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Sisterhood of Pow

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Japan is a dream ski destination not just for amateurs and enthusiasts, but for world-renowned professional skiers too. During the 2017/18 season, we were approached by a team of professional female skiers and snowboarders to support their upcoming ski video which was to promote women’s freeriding. We were more than happy to support the team, and they came over to stay with us in Japan.

The team consisted of pro skier Maude Raymond, X Games gold medallist and Olympian Elena Hight, and well-known freeriders Taylor Godber and Caley Vanular.

During their trip, the team stayed in some of the best Niseko accommodation in town in order to rest well, and have enough room for camera equipment. One of these was famous ski in / ski out apartments of Alpen Ridge, and the other was the centrally located Hirafu 188. Local magazine Niseko.com also interviewed the team – check out their article here.

The team has now released their video, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Watch the full clip below.

If this inspired you to come ski in Japan, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out and talk to our team and get started on your very own Japan ski holiday. Contact us here.

Photo credit – Ben Girardi

Chinese New Year in Niseko

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Japan is fast growing as one of the world’s top destinations for the Lunar New Year holiday period. Boasting an immersive culture ripe with unique food, dress, sightseeing and tours, travellers can enjoy free reign of boutique shopping and dining experiences as well as some of the world’s most exceptional ski resorts. It’s business as usual during Chinese New Year in the country, so there’s no need to worry about locked doors at your favourite shopping brands or tour operators.

Located only one-hour time difference from Hong Kong and Singapore, travellers can find themselves in the country’s northernmost capital of Sapporo city – situated in Hokkaido – on the same day they boarded and without any jetlag woes. From here a rich world of culinary options present themselves with the region’s famously fresh local produce and seafood providing some of Japan’s most delightful Michelin star dishes.

 A Winter Wonderland

Northern Japan’s snowy conditions over the New Year make for some unforgettable sights and memories with dozens of modern ski fields in operation across the region, most notably Niseko Resort located two hours drive from Sapporo. This resort has enjoyed a steady rise to fame over the past couple of decades with its consistently deep and unbelievably light powder snow attracting ski enthusiasts from around the globe.

Driven by this massive boom in tourism, Niseko has become one of Japan’s fastest growing property markets with ambitious projects emerging each season from international developers such as Hyatt and SC Global. Niseko now leads the charge as one of Japan’s most well-developed resorts with the infrastructure and services to match.

Snow & Ice Festivals

Many winter festivals in Japan coincide with the New Year travel period, most notably the Sapporo Snow Festival. Operating for more than 70 years, this event attracts millions of visitors each season to view the city transformed by a blanket of sparkling lights as well as immense, expertly-crafted snow and ice sculptures. Take a break from the ski slopes and enjoy this stunning attraction in the heart of Sapporo City – the boutique capital of Hokkaido!

 Luxury and Comfort

Accommodation options in Japanese resorts range from quaint and full of cultural character, to the ultimate in luxury. Niseko accommodation is no exception; where travellers enjoying a winter escape range from adventure thrill-seekers simply in need of a place to rest their head, to CEO’s, celebrities, and government officials seeking a luxe retreat with striking panoramic views and plenty of life’s pleasures close at hand.

Activities and Facilities

There’s no shortage of sights and activities to keep everyone entertained during your winter escape. Even if you’re not a ski or snowboard enthusiast, the wide range of cultural tours, shrines and castles, restaurants and off-snow activities are enough to keep the whole family entertained.

One of Japan’s most popular ways to relax is to immerse oneself in a natural hot-spring.

Childminding services, play and recreation areas, and ski lessons catering to kids such as NBS’s Kids Club program are abundant for those travelling with families.
Whether you’re looking for the ultimate escape with family and friends over Chinese New Year, a quiet retreat with your spouse, or are just feeling spontaneous; SkiJapan.com have comprehensive package options at resorts all across Japan to suit your every need. Contact the SkiJapan family today!

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Guide to Kutchan Dining – Eating out in Hokkaido’s Snowiest Town

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The food in Japan is unlike anywhere else on earth and is a huge drawcard for travellers from across the globe. Niseko is known for having some of the best restaurants of any ski town in Japan, but you might be surprised that there are even more, great restaurants right next door in the town of Kutchan.

Kutchan is one of Hokkaido’s snowiest towns, and hosts around a hundred different restaurants – all offering something different, and each charming in their own way. Getting to Kutchan is easy, simply get a bus from the main bus stop in Hirafu or the Hirafu Welcome centre.

Modern – Sekka Lab

Sekka Lab is one of Kutchan’s most modern dining experiences, offering elegant dishes that embrace locally grown produce as well as the best of Hokkaido’s famous seafood. The omakase course (chef’s choice) is always a great choice with five of the best dishes chosen by the head chef himself. Sekka Lab is located on the main street that runs perpendicular to Kutchan’s JR station.

International – Taj Mahal

Niseko is a very international town, and with that comes excellent international food! Taj Mahal is an Indian restaurant serving authentic Indian curry alongside freshly baked naan bread. An absolute crowd pleaser with lots of options including vegan-friendly curries. They have two main branches – one halfway between Hirafu and Kutchan on Route 5, and another in Annupuri.

Bar – Seventh Heaven

There is no shortage of bars in Kutchan, but one of the most fun and lively is Seventh Heaven. There’s darts, beer and even nomihodai (all you can drink) on offer with incredibly friendly and accommodating staff on hand to refill your glass as often as you like. Located in Kutchan’s central nightlife district, this fun bar is one to remember.

Sushi – Sato

Hokkaido is said to have the best seafood in all of Japan, and there’s no better way to enjoy fresh fish than with sushi. Sato is easily one of the best sushi restaurants in the Niseko area, and even recently was listed on the Michelin guide. The omakase set is highly recommended, with the chef selecting only the best and freshest cuts of sushi.

Ramen – Nakama Ramen

Nakama Ramen is a local favourite, with slices of juicy, thick cut roast pork with a hearty broth and delicious noodles. They offer the usual ramen flavours (salt, soy and miso) as well as signature flavours such as ume (plum), and a spicy broth. They also have homemade gyoza (dumpling) including kimchi gyoza – definitely a must try. Find Nakama Ramen on Ekimae Avenue, perpendicular to the Kutchan JR station.

Soup Curry – Markie Curry

Soup Curry is Hokkaido’s signature dish, and is hugely popular for its unique flavours and ability to warm you from the inside out – perfect for winter! One of Kutchan’s best and only dedicated soup curry restaurant is Markie Curry, located on Route 5 right near M Pocket supermarket. In Hirafu, soup curry can be found at Tsubara Tsubara in Izumikyo. This unique dish is highly recommended for any visitor to Hokkaido.

Hotcakes – Za Hotcakes

Za Hotcakes is one of the coolest restaurants in town. The tiny store makes both sweet and savoury hotcakes, delicately prepared and infused with unique flavours influenced by the four seasons. This cosy store is a must visit if you’re after something sweet, unique, and even a new Instagram post. Za Hotcakes is located right near Kutchan JR station on the main street.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcKEPcaFote/

Burgers – Paddy Daddy

Great burgers are a global favourite; no matter where you’re from, you can’t say “no” to a good burger. Patty Daddy is Kutchan’s dedicated burger store with a cosy interior decorated in Americana and offers a range of unique and delicious burgers. They make all the meat patties in-house, and offer craft beers on tap. Find Patty Daddy’s just north of Kutchan JR station near the 711.

Fusion – Bagus Café

While Kutchan might be a small town, it is full of locals who love international travel, surfing, snowboarding and all the great things life has to offer. Bagus Café offers a fusion of Japanese and Southeast Asian cuisine; the food inspired by a love of surfing and a relaxed lifestyle. This restaurant is a favourite, so try to book in advance. Bagus Café is located in the heart of Kutchan’s nightlife district.

Discover Japan’s best food on an unforgettable ski holiday. Talk to our excellent team today and find out how great it is. Contact us today.

Rusutsu Joins the Epic Pass

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The award winning ski resort of Rusutsu, in Hokkaido’s west, has joined the Epic Pass for the 2019/20 season! Holders of the Epic Pass will receive a total of five unrestricted consecutive days at the powder ski haven of Rusutsu Resort. There’s great news for holders of a Kamori pass too, with 50% off lift tickets at Vail owned resorts in North America and Australia.

To claim the free lift passes, Epic Pass holders just need to go to any lift pass cashier in Rusutsu Resort and present their valid Epic Pass and a valid photo ID. More information about the Epic Pass in Rusutsu can be found here.

Rusutsu Resort is located about 30 minutes drive away from Niseko, and 90 minutes away from New Chitose Airport. This popular, ‘all-in-one’ style resort has a wide variety of ski runs including powder tree runs and great on-piste runs as well as a terrain park and ‘super natural park’.

Rusutsu accommodation options include the Rusutsu Resort Hotel, which is ski-in ski-out and features a shopping and entertainment district as well as restaurants and retail stores. There’s also The Westin Rusutsu Resort – a high-rise hotel offering stunning views across the entire area. The Shirokin Chalet Rusutsu is great for large groups, and the Rusutsu Lodges – Lilla Huset is a great budget option.

We can book every aspect of your holiday, so for the best deals and info, talk to our team today! Contact us for a Rusutsu ski holiday today!

 

Beginners Guide to Japan

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Japan is a stunning country with a rich culture, history and of course amazing ski resorts, but it can be daunting for first-time visitors. Don’t worry, because we’re here to share our top tips and handy hints to get you through Japan like a pro.

These are just a few of our top tips, and our team has even more great advice and info to make sure you have the best trip ever. Contact us today for the best deals and service.

Luggage Transport

One of the biggest question visitors ask is “how can I move my luggage around?” Well, Japan is the land of convenience, and there are a range of luggage transport and storage services available. The main one is called “Yamato Transport”, also commonly known as “Taku-Bin”, and “Black Cat” named for their mascot which is a black cat. With this service, you can send your ski bags or luggage anywhere in Japan from almost any convenience store, luggage office at airports, or hotel desk. The service usually costs around ¥2,500 per ski bag, and less for regular luggage. It’s perfect if you’re going to stay a few days in a major city as part of a stopover, and don’t want the hassle of lugging around skis and boots through the city to a resort such as Hakuba.

Food In Japan

There’s so much food in Japan and it’s all so good! Here are some tips to enjoy food just like the locals do.

Ramen: Commonly available in three main flavours – miso, soy and salt. They’re all delicious, so don’t worry too much about which one you choose. You’ll get roast pork, noodles and some vegetables. Try to get the noodles onto the large spoon, and then slurp away! It’s not rude or impolite to slurp, it’s just considered the normal way to eat ramen!

Sushi & Sashimi: Sashimi is simply very fresh fish that has been sliced into small portions. The price varies per species and cut, with the fattier cuts more prized, more delicious and more expensive. Sushi is when the cut of fish is placed atop a small portion of rice and commonly served with a hint of wasabi. Both sushi and sashimi can be enjoyed with special soy sauce for dipping, but make sure to try it without the sauce first! Niseko even hosts some of the best sushi restaurants in Hokkaido.

Yaki-Niku: BBQ meat is a favourite, no matter what country you’re from. In Japan, BBQ meat can be found at Yaki Niku restaurants, and are often available in timed sessions where you can eat as much as you want for a certain period of time – only in Japan!

Sake: Sake is undoubtedly Japan’s most famous alcohol, and there are many different varieties available. In the bigger cities there are even dedicated sake bars where you can try sake from different regions, and sample all kinds of different flavours and styles.

Phrases

The Japanese language is very difficult to master, and it doesn’t make sense to learn it for a holiday a few weeks a year. BUT there are some great phrases which every visitor to Japan should know!

Arigatou: (Ah-ree-gah-toh) – “Thank you”. Probably the most important word to know in Japan. You can say this at any time you would thank someone.

Sumimasen: (Sue-me-ma-sen) – “Excuse me”. If you’re at a restaurant, you can yell this one out to get the attention of a server, or if you bump into someone on the street you can say this as.

Onegaishimasu: (On-ne-guy-she-muss) – “Please”. There are a number of ways to say this, but this one is the most commonly used. You can say this when you order food or for that all-important Japanese beer.

Daijoubu: (Die-joe-boo) – “It’s alright”. You can say this if you fall down on the snow and people ask if you’re alright, or if you’ve had enough fried chicken for the night.

Konnichiwa: (Ko-ni-chi-wa) – “Hello”. You can use this anytime you meet with someone, or even when you check in at your hotel.

Mou Ippai: (Mo’-ip-pie) – “One More”. If you’ve finished your drink, or need another plate of sushi, just say this (followed by “please”), and you’ll be served one more of whatever you just pointed at.

Sugoi Yuki: (Sue-goy You-key) – “Amazing Snow”. If it’s dumping with snow (a common occurrence), you can point to the heavens and yell this out!

Douzo: (Do-zo) – “Go Ahead”. Lift operators at ski resorts will say this to you once they sweep the chairlift of snow. When you get on the lift, you can respond with “arigato”!

Public Transport In Japan

Getting around on Japan’s public transport is super easy – especially in the cities. The subway systems might look big and scary, but they are easier to navigate than you think.

Tip #1: Use Google Maps or Hyperdia on your phone! This saves you so much time and effort. Get yourself a data sim, download one of these apps, and relax. The public transport maps in Japan can be pretty big, and using an app will save you a lot of time and effort when you need to get from place to place. They’ll give you times, routes, fares, platform numbers and up to date info.

Tip #2: Get yourself a public transport card! Instead of having to calculate and purchase a new fare every time you got on public transport, you can just tap your card and go. The two major brands are Pasmo and Suica, and both can be used on public transport across Japan. To get a card, just go to a branded machine at the station, choose the card, fill it up with cash, and then start tapping! Don’t worry if you fill it up with more than you needed, you can use these cards to pay for items at convince stores as well.

Tip #3: Plan your day in advance! This might sound obvious, but you’ll probably want to be maximising your time doing activities rather than being on trains all day, so make sure to plan your day as best you can before you leave the hotel. Sometimes the things you want to do are only a stop or two away!

Tip #4: Etiquette! Line up for trains and subways – this makes it easy for people to get off, and easy for you to get on. Don’t talk on the phone – it’s considered very rude to speak on the phone, so if you get a call, let them know you’ll have to return their call. Don’t speak loudly – it’s considered very rude to speak loudly on public transport, especially trains. Always give up your seat to the elderly or less mobile.

Tip #5: Taxis! When you check-in at your hotel, make sure to take a business card with their address. If you do get lost somewhere in Japan, you can take a taxi, show them your hotel’s card and be safely returned to your room without worry.

If you’re not sure how to get from resort to resort, or want any more handy hints for getting around, talk to an expert from SkiJapan.com today.

Onsen – Hot Pools And Bath-houses in Japan

Getting in an Onsen for the first time is an awkward mental struggle for just about every guest to Japan. Don’t worry though, because once you get into that steaming, healing water, you’ll forget all about how awkward the naked dash just felt!

When you enter the building, check if you need to remove your shoes – if there’s a step up, you probably will have to remove them. Head to the counter or ticket machine to pay the entry fee. If you don’t have a towel with you, it’s usually possible to rent one. It’s often possible to rent either 1 large towel, or a large towel and a small towel. The large towel is to dry yourself after your soak and should be left in the changing area, and the small towel can be taken inside to wash your face or use as a ‘modesty’ towel (don’t put it in the water though!). If you’re in a more traditional resort you may be asked if you have any tattoos, so be prepared to cover them.

Once you’ve paid the fee and then head into the gender-specific change rooms. Find a basket or locker to put your clothes into and then it’s time to get naked! If you’re using a locker, take the key with you which is likely to be on an elastic wristband.

Inside the next room will be a number of showers with stools to sit on. Find a free shower, sit on the stool and then wash your entire body and hair with the provided soaps. Once you’re all clean, then you can head through the next door where you’ll find the onsen! It’s going to be a cold walk and it’s tempting to run between the wash-room and the onsen, but don’t rush – you don’t want to slip here.

Some onsen have multiple baths with indoor and outdoor areas and varying water temperatures, so try to explore all the different options. Don’t worry about feeling awkward when you move between the baths; it’s worth it to experience each option. Most people will soak for about 20 – 45 minutes, but just go at your own pace and enjoy the scenery.

When you leave the onsen, it is recommended to give yourself a quick wash in the shower again, just to wash off the natural salts and minerals from the water. After a shower, dry yourself off and put your clothes back on. There’s usually a basket to put your used towels in as well.

Many onsen have relaxation areas, massage chairs, vending machines and spaces to lie down and nap. This is the perfect opportunity to just chill out until all your friends are done.

If you’re heading to Niseko, check out Niseko.com’s onsen guide here.

So that’s some of our best advice for beginners, but of course, there’s always so much more to talk about! Contact our team of experts for everything to know about skiing in Japan.

5 inspirations to enjoy a White Christmas in Japan

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New Zealand and eastern Australia might be the first countries to enjoy a visit from St. Nick on Christmas Eve, but there’s good reason for him to be dressed for the elements with the island nation of Japan next on the destination list!

The transition between the mid-summer temperatures in Oceania during December and January versus Japan’s stunning winter weather is like night and day, and the opportunity to enjoy a true winter Christmas experience is something most Aussies and Kiwis will have on their bucket list.

Fortunately, travel between Australia and Tokyo only requires winding back the wristwatch a couple of notches, so there’s already plenty of reason to jump at the opportunity for a Northern Winter holiday without worrying about jet lag!

Snow

As one of the world’s top winter destinations, it goes to reason that the snow in Japan is worth travelling for. Japan’s landscape offers an effortless variety of terrain to enjoy; from high altitude alpine skiing with endless runs and challenging vert, to rolling hills of bottomless powder and tight birch forests for the powder hounds and sled necks. With many Hokkaido resorts boasting consistent 15+ meter seasons it’s no surprise that the powder in Japan is the stuff of legends attracting riders from all corners of the globe for a taste of the action.

Hakuba Valley ski resorts receive a huge amount of snow as well, and there is great accommodation in Hakuba that won’t break the budget. If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy a Christmas morning snowball fight Japan is the place for you!

Onsen

Ditch those paddling pools, sunscreen bottles, and sandy jocks; there’s no better way to relax after a day on the mountain than stripping down to your birthday suit to soak in the waters of a relaxing, volcanically heated hot-pool or onsen. Japan’s unique location upon the ominously named Ring of Fire – a vast ridge of volcanic activity surrounding the perimeter of the Pacific region – provides the country with an abundance of natural springs and geo thermal heating opportunities. The naturally heated waters are pumped beneath roads to prevent ice build-up, through drains to melt cleared snow, and to hotels and ryokan for outdoor hot baths.

Certain rules and etiquette must be followed when enjoying the waters in these public baths, but the opportunity is not one to miss – especially during a winter holiday when you can relax in the steamy pools and daydream about what Santa is going to deliver tomorrow as snow flutters all around. Check out this great onsen guide for more info.

Food

We all love good Christmas traditions; large family gatherings with more food than you can eat, followed by enough dessert to sink a ship. While you might not find your usual family favourites on the menu in Japan, the country hosts a wide range of must-try local dishes, as well as a huge array of international Michelin Star cuisine options.

If you’re a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas dinner you can find excellent carvery and pudding buffets at some hotels, as well as hearty roast dishes at selected western pubs located in larger resorts such as Hakuba and Niseko.

If you’re planning to eat out at your resort, ask SkiJapan.com about booking you a seat in advance – no one wants to go hungry on Christmas!

Festivities

Japan is a primarily Shintoist country and the western traditions around Christmas time are not commonly celebrated by locals, however the seasonal vibe can certainly be felt all over the cities and resorts with the sheer amount of decorations that pop up. In Japan, the holiday period is focussed more on the turning of the New Year and most resorts put on excellent New Year’s Eve fireworks displays for the countdown. Sapporo City is also renowned for its stunning light shows during this period.

While you’re not likely to see any Christmas parades braving the cold on the main streets, St Nick frequently makes an appearance at most of the larger resorts – sometimes even with a few reindeer in procession. He’s been spotted every year the day before Christmas taking photos with guests and enjoying some mulled wine and hot chocolate outside NBS in Niseko – as well as popping up all over the country for more cheeky photo ops.

Accommodation

SkiJapan.com has a wide range of accommodation options across Japan resorts, from quaint traditional pensions and ryokan for a more cultural experience, apartments and hotels with varying room numbers to suit groups both large and small, and sprawling luxury penthouse suites with all the mod-cons.

Niseko is a popular option with some of the most diverse accommodation options available of all the Japan resorts; plus being within easy travel distance to Sapporo city makes Christmas shopping in Japan a convenience.

If Hakuba is on your agenda this Christmas and New Year – as it should be, being so close to Tokyo City – then be sure to check in at the Hakuba Gateway Hotel. Located centrally in Happo One and only a few minutes’ walk to the Nakayama Chair Lift. This affordable hotel now features a range of excellent services including NBS Japan’s famous rental and retail facilities, restaurant, and Altitude Physio – one of Australia’s most respected Olympic level physio services. Hakuba Gateway Hotel is well suited for in-resort convenience, and to enjoy the evening fireworks show lighting up the valley on New Year’s Eve.

Whatever your needs for a perfect white Christmas in Japan the team at SkiJapan.com are on hand to provide a personalised quote and take the hassle out of travel – contact us today!