If you’re spending your Christmas and New Year in Niseko, this informative guide will ensure you don’t miss a thing. Niseko is a magical place at any given time of year. However, during the holiday period, it surges to life with an abundance of events and activities that the whole family can enjoy. So, without further ado, here are all the happenings around the village to close out 2019.
With the help of his nine enchanted reindeer, Santa Claus will be making an appearance so no need to fret children! Just head down to Fresh Café in front of Alpen Ridge/NBS, and Santa will be on his throne Sunday 22nd, and Monday 23rd between 11:30 am – 2:00 pm. Santa will also have a sack full of goodies and gifts to give to the kids! SkiJapan staff will also be present to take photos that will be FREE and available online for parents to download for an everlasting keepsake! More information here!
Decorate your Apartment
If you and your family are planning on celebrating Christmas in your private accommodation, a great way to do so is to deck your halls with boughs of holly! To do this affordably, is to visit Daiso, the local 100 yen store. The team there will have an abundance of Christmas decorations and is a sure way to make your holiday away from home as jolly as possible!
Christmas Lunch and Dinner
If you are in town and looking for a Christmas feast, there are a few options we would recommend. Remember, it is quite busy over this period in the village so booking as soon as possible is essential.
- Hilton Niseko Village
- The Melt, Bar and Grill located inside the Hilton, host a Christmas buffet dinner from 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm. You can book a table online via the link above.
- Niseko Pizza
- Niseko Pizza will be serving a special whole roasted chicken on a bed of hand-cut Niseko fries. Baked in a traditional wood-fired oven, this is sure to satisfy any holiday hunger!
- Niseko Taproom
- Niseko Taproom will also have their famous rotisserie chickens spinning on Christmas day and another delicious poultry option. We also recommend you try one, or all, of their extensive craft beers selection.
- Tomo Restaurant
- Tomo is one of Niseko’s newest editions to the culinary scene combining modern techniques to the traditional Japanese tavern-style, Izakaya. They are offering a special Christmas and New Year set menu that is sure to be delicious! You can book online via the link above.
- Niseko Half-Note
- If you’re looking for a traditional roast dinner, then Half-Note located in central Hirafu is the answer. They have two sittings at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm, bookings are essential and can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For all those wanting to get into the festivities early, they are also hosting a Christmas Jazz evening on Christmas Eve starting at 8:30pm.
- Dessert! Japanese cakes are some of the most delicious in the world. These fine establishments below are a great option to get some festive holiday sweets made for your party.
Niseko itself does not offer a Catholic service during the day; however, the Catholic Church in the neighbouring town Kutchan does. The two-hour service will run from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm Christmas night. A celebration party will follow it. You can find more information and contact details here.
If you’re looking for a way to spice up the holidays, both guests and seasonal workers alike, then the comical Secret Santa is an excellent way to do so. There are several shops in Kutchan including:
- Tsutaya – who has an extensive range of toys and board games that are a sure way to be able to kill some downtime after the mountain.
- Cocoroya – an assortment of vintage Japanese dolls and knick-knacks. A unique gift to take home as a reminder of your trip.
- Marche Yukidaruma– Located in Homac, you can pick up a variety of quirky Japanese gifts and delightful snacks sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
New Years in Japan, or “Oshougatsu”, is the most important holiday of the year to the Japanese community. It is seen that each new year is a fresh start, with all the previous year’s worries and troubles left behind. Houses are cleaned, decorated with ornaments of pine, bamboo and plum trees, families gather and spend the first few days of the new year together. In Niseko, there is a wide variety of activities available to the public so you too can get involved in this sacred time.
Kick your New Year evening off with delicious meal while simultaneously taking part in one of Japan’s most popular New Year Customs; soba. Soba is a Japanese noodle and is very popular year-round throughout the country. When soba is made, the dough is stretched out and cut into long thin strips which are said to represent a long and healthy life. As the dough is extremely easy to cut, it also symbolizes a wish to cut away all the misfortunes felt from the previous year to enter the new year cleansed.
Free Night Skiing Annapuri
Work off all that soba by going for a ride! Niseko Annapuri Resort will be offering FREE night skiing to anyone wanting to from 9:00 pm – 11:15 pm on New Year’s Eve. Finish the year off in style by going for a final few laps, sure to make all your friends back home a little jealous.
Fire Torch Grand Hirafu and Annapuri
The annual New Year torch skiing will be taking place for the 44th time and is a spectacle not to be missed. As the lights go out, over 150 skiers and boarders will be riding down the Kokutai, and Kogen runs of Grand Hirafu with torches in hand igniting the slope as the giant red snake makes its way down the mountain. It is timed so as the final person reaches the bottom at the stroke of midnight queuing the fireworks display. Annapuri will also have a similar event that is spectacular none the less.
It is hard to describe something as astonishing as fireworks lighting up the night with a snow-capped mountain as a backdrop. All four Niseko United Resorts will have a firework display simultaneously creating a phenomenal scene to signify the transition into the New Year. January is the coldest time of the year here, and you will be outside standing in the snow for a while, so be sure to layer up and dress warmly. Hand and toe warmers for the kids is a great idea paired with their ski socks and gloves! You can check out the action from last year here!
Hatsumode (First Shrine Visit)
Upon the completion of the fireworks, Japanese crowds will rush to shrines across Niseko to make their first prayers and wishes for the year. Across Japan, the peal of bells will fill the night sky as part of the Buddhist tradition Joya no Kane. The kanji Jo translates “to throw away the old and move on to the new” and Ya meaning “night”. The bells will ring 108 times signifying the Buddhist belief that 108 types of earthly desires plague human beings. In theory, by the time you count the 108th peal, you are ready to move onto the next year without anything troubling your mind. New Years is the only night of the year that Grand Hirafu’s Yamada Jinja shrine opens its doors. The walkway will be candlelit with bonfires and food stalls surrounding it, so be sure to come and immerse yourself in the pinnacle of Japanese tradition and culture. A true reflection of how special it is to spend Christmas and New Year in Niseko.
Hatsuhinode – Sunrise Gondola
New Year’s Day in Japan is a symbolic rebirth for the upcoming twelve months. It is believed that by viewing the first sunrise of the year, Hatsuhinode, you are basked in the supernatural powers of the first light. The best way to be a part of this is to take advantage of the sunrise gondola service Niseko Village will be running. Not to be mistaken for the Grand Hirafu gondola, it will take you to the top of Mt. Annapuri to usher the new year in with some incredible views of the sun rising from behind Mt. Yōtei. The running of this service will be dependent on weather and sorry, no riding down afterwards — ¥ 1400 for Adults and ¥1000 for kids.
Kagami-Biraki is a ceremony that involves the making and eating of Mochi as well as opening a sake barrel with a wooden hammer. Kagami-Biraki translates to “opening the mirror” or “breaking the mochi”. Both of these types of Kagami-Biraki are a means of a blessing to the gods to grant good fortune and well-being for all those involved. The Mochi is made into small round cakes which are then pulled apart, cooked and shared amongst friends. The sake once broken open is to be poured into cups and shared with everyone as well. This tradition is not just limited to New Year for the Japanese culture. It is also commonly used for events such as wedding receptions, housewarmings and other celebrations.
So, if you’re lucky enough to be spending Christmas and New Year in Niseko, then we hope you enjoy everything the town has to offer and participate in as much as possible. It truly is a great way to get a taste of the Japanese culture. Are you still deciding on your family’s holiday plans? Then head to skijapan.com to check out their great offers and book now!