseko’s stunning summer!”
ROOM FOR RENT
Another wonderful thing about pump track cycling is that specialist equipment isn’t absolutely necessary. Almost any bicycle can be used on a pump track and both Rhythm and Akaigawa Tomo Playpark teams are on hand to assist newcomers and pros alike with the perfect rental equipment to suit their needs. “From standard bikes that will help you grasp the basics through to premium bikes that are set up specifically to ride the pump track, we can help,” Meadows says. Akaigawa Tomo Playpark is also a great location for summer glamping, camping and fishing, making a pump track visit a fun day out, or even a weekend, for the whole family. As the saying goes, ‘four wheels move your body, but two wheels move your soul’, so, this summer, gear up and give pump track cycling a go.
Andy’s Top Tips to Pump Track Cycling
1. To start off, it’s all about technique, timing the up and down movements and getting the right line out of the corners. 2. Keep an eye on where you want to go! It sounds obvious, but a lot of riders look down at their front wheel and aren’t paying attention to what’s ahead.
4. Use your legs too! A lot of cyclists just pump with their arms, there is a lot more power that can be generated from your legs. 5. Once you start to be able to make laps without pedaling, the next challenge is endurance, this simply comes with more and more practice.
3. Once you get tired, take a rest and get your breath back.
To find out more, visit www.rhythmjapan.com and www.playpark.akaigawa-tomo.com
In the Treetops
Niseko in summer is the perfect place for long hikes, river rafting and mountain bike riding, but until now, no one had thought to look up into the trees. WORDS: KIRSTEN FAIRBAIRN
THE NAC ADVENTURE PARK is now entering its second summer of operation, offering a novel and challenging way to enjoy fresh Niseko air and its lush green surroundings. You can jump, slide, crawl and climb your way through this playground in the air. Stretching almost 10,000 square metres along the forest tree line beside Ace Family Quad Lift, the course is the brainchild of Ross Findlay, owner of the Niseko Adventure Centre. Well known for their adventure activities such as rock climbing and rafting, the team at NAC have created diverse and interesting paths through the treetops with six courses at varying difficulty levels. “The park we have opened is the largest of its kind in Japan. Also being the Niseko 78 |
Adventure Centre, I opted for more adventurous challenges than other parks in Japan. Most parks in Japan are not very challenging, but the NAC Adventure Park has everything from kids courses to our red and black courses that are challenging for the most enthusiastic high wire specialist,” Findlay explains. “The jumps are supported by self-belay devices, but to step off a platform near the top of a tree takes nerve, bravery and a certain amount of stupidity,” Findlay jokes. Leaping across at times and traversing through the trees, eight metres above the ground, even the boldest individuals can feel their heart race and stomach drop. If that is too much, there is also a chameleon course which is still fun and exhilarating. These obstacles lay lower
to the ground, offering a less vertical challenge of 12 obstacles. “There is a challenge for everyone at the adventure park. You can walk through the course taking photos if you prefer. We have had a few handicapped people come through the park and we try and accommodate them the best we can,” Findlay says of the park. “We are also looking to add a second chameleon course for this summer,” he adds of new developments coming to the project. The park is open to all with a minimum height limit of 115cm. Try the increasingly popular summer activity in Niseko. NAC Adventure Park is open daily from 9am-5pm. www.nacadventures.jp
A Postcard from Hokkaido Lake Shikotsu, October 2018 Dale Goulding: Lake Shikotsu provides an epic location for outdoor activities, with impressive mountain vistas lining the shores of the blue clear lake.
From stunning natural landscapes to farmland vistas cared for by hand, summer in Niseko is bursting with colour and vitality. This is the essence of summer.
Dreamy Summer Silhouette Annupuri Gondola, September 2018 Monika Syroka: Onlooking onto a panorama of Yotei, Konbu and Niseko volcanic range with the farming lands scattered between vast forests.
Spring Tapestry Hirafu, May 2018 Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki: Once winter’s grip weakens, it’s plowing season to prepare the ground in Japan’s bread basket.
Two Trees and a Barn Kutchan, October 2018 Dale Goulding: As winter approaches glimpses of early snow lights up on Mt Yotei at sunrise, across fields of silverbeet.
When Autumn Meets Winter Kyogoku, October 2018 Dale Goulding: The local rivers around Niseko are pristine and clean, always present Mt Yotei looks over.
Sea Spray Shakotan, September 2018 Monika Syroka: The sun combined with chilly strong winds, created an interesting adventure and views.
Sunset Over the Beach Ranshima, July 2018
Monika Syroka: Sunset upon Cape Shiripa, on our way home from an Otaru road trip.
South of the River Kyogoku, October 2018
Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki: The north side of Yotei-zan and Shiribetsudake at sunset.
Purchase your own piece of summer. Visit: www.imagesbydale.com.au Follow Nolanâ€™s Hokkaido adventures via @chilledmoose on Instagram Follow Monikaâ€™s Hokkaido life in pictures via @msoynri on Instagram
Vital Elements In a world where we seem to have it all, creator, artist and Niseko entrepreneur Shouya Grigg, is reminding us what it is we really need. WORDS: SOFIE LAHTINEN PHOTOS: SHOUYA GRIGG
ECHNOLOGY HAS GIVEN US the ability to do more than we ever have before. Much time spent on hand-held devices has given us more connections, more options and more decisions. It’s a world of choice. Though as these possibilities have multiplied, as our screens have become smaller, the clutter has become far bigger. Narrowing the focus on our busy world, is local design and creative legend, Shouya Grigg, and his passion project, Somoza. Nestled quietly in the birch tree wilderness of Niseko, Somoza is many-a-thing, and altogether, a breath of fresh Hokkaido air. A scenic café and lunch house by day, an exquisite dinner venue by night, an art gallery, and a destination for inspiration and clarity, always. The connection between food, design and art is at the heart of the experience. “I want to give people a full satisfaction, not just through the stomach but through the mind. I think people have a hunger, that’s why they travel and fill their body and soul,” Grigg explains. The visionary behind some of Niseko’s most stylish architectural designs including SekkaStyle properties, restaurant Sekka Lab and high-end luxury accommodation, Zaborin, Grigg has now created his own space through Somoza, to curate and channel his inspirations, ideas and history of Hokkaido. “[With Somoza] we actually started on the gallery space with the collection of art and artifacts; the oldest piece of stone is over 10,000 years old, some are 4,000 years old. For me, it’s not about art and artifacts though, it’s about Hokkaido history and where it originated from,” Grigg explains.
Colour, texture, form and flavour; Somoza is where art and food fuse.
Clockwise from left: Elements of Japan; pleasure the palate with Hokkaido's flavours; artisan pottery overlooking nature beyond; a natural outlook.
Centred on experiential dining, Somoza’s summer menu is naturally inspired by the seasons.
“Over the years, I grew to wanting to introduce people to its [the history], not just overseas guests, but to guests from Hokkaido and other Japanese guests.” The repurposed traditional Japanese “kominka” homestead that is the home of Somoza, is a place that is always in a state of transition, much like nature. “To perfect something, it’s ‘finished’ but with what I like to do, a lot of the inspiration comes from nature because that’s never finished. It’s always changing and evolving and we have to embrace that change rather than be afraid of it,” Grigg says. This free-flowing philosophy is something Grigg, originally from the UK, keeps fueled by not only the outdoors, but also from books, travel and people, to name but a few. Before moving to Hokkaido 25 years ago, Grigg studied cinema, which has in turn become an undercurrent to his creative work at Somoza today. “Filmmaking is very much about storytelling. I am not a writer as such, I really speak through my images, through visuals, and now it’s very interesting because it’s grown into spaces as well,” Grigg explains. “Say you want to make a film, you find the location, you build sets, you style them, light them and create atmosphere and then you bring in the crew. In come the cast, and lights, camera, action, you create the film.” “Then the filmmaker will hope that the audience will come on the journey with them during the 90 or 120 minutes. And hopefully, if the filmmaker is successful, maybe the audience will see things in a different way, or they are moved by something,” Grigg elaborates. Centred on experiential dining, Somoza’s summer menu is naturally inspired by the seasons: locally grown produce, smoked oils and nuts, preserved foods from a season ago due to long winters, as well as earth-fresh ingredients from Somoza’s very own garden–new in 2019. And while the cuisine at Somoza is celebrated, for Grigg, it is more than a place to eat, but a place that feeds the appetite for more. “A lot of people talk about food and produce in Niseko in summer. What I like to try and offer is a place you can experience and feel full in your stomach at the end of the meal, but it’s more for the mind, body and spirit. A place where your appetite will become more, for living, for life.” Visit www.somoza.jp
A Day at the Museum With a rich history, fascinating indigenous culture and a smattering of talented local artists, Niseko is a hub for creation. Spend a day, or two or three, exploring some of the best local museums and galleries. WORDS: KIRSTEN FAIRBAIRN
Niseko is beautiful; its natural landscape, history, unique culture and wildlife. It has inspired many local artists to create pieces greatly influenced by the region, and by extension, it has inspired many beautiful collections of artwork throughout the region. In some galleries, art enthusiasts share their personal collections, while others are locally or privately sponsored spaces for artists to exhibit their works. All, however, offer more than just viewing, whether it be events, performances, a meal or a coffee, these galleries aim to create a memorable experience for guests.
Above: Kiyoe Gallery showcases work by artists from Hokkaido
Kiyoe Gallery Kiyoe Gallery focuses on a Japanese art style to appeal to the international customer base of Niseko. While presenting a wide variety of artists, Kiyoe Gallery showcases artwork inspired by the Hokkaido region and by Japanese artists with ties to the area. Furthermore, guests are able to purchase prints and acrylics. The gallery often presents exhibits of not only photography and painting, but sculpture, calligraphy and more. As well as visual art, there are musical performances and participatory events such as Japanese tea ceremonies. Kiyoe Gallery is also host of the Niseko Summer Art Festival, with a large variety of works showcased. Check their website for upcoming events and exhibitions. Website: kiyoegallery.com
Below: Somoza offers beautiful forest views
Somoza Somoza presents itself as not just a gallery of art but a peaceful space to visit, with beautiful forest views and soft wooden design. The gallery opens also as a cafe, restaurant and holds a variety of exhibitions, seminars, workshops, classes and other public and private events. Somoza offers a variety of drinks and sets which include small gourmet snacks. Lunch and dinner courses are an omakase (chef’s selection) of Hokkaido produce, representing the region,
available only by reservation and seating up to 12 guests. Traditional tea ceremonies can also be reserved on request, to be held in the tea room on the loft level of the building. Some displayed artworks can be purchased and shipped, and a range of smoked food products are also sold.
Where: Hanazono Phone: 0136 55 8741 Website: www.somoza.jp Open: 10am–4pm (Friday–Sunday)
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Galerie RAM Combining a skill for ironwork and a love for nature, the steel artworks of Masafumi Sawada are a collection of unique works. Contrasting industrial steel sculpture and natural elements of wood, the artwork themes are of nature and music. Located beside La Villa Lupicia restaurant, the small gallery showcases a range of about 30 pieces that can be purchased and shipped internationally. In the gallery is also “La Cave”, a cellar of imported wine, rare finds in Niseko. They have over 5,000 bottles with almost 100 varieties of wine and champagne. While in the area, guests can grab a meal at La Villa Lupicia or browse the boutique and patisserie. Where: Kabayama Phone: 0136 21 6818 Open: 11am–5pm (Closed Mondays)
Arishima Takeo Memorial Museum This museum is a memorial dedication to Arishima Takeo, a famed Japanese 20th century writer who released his family’s land to the peasants of the time for farming. Developed by constituents of the land, the museum contains a library of Arishima’s literary work, historical information about the farm land and its liberation, accompanied by short film screenings detailing the relationship between this historical piece of farmland and the Niseko region. Unobstructed views of Mt Yotei and Annupuri provide a beautiful spot for photos and picnics. A large parking area and sizable grounds provides guests with space and privacy, even during busy periods. There is also a small cafe and book corner, where guests can enjoy a coffee while browsing the works of the memorials namesake or even take one home. Where: Niseko Town Phone: 0136 44 3245 Open: 9am–5pm (Closed Mondays and Public Holidays) experienceniseko.com
Feel the Beat Forming the soul of every matsuri, or Japanese festival, taiko drumming has an irreplaceable existence at Niseko’s vibrant summer festivals. WORDS: VICTORIA YAP
HE DYNAMIC PERFORMANCES can be heard reverberating through the entire town and will always be a moment etched into Niseko summer memories. The familiar rhythmic beat is performed by Koryu, Yotei Daiko Serve Association. Formed to preserve the musical art, the taiko drumming group was founded by the late Master Taiko drummer Rokuro Takada, lovingly known as Roku san. Toshio Yabuki, who was a close friend of Roku san and an organiser of the group, strives to keep the legacy of the Taiko Master alive through Koryu and the story behind the famous Taiko song, Yotei Daiko. “Yotei Daiko is an original Taiko song composed by Roku san. The beat and movements are meant to illustrate the preparation of hiking Mt Yotei through the seasons, the hardship then overcoming this and feeling victorious at the end,” Yabuki says.
Now considered part of Kutchan Town’s cultural heritage, the song is regularly heard at ceremonial events around town throughout the year. Yotei Daiko is also the first Taiko song to be officially recognised as a cultural treasure in Hokkaido. “We want as many people to hear it as possible. The group works hard because we want to continue what we learnt from Roku san.” Remembered by his disciples, family and friends as loving and kind, his legacy continues today in the form of drumming. “Roku san had a very big heart, he doesn’t discriminate, he wanted everyone to be well and happy. Roku san would teach Taiko at local schools, perform at charity events, go to homes for the elderly and bring smiles to people’s faces,” Yabuki explains. Making a connection to people through drumming, Koryu aims to carry on Roku san’s ambitions of contributing to the
growth of culture in the local area while rediscovering the powerful native art. Hoping to promote the Taiko art form and culturally engage with the younger generations, the drumming group teaches Taiko drumming to young kids at afterschool clubs around Niseko and those in the community who are interested. “We tell kids to really shout, hit the drums, smile and have fun! Otherwise the audience won’t feel the energy and power of the performance,” Yabuki says. Continuing in the spirit of Roku san, Yabuki says “Try it yourself, let’s do it together! Roku san would want everyone to have fun and we try and keep it that way.” Witness a mesmerising Koryu performance and feel the thundering sounds of drums at Niseko’s array of matsuri this summer. Catch Koryu at Kutchan Town Jaga Matsuri in early August with 100 Taiko drummers. Also appearing at Hirafu Matsuri, mid-summer.
Day Tripper Discover stunning coastal drives which rival the world’s greatest ocean roads, crystal clear lakes created by ancient eruptions and Japanese flavours unlike those you’ll find anywhere else. WORDS: EVAN JOHNSON
NISEKO STANDS as a fantastic destination for a summer holiday in its own right, but it’s also the perfect central location for day trips to lesser-known yet equally incredible locations in Hokkaido. There is plenty to see, do and taste within a few hours from Niseko.
Shakotan On a sunny summer’s day, few coastlines in Japan, or indeed the rest of the world, can claim to be as breathtakingly beautiful as the Shakotan Peninsula. The coastline on Hokkaido’s western edge is blessed with the bluest of oceans, jutting capes and bright green clifftops. For the best photo opportunities, make sure to visit Cape Kamui and walk to the end of the point which extends out almost impossibly in to the ocean. And don’t miss Shimamui Beach for unrivalled views of the Sea of Japan and a stairway which takes you down to the water. But the scenery is just the start of the Shakotan story. The food is certainly the next chapter. Uni (sea urchin) is a famous delicacy in Japan, and Shakotan is widely regarded as the number-one place to get it. Freshly caught that day and served up either as sushi or on a bowl of rice, tasting the creamy flavour and smooth texture of uni is a must when in Shakotan. The Tamura Gantaro Shoten restaurant is one of the top places to do so. Shakotan is absolutely perfect for a day trip from Niseko but for those who would like to soak it up at a slower pace, the coastline is dotted with camping spots, most free to use with great shared facilities and walking access on to the beach. Surf lovers will also find some swell along the Shakotan coastline, with gentle but rideable waves available when wind conditions suit. On the way: Take a minor detour on your way to coastal road 229 and visit Tea Room Cambridge in Kyowa (see page 38). experienceniseko.com
Clockwise from top: Toya is one of Japan’s most famous lakes; Lake Toya is a favourite destination for stand-up paddle-boarding; The Nikka Whisky Distillery, in Yoichi, has a growing global reputation.
Yoichi Move over Scotland, there’s a new leader on the world whisky stage…Japan! And the best place to get the best Japanese whisky? Just a little over an hour’s drive north of Niseko at the Nikka Whisky Distillery in Yoichi. The Nikka Whisky distillery was founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru, a Japanese man who travelled to Scotland at a young age to become a master distiller. He returned to Japan and grew to become the father of Japanese whisky making. We won’t give away too much more of that story, but will leave it to you to find out on a self-guided tour of the distillery. The award-winning distillery is still in operation, pumping out thousands of litres of the liquid gold for global distribution each year. But it also has a museum feel, with its history written on the walls for all to see. There is a gift shop where you can pick up a great bargain on a high-quality bottle of Nikka Whisky and treat yourself to some free whisky samples too. Though Yoichi has more to offer than just the whisky distillery. The Yoichi Space Museum is a quirky attraction which celebrates Japan’s history in space exploration, including scale models of international space stations and the Hubble telescope. And for a lovely day out in the sun, the fruit picking season at Yamamoto Fruit Farm runs from June to October. On the way: Swing by the town of Akaigawa and take on the world-class Pump Track at the Akaigawa Tomo Playpark (see page 74). 100 |
Lake Toya One of Hokkaidoâ€™s most popular summer destinations is Lake Toya, and for good reason too. This enormous lake, created millennia ago by a volcano eruption is the second most transparent lake in all of Japan, making for incredible sightseeing and photography. In the middle of the lake are four picturesque islands, the largest of which measures 9.6km in circumference. These islands can be reached by a regular ferry from the lakeside onsen towns of Toyako and Sobetsu. On the edge of the lake stands Mount Usu, one of Japanâ€™s youngest and most active volcanoes. Its eruption in the year 2000 created brand new craters which can be viewed from several walking trails or on the popular Usuzan Ropeway. All this geothermal activity is great for onsen lovers, as many onsens around the Lake Toya area harness mineral rich thermal water for their hot spring baths. For those in to on-water activities, Lake Toya is also great for fishing, canoeing and standup paddleboarding.
On the way: As you travel through Makkari on the way to Lake Toya, make sure you pop by Wakimizu no Sato to sample delectable and unique tofu doughnuts made using local spring water (see page 48). For car rental in Niseko, search Toyota Rent-A-Car Niseko. To arrange a day tour with a private driver, visit www.skyexpress.jp
Clockwise from top: Epic views of Iwanai Town from the Panorama Line; Golden shades and Yotei along the way; Fiery hues at Shinsennuma.
A local’s guide to Niseko’s most scenic autumn drive. WORDS: SOFIE LAHTINEN
APAN IS UNDOUBTEDLY one of the most spectacular places in the world to witness the stunning golden and auburn shades of autumn. Hokkaido’s unique mix of Japan’s famous maple tree as well as Hokkaido silver birch, or shirakaba, make the northern island a completely unmatched destination to marvel at Mother Nature’s most colourful season. Mottled hillsides are a plenty in the Niseko region, as a dazzling display of gold, copper and bronze, blur as far as the eye can see. Meandering through the mountains is the area’s renowned Niseko Panorama Line. Full of hidden gems along the way, the locally famous road is one of the best ways to experience autumn in Niseko.
ENJOY THE DRIVE
The winding road runs from Niseko out to the Sea of Japan to the small, sleepy fishing town of Iwanai. Starting the journey at Niseko Town on highway road 66, enjoy views of magnificent Mt Yotei and Niseko-Annupuri mountain ranges. Travel to the highest point of your trip to Chisenupuri Pass, which is also the boundary between Rankoshi and Kyowa and roughly the half way point of the trip. As you pass the borders of these two visually breathtaking areas, soak up the stunning views of the golden leaves of Erman’s birch trees cascading across the valley. From Kyowa, overlook the incredible panoramic views of iconic Shakotan Peninsula. This is definitely a picture-perfect moment! SCENIC SHINSEN NUMA
Take a break, stretch your legs and get your camera out with a pit stop at one of the region’s most beautiful natural landmark’s—Shinsen Numa. With shinsen meaning “god” and numa meaning “marsh”, the autumn reflections on the marsh water are reminiscent of a painting. Great for all ages and fitness abilities, stroll along the boardwalk for around 15-20 minutes 102 |
until reaching the picturesque marsh. It’s a serene spot to feel the autumn atmosphere and witness the beautiful shades of copper. Afterwards, relax and enjoy a snack at the resting house back at the car park before setting off on the road again. THE LOCAL TEA HOUSE
As you travel further along the route, before reaching Iwanai, make a stop in at Tea Room Cambridge (see page 38). The quaint tea house which has been around since the seventies is a cute little cottage with tea, coffee and cakes to enjoy or take-away a super-creamy soft serve ice cream or some of their famous cheese. The gorgonzola is highly recommended! ONWARD TO THE SEA
Make the final leg of the Panorama Line down to the port town of Iwanai, one of the oldest towns in the Shiribeshi region. Take a drive past the old, hard-worked fishing boats and scavenging gulls by the ocean side. Iwanai, famous for squid, keep an eye out for local fishermen dropping a line in off the mainland to try their skill (and luck!) with catching a big one. End your trip with a delicious, quintessentially Hokkaido dish of soup curry at cozy Suzuya, located on the backstreets of Iwanai. Hidden off the main road, this restaurant is a local secret and feels like home away from home. Order the chicken soup curry or try one of their popular omelettes off the menu. If you still have a little energy left, head on over to Family Bowl Iwanai for some ten-pin bowling action. Hit the road back to Niseko via road 276, then Route 5. The Panoramic Line is around 45km in length and takes about 50 minutes to drive without stopping, but as they say it’s not all about the destination, but the journey, and the star-studded road is certainly true to the motto. To get yourself a set of wheels to hit the road, why not hire a car for your stay in Niseko. Toyota Rent-a-Car: www.toyotarentacar.net
When to go: Early-mid October for the best autumn colours. Road 66 (Niseko Panorama Line) between Yukichichibu Onsen and Iwanai closes annually for winter from late October until late April.
All Summer Long Experience outdoor adventure only a few feet away or lay back and immerse yourself in the scenic nature of Niseko.
Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki
WORDS: VICTORIA YAP
Clockwise from top: Tree-trekking at NAC Adventure Park; enjoying a round of golf; sky high hot air ballooning with Lion Adventure; horse riding at K2 Stables.
Land HORSE RIDING
HOT AIR BALLOONING
Try a relaxing horse ride with K2 Stables during the beautiful summer season. Choose from taking a short horseback ride around the barn or a trek around the rolling hillsides.
Uncover the natural wonders of Hokkaido by hiking in Niseko. With many routes at varying difficulties, first-time hikers can take a fun climb up while more experienced individuals can summit the famed Mt Yotei for an extraordinary panoramic view.
Take in the view of surrounding mountain range, lush greenery and the Japanese sea from sky high with Lion Adventure. Go on an evening tour to see the Hokkaido sunset with Mt Yotei.
Head to Japanâ€™s largest outdoor Adventure Park at NAC which has more than six courses to choose from. See the area from tree-high while clearing many obstacles and ziplines throughout the journey.
Spend hours in Nisekoâ€™s unique terrain and beautiful mountain range playing golf in the cool temperate weather. Play golf in style with true Hokkaido nature at Niseko Village, Hanazono and more.
Take a swing at the unusual sport that was invented in Hokkaido and loved by locals. Created as a cross between golf and croquet, the game is simple and fun for all ages. Try the weird and wonderful sport this summer.
Clockwise from top: Rafting along Shiribetsu River; canoyning action; stand-up paddle board (SUP). Photos: NAC
On water CANYONING Jump in, climb around and swim through the clear mountain rivers. Get ready for some whitewater action.
SUP Balance on stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and cruise along the beautiful Shiribetsu River. Get involved for a good laugh and a few splashes.
KAYAKING Get one step closer to nature by kayaking through the wilderness of Niseko on a self-paddling tour.
WATER RAFTING Feel the adrenaline rush from the change in currents along the river or lay back and soak in the unbeatable view of Niseko from the water. 106 |
Clockwise from top: Indoor climbing at NAC; crafting glasses at Doumu Glass Gallery; delicious Baumkuchen cake; Ice cream making at Milk Kobo.
ICE CREAM MAKING Famous for cheese tarts and cream puffs, try making delicious ice cream at Milk Kobo. Suitable for all ages, spend the afternoon making ice cream using local dairy products and fresh fruit.
ROCK CLIMBING Challenge yourself to NACâ€™s colourfully graded routes or create your own. Perfect activity to burn off some extra energy.
BAUMKUCHEN MAKING Make your own delicious Baumkuchen cake, a popular dessert in Japan over at Saison Club. Make the batter from scratch and slowly cook it on a rotating spit.
SAND GLASS WORKSHOP Create decorative tumblers or beer glasses for the perfect personalised souvenirs from Niseko. Head to Doumu Glass Gallery for their quick and easy workshop.
Float On The float tank is a highly effective healing tool. Ryko Kalinko, wellness mentor and consultant to Ryko Spa, explains.
UR BODIES are the most sophisticated machinery on the planet. We have internal systems that finely regulate millions of electrical and mechanical processes every second. We pump fluids distances longer than the circumference of the earth every day. We have inside us a chemical laboratory that can synthesise all the chemical substances we need to build and sustain life. Our bodies are self-repairing. Certainly we can get help from medicines, but as it has been known from ancient times, with the right nutrients, our bodies are able to synthesise everything we need to be healthy and well. As Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thine food”. The main thing the body needs, apart from the basic nutrients, to activate this self-healing state, is rest. When we rest, our bodies divert energy away from our “fight or flight” systems of survival and into our systems of internal maintenance: metabolism, the immune system, and the building growth and repair hormones. “Stress” is the name given to the state of being where we habitually stay in survival mode without receiving the rest we need to repair ourselves. Float tanks provide a highly effective form of rest. The environment inside the tank allows the body to work unencumbered, bringing itself back to optimum health much more effectively and efficiently than any other form of rest. The weightless environment allows your spine and muscles to stretch out and realign themselves. The epsom salts help calm the body and heal your muscles. The lack of sensation helps relax the mind so stress no longer inhibits the body from healing. The benefits of floating can be divided into three categories. RELAXATION
Floating can bring about a state of deep relaxation. This state of relaxation allows the body’s internal homeostasis function to operate unimpeded. When allowed to operate freely, the body is highly effective at maintaining its own wellbeing. Floatation therapy is very effective at lowering stress hormones, in particular cortisol, which cause anxiety, suppress the immune system and contribute to weight gain. It also experienceniseko.com
Benefits of Floating 1. Improved overall mental & physical well-being 2. Relief from back pain 3. Recovery from fatigue 4. Reduced stress 5. Creative thinking 6. Speedy recovery from injury & injury prevention 7. Enhanced sports training 8. Effective visualisation or accelerated learning
Nolan Yoshiaki Isozaki
9. Rapid access to benefits of meditation
triggers endorphin release in the brain, replacing stress with a sense of wellbeing that can be felt as a kind of euphoria. This sense of euphoria has been shown to treat depression and anxiety almost as well as counseling. PAIN RELIEF & PHYSICAL HEALING
Floating helps heal the body by taking the pressure off of tired and sore joints and muscles, which allows them to relax. Relaxed muscles heal faster than tired, tight and knotted ones. Floating also helps improve blood circulation, which is essential in the healing of the body. Float therapy can help the body to heal itself even in the most extreme circumstances. People who have experienced chronic pain for most of their lives report feeling an instant relief of their pain that lasted for days after their float. Professional athletes use float therapy for enhanced performance, accelerated recovery, recuperation, rejuvenation, rehabilitation and neuro-muscular programming. SELF AWARENESS & SELF IMPROVEMENT
The tank allows for deep internal awareness by eliminating external stimuli. It produces chemical changes in the body that allow for clarity of thought, improved memory and problem solving. Floating allows for deep relaxation and focused attention, which are the two most important elements for motivating oneself to accomplish specific goals and be free of addictive and stressful behaviour. Floating also improves one’s ability to learn complex things quickly. There are several “levels of intensity” that a person can choose when going into a float session. The deepest state of 110 |
rest attainable is where there is no gravity, no light and no sound. The person is in a warm, dark, silent and weightless environment. This is what is called “sensory deprivation”, and it allows most of the systems that the brain usually has operating to take a break. Within the body’s energy economy, this allows the energy normally reserved for such functions to be reallocated to internal maintenance and healing. For some people, this level of intensity can be confronting. It is, however, no more confronting than where we all started—in our mother’s womb! On the other end of the intensity spectrum, the float tank can be enjoyed as a simply warm and weightless environment without the sensory deprivation. People can choose to have their senses stimulated by light and/or sound. Listening to music while floating is one way the tank can be enjoyed. The music travels very clearly through the water. Some prefer to bring their own music, as a way to enjoy it in a pristine sound environment. Or you could listen to a guided in-tank meditation while you float in weightlessness. The pod can also be used as a way to experience light frequency healing. The light in the pod can be set to a favorite colour or to a spectrum of colours. This provides a light immersion experience that operates at a very subtle level; at our deepest we are energy and vibration, and these levels of being are subtly stimulated by the wavelengths of different colours. All of these variables are at the control of the user, and can be changed throughout the session. Experience weightlessness for yourself at Ryko Spa at Skye Niseko. Visit www.rykospa.com
Autumn Stay GIVEAWAY!
Scenery, food, adventure and you! With four great accommodation prizes up for grabs, donâ€™t miss your chance to win in our Autumn Stay Giveaway.
Nest At The Trees
4 Bedroom Suite for up to 8 people. 2 nights, includes breakfast.
3 Bedroom House or Apartment for up to 6 people. 2 nights.
1 Bedroom Apartment. 2 Nights. Not valid October 1-15.
2 Bedroom Apartment. 2 nights. Not valid October 15-31.
For your chance to win one of these fantastic autumn stays in Niseko, visit www.experienceniseko.com/autumn-stay
Contest closes on August 21, 2019. Accommodation prizes are redeemable between September 1st, 2019 and November 15th, 2019 unless otherwise stated. See our website and contest page for full terms and conditions. experienceniseko.com
Ryko Spa has a plethora of incredible facial, skin and body treatments to relax and reinvigorate.
From age-old, time-proven techniques through to the newest alternative therapies to relax, Niseko is a mecca for those looking to unwind. WORDS: EVAN JOHNSON
For the first time ever in Hokkaido, you can try weightlessness therapy in the new Float Tank at Ryko Spa in Niseko. A Float Tank is a soundproof pod filled with salt water set at skin temperature, in which individuals float. The salt water ensures that no effort is required to float on the top of the water, which means you can completely relax and let go of all stress and strain on the body. Perfect for exercise recovery, stress relief and meditation, this alternative relaxation technique has been around in various forms for some time, but is only now making its way in to the mainstream. Most people who try it, love it, and never look back. The Ryko Spa Float Tank gives you the option to float in complete darkness or with a soft coloured light of your choice, and the option to float in complete silence or with music gently playing inside the pod. 45, 60 and 90-minute floats are available along with guided in-tank meditation packages and multi session passes. Supermodel Elle McPherson, basketballer Stephen Curry and comedian/activist Russell Brand swear by it. Does that suggest to you that floating is good for your looks, your athletic ability and your wit!? Best give it a try in Niseko this summer to find out.
The next level of relaxation has arrived in Niseko. Visit Ryko Spa, in Skye Niseko, and take advantage of a wide range of services designed to restore and refresh your mind, body and spirit. Aside from hosting the Float Tank and offering a range of soothing massages, Ryko Spa has a plethora of incredible facial, skin and body treatments to relax and reinvigorate. Treat yourself to a luxury age-defying facial, using worldclass Sodashi skin-care products, to restore the skin’s luminosity and natural resilience, and leave your skin looking more clear, translucent, lifted and firmed. Facial treatments are also available for men, using a specific product designed to work with men’s skin concerns. A deep cleansing and exfoliating facial product balances the skin’s natural oils, soothing irritation and preventing ingrown hairs. The men’s facial treatment concludes with a relaxing massage to tone and firm facial muscles and leave the face looking fresh and revitalised. Body care packages include an Organic Tea Salt Therapy and a Detoxification Therapy Mud Wrap. Full and half-day packages are available, as well as a wide range of skin-care products for purchase.
Clockwise from top: Yugokorotei Onsen is just a 15-minute drive from Hirafu; relaxing at Ryko Spa; a few gentle laps to unwind.
Massage Perfect for those winding down after taking on one of Niseko’s many summer adventure activities, or for those just looking to be pampered, there are many massage options available in Niseko. Arigato Massage, located in the J-Sekka building at the main Hirafu intersection, is a well-established clinic offering a range of massages including dry, foot and Thai massages. Their signature massage, however, is a full body massage using essential oils that release tension, heal tired muscles, improve blood circulation and metabolism, leaving a relaxing effect that reduces stress. Pure bliss! Massages range from 40 minutes to 120 minutes and if you would prefer to relax at home, Arigato Massage offers hotel and condominium visits. Other great massage clinics available in summer are Ryko Spa and Hermosa Angel on Hirafu-Zaka St.
Swim Whether you’re looking to keep your fitness levels up while on holiday, or you’re just after a few gentle laps to switch off and relax, swimming in Niseko is a popular pastime. The Hotel Niseko Alpen has a 25 metre lap-lane swimming pool available for the use of both hotel guests and the public. It’s location at the base of the mountain makes it perfect to walk in to from a long hike or mountain biking session. Rental swim-wear, towels, swimming caps and goggles are available. After your swim, you can opt to relax in the Jacuzzi and hot stone sauna, or explore the hotel’s onsen, massage therapy centre or karaoke room.
Onsen Embrace Japanese tradition and experience the ultimate in relaxation this green season with an onsen. For generations, the Japanese have been using onsen hot springs as a way to relax and rejuvenate tired muscles. In fact, they are famous for it. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands and one of the best places to enjoy an onsen is Niseko. Before skiing became its major draw, Niseko was an onsen town attracting tourists from near and far to its thermally-heated baths. One of Niseko’s best is Yugokorotei in Annupuri. A 15-minute drive from Hirafu, this outdoor onsen is picturesque and comfortable. Relax in the onsen for as long as you like then take a seat in one of its unbelievably comfy massage chairs. Just try your best not to fall asleep! Yugokorotei also has a restaurant attached which serves fantastic pork katsu dishes and, at certain times of year, offers lunch and onsen package discounts. Another popular onsen is Yukichichibu. Recently refurbished, this onsen is high in sulfur and iron, great for achy muscles. The onsen is situated in nature, next to a thermal marshland which you can walk around and watch the steam rising from the spring. Japan’s obsession with onsens carries all the way in to the kitchen too, with onsen tamago (eggs traditionally slowcooked in the water of onsen hot springs) a staple breakfast item. experienceniseko.com