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Onsen

How To Use An Onsen

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Natural occurring hot springs, known in Japan as onsen, are in abundance throughout the country and are a part of the rich culture.

Visiting an onsen offers the opportunity to encounter the beauty of the Japanese landscape and culture, allowing those who enter to relax and rid themselves of stress. Moreover, the physical effects of bathing, along with the onsen’s natural minerals, stimulate the body and are said to improve its natural ability for self-healing.

In the long history of onsen, Japan’s own hot spring culture has never changed, and in that culture, there are manners and etiquette that visitors need to abide by to ensure a homage is paid to those traditions. Onsen can be found all over Japan, including at many of Japan’s best ski resorts including Niseko, Hakuba, Rusutsu and many more.

 

Preparing for an Onsen

Grand Hotel OnsenMost onsen are privately managed and require an entry fee ranging from ¥500 – ¥1,500. It is also required to bring a towel, or in most cases, rent one from the establishment itself. There are two kinds of towels utilised when visiting an onsen. The first is a small towel which is taken into the onsen to help clean the body before entering the baths, with a regular towel remaining in the changing room, only to be used to dry once exiting the onsen.

There are separate baths for men and women at most onsen, although there are some mixed onsen like the Grand Hotel Onsen in Niseko. For females, head through the red door/curtain, and for men, blue. Once in the changing rooms, find an empty basket to place your clothing and belongings. Place everything in the basket except the small hand towel and any personal toiletries. Almost every onsen throughout Japan requires its guests to be completely naked. The small hand is for removing excess water when exiting the baths, but they can also be used as ‘modesty towels’ for those who wish to cover themselves. Ensure all jewellery and accessories are removed as the high mineral composition of the water can damage them.

 

Entering the Onsen

Entering an onsenOnce inside the onsen facilities, it is a requirement for guests to thoroughly clean themselves before entering the baths. This is so the water in the baths remain as clean as possible and not doing so is a sign of disrespect. The average temperature of an onsen is between 39-42 degrees Celsius. For those who aren’t accustomed to high temperatures or coming in from a cold climate outside, it is recommended to slowly work your way into the bath by putting your feet in first, then your hips and so on. Try to disturb the water as little as possible so not to disturb other guests. Heads are never to be submersed as the minerals in the water are both bad for hair and health if ingested. Regardless of the size of the bath, swimming is also forbidden. The small hand towel is also never to enter the water, it may be left outside the bath or folded it up and placed on top of the head.

Many onsen will have a variety of baths, so visitors are welcome to change baths as often as they like. Saunas are also commonly found at many onsen and are quite popular. Most visitors to onsen will typically spend between 20 minutes to 1 hour soaking in the baths, but time spent in the baths is at ones own discretion. Guests with tattoos are not permitted at many onsen in Japan, however exceptions are often made for foreign patrons. Some onsen will grant access if tattoos are simply covered with medical tape.

Exiting the Onsen

When exiting the onsen, proceed to wipe the entire body down with the small washcloth before re-entering the change room. Grab the larger towel and attempt to keep the change room as dry and clean as possible while drying. Make sure to utilise the free water stations in the change rooms as slight dehydration may have set in. In most cases, the onsen will offer yukata, which is a type of kimono that can be worn while utilising the brush facilities and hair dryers to get ready before getting changed. Return the towels and yukata in the designated box or reception, and enjoy the feeling of relaxation offered by these wonderful onsen.

Rest, Relax and Reap the Benefits

After exiting the onsen baths, many facilities have a relaxation area where you can unwind and wait for friends while enjoying a massage chair or a quiet nap. It’s a good idea to allow the body to rest for at least 30 minutes after bathing to allow the body to fully recover.

Onsen water is believed to ease neuralgia, alleviate muscle pain and the symptoms of chronic skin disease. It also relieves chronic fatigue and stress. Since ancient times, onsen water has been renowned for helping maintain beautiful skin. There is a total of 19 different types of onsen water which are classified by their mineral composition including; chloride spring, sulphate spring, ferruginous spring, sulphur spring, and aluminium spring. These minerals have long been regarded by the Japanese to aid in illness and injury as well as enhancing beauty. The onsen’s composition also removes the old cornified layer of skin, resulting in the rejuvenation of the skin. The water vapour also produces a moisturising effect.

 

Variety of unique bathing methods

Mud OnsenKeep an eye out for these unique facilities which are said to provide unique benefits:

  • Utase-yu (waterfall bath) – This type of bath features hot water that falls from a high location, relieving muscle pain through pressure and warmth.
  • Mushi-yu (steam bath) – “steam box” where the body is immersed in steam reaching the neck, or a unique bath for haemorrhoids that steams the posterior only.
  • Suna-yu (sand bath) – The suna-yu is a type of steam bath where the bather rests inside sand that has been warmed by chloride spring water that gushes forth at the coast.
  • Deiyoku (mud bath) – Deiyoku refers to a bath where the bather submerges themselves in mud that contains onsen components.

One of the most famous onsens which features a mud bath is Yukichichibu onsen near the ski resort of Niseko. There are a large number of mud baths as well as a great view of the surrounding landscape.

Step By Step – How to use an Onsen

  1. Buy a ticket and rent a towel set if you don’t have one with you.
  2. Enter either the men’s or women’s change rooms.
  3. Get completely naked and put your valuables in a locker. Leave your big towel with your clothes and bring the small towel with you.
  4. Enter the next room, find a shower stall, and thoroughly wash yourself.
  5. Enter any of the onsen baths. Bring your small towel with you, but do not immerse it in the onsen bath.
  6. Feel free to move between the different baths.
  7. When finished, we recommend a quick shower to rinse off minerals or chlorine from the baths.
  8. Before entering the change room, use your small towel to wipe off excess water from your body.
  9. Enter the change room and use your big towel to completely dry yourself
  10. Put your clothes back on (or Yutaka if provided) and collect your valuables.
  11. Return your towel or place it in the collection baskets.
  12. Exit the change room and enjoy the relaxation facilities. (Return your Yutaka when finished).
  13. That completes the onsen experience!

 

If you want to discover the traditional onsen of Japan during a ski trip, contact our team today.

Japan’s Newest Developments

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Japan’s ski resorts are in a state of constant evolution, and every season brings new developments at many of them, exciting powder hounds and investors alike. Here are some of the latest and most breathtaking developments happening right now in Japan.

 

Grand Phenix Hakuba

Luxury accommodation is now in Hakuba with the opening of the Grand Phenix Hakuba. There are five elegant residences laid out over four-storeys featuring spacious rooms, modern kitchens, relaxing baths, concierge services, restaurant and bar. Grand Phenix Hakuba is just less than a minutes’ walk to the Happo Bus Terminal, and a short stroll to the Happo lifts.

Yu Kiroro

Kiroro’s first luxury condominium-style hotel, Yu Kiroro, will be accepting guests later this year for the 2019/20 winter season. The spacious apartments will overlook the resorts new gondola and beginner ski area, which are due to open at the same time. The project comprises two buildings and a total of 108 separate apartments ranging from intimate studio apartments to lavish penthouses. Yu Kiroro will feature a ski valet, onsen, lounge, gym and a restaurant and is now open for bookings.

Park Hyatt – Hanazono

Niseko’s biggest construction project, The Park Hyatt Niseko in Hanazono, is due for completion this winter in January 2020. The impressive structures will overlook the Hanazono snow play park, and guests will be able to ski straight to the lifts from the entrance. The Park Hyatt Niseko will feature 114 lavish residences with studios and two-bedroom apartments being available.

Hanazono 308 will also undergo a renovation adding a new kid’s activity area called “Galaxy of Kidz” featuring a ball pit, athletics area and a climbing wall. There will also be a brand new restaurant, café and bar located right next to the Hana 1 ski lift.

Midtown Niseko

Niseko’s developments are not exclusively luxury apartments, with the moderately priced hotel Midtown Niseko opening to guests for the first time this winter. The budget-friendly hotel offers both twin and triple rooms with an onsite restaurant, gym, reception desk and onsite parking. There is also a shuttle stop to take guests directly to Hanazono and Hirafu. There is also a new Lawson convenience store located right outside the development.

Rusutsu Onsen

The award-winning ski resort of Rusutsu has opened its brand new onsen ahead of the winter season. The stunning Rusutsu Onsen has a modern design with contemporary finishes. The Vale Rusutsu is also currently under construction and is due for completion for the 2020/21 winter season.

New Chitose Airport

New Chitose Airport in Sapporo has had a facelift with extensive renovations adding new gates, restaurants and shops. The Departures lobby is now greatly expanded, making check-in much smoother with additional counters, automatic check-in machines and smart lanes. The Arrivals lobby now has an information desk as well as Wi-Fi rentals and a Tours Desk. The SkiJapan.com arrivals desk is conveniently located in the Arrivals lobby to meet and greet all SkiJapan.com guests. The exclusive “Royal Lounge” has been overhauled with a modern ‘Made in Hokkaido’ design.

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.

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!

BOOK YOUR JAPAN SKI HOLIDAY

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.

Hokkaido up in Lights – A look at Hokkaido’s Stunning Ice Festivals

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Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido receives some of the most snow on the planet, with temperatures remaining below zero most of the year. This climate may be tough, but creates perfect conditions for snow and ice sculptures. Locals have made the most of it, and Hokkaido now hosts some of the most beautiful snow and ice festivals in the world.

Shikotsu Lake Ice festival

The Shikotsu Lake Ice festival is one of the most stunning displays of ice and light in Hokkaido. Located just one and a half hours from Niseko, and only one hour from Rusutsu, this magical lakeside display features dozens of magnificent ice structures – some over a storey high. The event has a local, friendly atmosphere with ice slides, illuminated walkways and structures you can even walk through. Getting here will require either a taxi or hire car, but there will be a sightseeing bus going from Sapporo to the site.

Niseko Ice Village

Niseko’s Ice Village is a little closer to home with smaller, but equally impressive ice sculptures. This local event features a maze of enchanting ice structures, beautifully lit with candles and lights. Weave through the tunnels and rooms to find hidden pieces of art, and look out the windows for views across Niseko’s snowy landscape. The best time to view The Ice Village is at night, and there is a free shuttle bus from Hirafu to the site. It is located halfway between Niseko Village and Annupuri, with entry cost just ¥500. This is must-see on any trip to Niseko.

Sapporo Ice Festival

The Sapporo Ice Festival is by far the most well-known winter festival in Japan and runs from February 4th to February 11th in 2019. The festival has three main sites, with the biggest being in Odori Park in central Sapporo. This event is Japans biggest winter festival and has impressive displays of massive snow and ice sculptures as big as apartment buildings with incredible detail on each one. The Susukino site has intricate ice sculptures on show, wonderfully illuminated by coloured lights that almost mirror the surrounding nightlife district. The third site at “Tsudome” is the most interactive and family friendly with snow tubing, snowball throwing, and snow rafting as well as a large indoor arena featuring activities for kids and families alike. SkiJapan.com will be running a shuttle bus to the festival, so contact our team for details.

Kutchan Yukitopia

Kutchan Yukitopia is an incredibly fun, local event that’s great for families from all over the world. There are ice slides, food stalls, snow-bikes, snowmobile demonstrations, snow tubing and more. One of the most entertaining events is the pond skim and pond walk, where participants attempt to cross an ice-cold pond for a cash prize. Kutchan Yukitopia is a free event in Kutchan at Asahigaoka ski hill. It runs on February 16th from 10:30 – 17:00 and on February 17th from 10:30 – 15:00, and there’s a free shuttle bus to the site.

Otaru Snow Light Path festival

Just an hour away from both Niseko and Sapporo, the Otaru snow light path festival is one of Hokkaido’s most recognisable with stunning views of the canal lit by twinkling candlelight. The snow path starts close to the JR station, and winds through the snowy streets down towards the canal. Along the way you’ll find ice slides, cute animal shaped sculptures and romantic photo spots. It’s easiest to get a train from either Kutchan or Sapporo, depending on where you are. The event runs from February 8th till February 17th for the 2019 season.

If you’d like any more info or to visit any of these beautiful winter festivals, we’d love to hear from you. Contact our team today.

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.

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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.

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.