With snowfall accumulations of as much as 45 toes every winter, the northern Japanese island prefecture of Hokkaido has garnered the eye of wide-eyed powder hounds from around the globe. There are a number of formidable ski resorts to select from, together with Furano and Rusutsu, however overseas ski and snowboard fans search out Niseko specifically. It includes 4 resorts throughout Mount Niseko-Annupuri — Annupuri, Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu and Hanazono —which share one all-encompassing “Niseko United” go and are linked by trails and ski lifts. The four-in-one ticket is a part of worldwide multiresort passes from Ikon and Mountain Collective. However you don’t have to be a talented skier or boarder to take pleasure in Hokkaido’s snowy haven. Learn on for extra methods to soak, nibble and discover all sides of the isle.


Enjoying it up


A male skier is jumping in the air onto a slope with deep powder snow in the ski resort Niseko United on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Ski resort Niseko United on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.Alamy

Many vacationers to Hokkaido hail from hotter climes, and a few could even be experiencing snow for the primary time. So when you’re new to winter actions, you received’t be alone. The best method to take pleasure in Hokkaido’s winter climate is, actually, a stroll within the park. Snowshoe your method to the bottom of Mount Yotei — and slide down a snow chute to frozen Half Moon Lake in Hangetsu-ko Shizen Park — on a guided tour with the Niseko Journey Centre in Hirafu. If going by yourself two toes feels laborious, fulfill your North Pole fantasies on a reindeer-pulled sled tour at Niseko Village. Searching for extra horsepower? Snowmobiling excursions by the foothills of Mt. Yotei let you sprint by the snow at speeds upwards of 30 mph.


After all, if you wish to learn to ski, child steps — and bunny slopes — first. Every of the ski resorts in Niseko gives ski and snowboarding classes, in order that you’ll be able to hit the larger slopes in your subsequent winter journey to Hokkaido.




Soaking it up


A hot-spring thermal bath in Hokkaido.
A hot-spring thermal bathtub in Hokkaido.Shouya Grigg

The Japanese custom of bathing at an onsen (a hot-spring thermal bathtub) is a year-round pursuit all through the nation, but it surely’s particularly therapeutic throughout a chilly Hokkaido winter. Of the a number of onsen throughout Niseko, one specifically gives leisure with a view: The rotenburo (outside pool) on the Hilton Niseko Village is the perfect vantage level from which to admire Mount Yotei, “the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido.” Should you’re not hitting the slopes, go earlier within the day to get the view with out the après-ski crowds.


As a substitute, there’s Goshiki Onsen in the midst of the tranquil, forested backcountry of the Annupuri resort. For a extra upscale, secluded onsen expertise, keep at Zaborin, the posh ryokan (conventional inn) within the backwoods of the Hanazono resort.


Irrespective of the place you resolve to soak, the essential etiquette is identical. Onsens are totally nude amenities separated by gender. Step one is to disrobe and placed on a yukata, your cover-up once you’re not bathing. It’s customary to scrub earlier than and after you soak on the bathing stations — particular person stalls, every with a stool, a handheld bathe, a bucket and cleaning soap, shampoo and conditioner. As soon as clear, submerge within the geothermally heated, mineral-rich waters and chill out. Notice that tattoos are nonetheless thought-about taboo in Japanese tradition, so when you’re sporting ink, you would possibly need to examine on insurance policies with particular onsen by a concierge or native tourism middle.




Consuming it up


Tsubara Tsubara soup.
Tsubara Tsubara soup.Erik Trinidad

Japanese delicacies is greater than sashimi and ramen. Every area has its specialties, and Hokkaido is understood for its dairy, greens, lamb and seafood. The prefecture produces half of the nation’s milk, 90 % of its cheese and a few scrumptious desserts. Milk Kobo, the dessert and pastry store of Takahashi Dairy Farm in Niseko Village, dishes out yogurt, soft-serve vanilla ice cream, cream puffs and the well-known Hokkaido cheese tart, which rides the road between candy and savory.


The flavors and textures of grilled meats, Japanese eggplant and root greens come collectively in a bowl of hearty Hokkaido soup curry, a preferred dish that originated in Sapporo, the island’s largest metropolis. It’s the specialty of Tsubara Tsubara, an informal eatery in decrease Hirafu, the city that’s house to the 4 mountain resorts. Puku Puku Tei, in higher Hirafu, serves one other warming regional dish: jingisukan, or “Genghis Khan,” a scorching platter of greens and lamb.


Hokkaido is essentially accountable for Japan’s status as a supply for scrumptious, contemporary seafood. Savor Hokkaido oysters on the half-shell or share some shabu shabu at Niseko Village’s marketplace-style eatery, the Crab Shack, the place snow-crab legs cook dinner in tableside pots of broth.






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