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Rusutsu’s New Onsen

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No winter trip to Japan is complete without a post-ski soak in an onsen. The traditional baths are an integral part of Japanese culture and are a godsend after a long day on the slopes. If you’ve never heard of on onsen, check out this handy onsen guide.

Rusutsu resort in Hokkaido has just announced the opening of their brand new onsen “Kotobuki”. The popular resort has been undertaking a modernisation of many of their facilities in recent times, including the construction of the new Vale apartments, as well as new services including running Hokkaido’s only Heli Skiing operation alongside Hokkaido Backcountry Club.

The luxurious bathhouse is beautifully modern with lush wooden details throughout the facility. The baths themselves are generously large and offer views across the west mountain. There are four separate baths – three inside and one outside. The inside baths consist of a 41.5-degree bath with calm water, a more mild 39.5-degree bath with light spa jets, and a cold 15-degree plunge pool. The largest pool is outside and features comfortable “lie down” spaces with headrests.You can take a virtual walk through the Kotobuki Onsen here to see yourself in Rusutsu.

If this inspired you to ski in Japan, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today or take a look at the Rusutsu accommodation here.

 

Guide to Niseko Annupuri

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The Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort is the smallest and quietest of the four inter-connected ski resorts that make up Niseko United. It provides easy access to some of the best Niseko side-country terrain as well as Moiwa and is within close proximity to the Konbu Onsen area.

Terrain

Made up of 13 trails and six lifts with a vertical drop of 890m (400m -1,156m), Niseko An’nupuri offers a variety of mellow terrain for beginners as well as some of the best side and backcountry access in the Niseko area.

Accommodation

Located at the base of the mountain is the An’nupuri Village; a quaint and laid-back village made up of an eclectic mix of lodges, pensions, chalets and hotels, all set in a tranquil alpine setting. The luxurious, private chalet-hotel of The Kamui Niseko perfectly match the natural beauty of An’nupuri.

Dining

An’nupuri hosts some of the finest dining options in the Niseko area, ranging from world-class gourmet restaurants like Sushi Shin and Sobatei Rakuichi to quirky and casual options such as Lucky Fingers and Pizza Del Sole.

Onsens

There are a plethora of natural hot springs available in An’nupuri, with up to 9 onsens located within a 2km radius, including Yugokoretei, Iroha, Grand Hotel, Kanro no mori and Moku No Sho.

Guide to Sapporo

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Japan’ fifth largest city, Sapporo is a clean, friendly and relaxed city where you can experience nature, great cultural and historical sites and amazing food! No matter what time of year you visit, there’s plenty of fun-filled activities to enjoy.

Hokkaido Jingu

No trip to Japan is complete without visiting a traditional Shinto shrine, and Sapporo’s “Hokkaido Jingu” is the largest and most significant on the island. The site was first established in 1871, and enshrines four deities including the “God of Emperor Meiji”. Make sure to get yourself a fortune from the counter (English available), and offer a prayer at the main shrine.

Access
Get the subway to “Maruyama-Koen”, and walk about 5 minutes through the park to access the main shrine.

Mt. Moiwa Ropeway

The most stunning lookout over the entire city of Sapporo with views right out to the ocean on a clear day. The 1.8km gondola ride takes about 5 minutes and is followed by a short 2 minute ride in a mini cable car, which reaches the summit. Return Tickets to the summit are ¥1,700 and can be purchased at the ropeway base. For the best views, aim to arrive at the summit for sunset to see the twinkling lights of Sapporo city against a twilight sky.

Access
Take a street-car to “Ropeway Iriguchi”, and walk 1 minute across the road to the Mt. Moiwa Ropeway shuttle bus stop, where the free shuttle bus will take you to the ropeway.

Susukino Downtown Area

The central nightlife district of Sapporo, Susukino, is a hive of activity with hundreds of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and karaoke hot spots across many city blocks.

Ramen Alley, famous for some of the best ramen in Sapporo, is a hidden alleyway packed with tiny restaurants, located just off the main Susukino strip. If Japanese pub food is more your thing, try one of the many Izakaya’s in the area serving zangi (Japanese fried chicken), grilled fish and BBQ meat served alongside sake and beer.

Important Safety Tip: If you’re out late, resist the urge to walk back to your hotel – it is common for tourists to get lost and pass out in the snow late at night so make sure to take a taxi home after a big night. For best results, take a business card from your hotel with their address, and show it to your taxi driver.

Access
Take a street-car or subway to “Susukino” station and walk south from the main intersection.

Sapporo Beer Museum

This popular museum celebrates Sapporo’s rich history through the love of beer with displays featuring antique posters and Hokkaido’s early pioneers. The red-brick museum consists of three floors and is free to enter and explore with the option of a paid tour. Visits conclude in the beer hall where guests can sample a range of beers, including “Kaitakushi Beer”, exclusively available at the museum.

Access
From Sapporo JR station, catch either the 188 bus from stop No.2 on the north side or the 88 bus from the south side of the station. Alternatively, taxis cost around ¥800 from Sapporo JR station.


Sapporo Snow Festival

Now in its 70th year, the Sapporo Snow Festival is Hokkaido’s largest festival with three major sites. The main site in Odori is the largest with dozens of enormous snow sculptures across the entire park with food stalls lining the path. The Susukino site features intricately detailed ice sculptures set against the bright lights of the famous nightlife district. The Tsudome site is the most family friendly with huge slides and activities for all ages.

Access
To access the Odori and Susukino sites, simply take the subway to the station of the same name. For the Tsudome site, catch a subway to Sakaemachi station and get on the shuttle bus to the site.

Shopping

Sapporo JR station has hundreds of boutique clothing and accessory stores featuring up-and-coming designers, as well as high-end fashion brands. The upper floor even has a Disney store and a Snoopy store!

Sapporo Factory hosts most major outdoor brands like Mammut, as well as clothing and souvenir stores. This shopping hub features a large atrium and is located at the site of the original Sapporo Beer factory, which can be freely explored.

Tanuki-Koji is an undercover shopping arcade with traditional and independent stores. Drop into MOJANE snowboard shop at the eastern end for a selection of the best gear and locally made snowboarding videos.

Shugakuso is a haven for backcountry enthusiasts, with mountain maps, tents, touring accessories and more.


Getting Around

Sapporo is a relatively small city, navigation is straightforward with lots of public transport, underground walkways and taxis everywhere. If you are going to be using public transportation often, get an electronic card like Kitaca to simply tap on and off without worrying about purchasing tickets every time. These can be bought and filled up at most stations, and used throughout major cities in Japan. Note: Kutchan station does not use electronic cards.

There are a number of underground walkways along common routes to keep people out of the cold. There’s even an underground walkway all the way from Sapporo JR station to Susukino!

Taxis in Sapporo are everywhere and can be quite cheap to get around in if you’re in a group of four people. If the place you want to go is not near a subway or streetcar stop, stay out of the cold and jump in a taxi!

To stay in Sapporo and make the most of your Japan trip, contact our team of experts today.

Sakura – The Symbol of Spring

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Japanese cherry blossoms, or sakura, have been regarded as a symbol of spring since the Heian Period (794-1185). The charming flower symbolises renewal, vitality, and beauty and is deeply ingrained in the art, literature and culture of Japan.

When the blooms arrive it’s time to indulge in one of the nation’s favourite pastimes; hanami, or flower appreciation picnics. Every year, crowds of people flock to parks, gardens and riversides to eat, drink, and be merry underneath the blooms.

During the short period when sakura is in bloom, you can find spring limited edition ice cream, chocolate, sweets and drinks all inspired by sakura!

When to visit?

Japan’s sakura season for 2019 has been recently released by Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC). According to the forecast, cherry trees are expected to be in full bloom in Tokyo on March 31, Kyoto on April 3, Hakodate on May 6 and Sapporo on May 8. Stay up to date with JMC’s Cherry Blossom Forecast here.

Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen. Photo Credit: Tatters at Flickr

Tokyo

One of the nation’s most stunning gardens is undoubtedly Shinjuku Gyoen, a large park located a short stroll away from Shinjuku and Shibuya. Originally built for the Imperial Family, the park features beautifully maintained gardens divided into Japanese, French and English sections.

Another lovely spot is Ueno-koen (Ueno Park), one of the oldest and most famous public spaces, cherished amongst locals for their 1000-plus blossoming cherry trees. After dark, you can enjoy a nocturnal hanami experience as the blossoms are lit up with a thousand lanterns.

When to go: Late March

Tetsugaku no michi. Photo credit: fastjapan.com

Kyoto

The ancient capital of Kyoto makes the ideal backdrop for cherry blossom appreciation.

Tetsugaku no michi (Path of Philosophy) is a lovely stone walkway that meanders 2km along the bank of a cherry lined canal through the northern part of the city’s Higashiyama district. Other famous hanami locations include Maruyama Park, known for its weeping cherry tree, Heian Shrine and the Arashiyama district on the outskirts of the city.

When to go: Early April

Hakodate

The best place to experience the beautiful colours of the sakura in Hokkaido would have to be Fort Goryokaku – a star-shaped, Western-style citadel which was built towards the end of the Edo Period. Since then over one thousand cherry trees along its moats were planted, making it one of Hokkaido’s best hanami spots.

When to go: Early May

Former Hokkaido Government Office. Photo credit: www.sapporo.travel

 

Sapporo

The prime cherry blossom viewing spots are Maruyama Park and the adjacent Hokkaido-Jingu (Hokkaido shrine). The shrine grounds hold 1,200 cherry trees as well as 250 plum trees which bloom at the same time.

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, head to the former Hokkaido Government Office, which offers aesthetically pleasing photo-ops!

Located on the outskirts of Sapporo, Moerenuma Park is a unique and playful public park designed by renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Containing an art gallery, kids playground and sakura forest where you can see over 2,300 trees in bloom.

When to go: Early May

Ski Resorts

With many northern Japanese ski resorts such as Niseko and Kiroro scheduled to stay open until Golden Week (first week of May), spring visitors have the chance to hit the best of Japan’s spring and winter both at once! Read more on spring skiing in Niseko.

If you’re visiting Niseko resort, one of the best places to see the sakura is on the south side of Mt. Yotei in Makkari campground. There’s also the Makkari Shinto shrine nearby, with an avenue lined with beautiful sakura trees.

Near Hakuba there is the ancient Matsumoto Castle, which is surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms. During the bloom, the stark black and white of the castle offers an elegant contrast against the soft pink of the sakura petals.

If you’re dreaming of a hanami and ski holiday this springtime, contact us today.

Kyoto – Where Tradition Meets History

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Japan is a nation full of rich history and fascinating tradition. The ancient city of Kyoto is home to some of the most stunning temples, shrines, streets and castles in all of Japan, and is one of the best places to soak in the traditional Japanese culture.

ACCESS

Getting to Kyoto is easy with many trains and buses going straight to the centrally located city. From Tokyo, it’s just three hours on the shinkansen (bullet train), and from the much closer city of Osaka, it’s only one hour.

TRADITIONAL SITES

Because Kyoto is such a hotspot, the temples in Kyoto are kept in great condition and are among the most vibrantly coloured. The gates and temples are typically painted a classic red to symbolise the expelling of demons and illness. The striking colour makes quite a sight, and lends itself well for photos.

NATURAL SITES

The city of Kyoto also has beautiful forests that run alongside wide and calm rivers. It’s easy to see why ancient Emperors called this place home for so many years. As many of the trees in the area are deciduous, the views along the rivers and forests can be enjoyed in any season.


Shinto priests still man most of the temples and religious sites, and many locals come to the major temples to pray – especially during special times of the year. As you walk around, you will see a mix of locals and tourists, both from overseas and Japan. The priests in Kyoto take great pride in their work but are always happy to help visitors to understand local traditions.


FOOD STALLS

One of the great things about visiting temples and shrines in Kyoto are food stalls; there are so many diverse and tasty Japanese street foods to try! As you approach major sites, you’ll know you’re getting close as the smell of delicious food gets stronger.

ACCOMMODATION

Staying in Kyoto is the best option if you want to take in as much of the culture as you can. Kyoto has some amazing ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), business hotels, and more recently, self-contained apartments. Shinobi House is a newly renovated house in Kyoto, which is perfect for families or groups.

To stay in Kyoto and make the most of your Japan trip, contact our team of experts today.

Guide to Niseko Village

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Formerly known as Higashiyama, Niseko Village ski area is one of the four inter-connected ski resorts of Niseko United. It’s a popular base for beginners and families due to its two resort-style ski in/ski out hotels, variety of beginner slopes and English-speaking ski school.

Terrain

Offering 27 marked trails (13 beginner, 9 intermediate and 5 advanced) and access to off-piste and side-country terrain, Niseko Village provides the steepest inbound terrain within the Niseko United area with a vertical drop of 890m (280m-1170m).

Accommodation

The Niseko Village features a variety of accommodation options, including the world-class Hilton Niseko Village and Green Leaf hotels, tranquil Snow Dog Village apartments as well as a handful of more traditional pensions.

Dining

Designed to replicate traditional Japanese architecture, The Village offers a selection of contemporary dining options and boutique shops in a convenient slope-side location. Take a short venture away from the slopes, and you’ll find a handful of unique, independent dining options such as Milk Kobo, Prativo, Upashi Seta and The House of Machines. For those looking for a night out, Niseko Village is within close proximity to the lively Hirafu Village and Kutchan town via shuttle bus or taxi. Check our insider’s Guide to Kutchan dining.

Activities

The Niseko Village offers plenty of off-snow activities for all ages including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and reindeer sled rides! Also, be sure to check out the Niseko Ice Village for an unreal experience! For a more hardcore experience, Hokkaido Backcounty Club offers backcountry and cat-skiing tours for intermediate to advanced riders.

Après Skiing in Japan – What to do after a day on the slopes

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Skiing in Japan is fantastic, but one of the best things about a winter holiday is the rest and relaxation and nowhere does that better than Japan. The nightlife in Japan’s resorts is a mixture of traditional, modern Japanese culture with some international influence thrown in for good measure.

NIGHTLIFE

When you head out for a night out on the town in a Japanese ski resort, you can expect traditional sake, famous whiskeys, and creative cocktails. Most resorts have great bars and Izakayas, and the popular resort of Niseko is no exception with dozens of restaurants and fun spots to get a drink. Sake is the most well-known Japanese drink, but there’s also Umeshu, Nikka Whiskey, Sapporo Classic and many more local favourites which should definitely be sampled.

ONSENS

After a day on the slopes, there’s nothing better than getting out of your boots and into a hot steamy onsen. Mountain regions in Japan are often volcanically active providing the perfect opportunity for some fantastic natural onsens. A visit to a Japanese ski resort is never complete without an onsen visit. Take a look at this onsen guide for more info about onsens, especially in Niseko.

FOOD

Japanese food is among the best in the world, and there’s no better way to get warm than a hot bowl of ramen. Other winter favourites are katsu-don (pork cutlet on rice), soup curry and yakitori. No trip to Japan is complete without a sushi experience, and winter is said to be the best time of the year for the freshest fish. If you’re going to Niseko, make sure to check out Kutchan dining guide here.

There’s so much to see and do in Japan, both on and off the slopes. If you want to make the most of your winter, talk to our Japan ski experts today. Contact us here and get started on your Japan winter experience.