Niseko is home to the finest snow, world-class restaurants and some of the most impressive architectural sights Japan has to offer. It is the perfect place for those adventurers wanting to escape the heat and spend some time outdoors in a colder climate. Hokkaido tourism advocate Ching Yu Huang, or as her Japanese co-workers have aptly named her, “Ko”, a Taiwanese local from the South Island city of Chiayi City, who moved to Sapporo almost ten years ago and now calls Hokkaido her home. She was fortunate enough to spend a few days exploring the area and checking out some of the beauties Northern Japan has to offer.
Ko spent her first morning visiting the illustrious Somoza. She was treated to a combination of essential elements that emphasises the uniqueness that is Japan. It combines tradition, craftsmanship, design and history all in one unique location nestled in the Hokkaido woods. On offer at Somaza are inspiring artworks, many with a rich history. A gallery filled with traditional craftworks responsible by some of Japan’s finest artists as well as an exceptional dining experience like no other. Ko indulged in a five-course lunch set with an array of colours and flavours. The Chef incorporates ingredients, techniques and methods utilised by the various cultures who have made Hokkaido their home throughout the centuries. A truly unique experience which showcased the history of Japan through all five senses.
A prevalent activity here in Niseko is snowshoeing. It is a fun way to get some exercise while taking in some immensely beautiful sights. The Niseko Adventure Centre, located in Grand Hirafu, offers several different packages that will suit anyone who wants to give it a go. Ko, with the assistance of her private guide, was taken on the Hangetsu-Ko hike. Hangetsu-Ko translates to Half-Moon Lake. This is due to the shape of the lake, which resembles a half-moon when viewing from above. In the middle of winter, the lake becomes fully frozen, and guests can walk on the lake itself and take some beautiful photos. Ko had a wonderful day hiking around the lake and got some stunning shots on some of the natural forestries.
Located in the heart of Grand Hirafu was Ko’s accommodation, the ultra-modern, uniquely designed Full Circle apartments. Each apartment is incorporated with extensive angled windows letting in the beautiful morning sunlight. With the latest furnishings and appliance, Ko was ensured comfort and enjoyment. Ko spent a few hours scouring the village’s vast array of shops in the hunt for a new snowboard. She found one she was in love with and was ready for the mountain.
Dinner was spent at the illustrious The Barn by Odin. Set inside a beautifully designed building inspired by traditional Hokkaido farm architecture, it becomes an unparalleled evening before setting foot through the door. An extraordinary culinary experience which provided Ko with a fantastic experience that she recommends anyone try when visiting Niseko. With her stomach full the onset of tiredness began, Ko returned to her accommodation for a well-deserved rest.
The next day, Ko began her morning in the most amazing way possible; bathing in natural hot springs with mud rich in minerals. She was lucky enough to have the renowned onsen at Yuki Chichibu all to herself. Located about half an hour drive from Grand Hirafu, Yuki Chichibu stands out from the Onsen offerings found in the main village. All outdoor baths are treated with pleasant mountain views accompanied by the nearby Geyser responsible for creating the onsen water that soothes muscles enjoyed by all who visit. You can check out all of Niseko’s onsen offerings here!
Spirits high, fresh snowboard out of the plastic, muscles soothed, skin glowing, Ko was ready for her first day on the mountain for the season. With the help of several snowboard instructors and a small team of paparazzi, she headed up the hill for some turns. After working out how to ride her new snowboard, Ko was cruising the mountain like a pro. Ko has now lived in Hokkaido for eight years and isn’t looking to change that anytime soon. She enjoys the beautiful scenery, fantastic food and friendly locals. It truly is a special place and one she thinks everybody should visit!