Famed for prolific white powder snow, fabulous accommodation and apres-ski scene, Niseko lures winter sports enthusiasts from around the globe. Yet this beautiful region in the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan, has more to offer than topnotch skiing and snowboarding, with stunning alpine scenery making it a popular year-round destination. Here are some insider tips on how to get to Niseko.
Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport is just 110 km from Niseko and is well serviced by domestic and international flights from many parts of Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hawaii. Those travelling from further afield can easily connect through Tokyo Narita International airport, with a two-hour flight time to Sapporo. Book as early as possible to get the best rates.
Ski season runs from late November to early May and if you fly into New Chitose, the quickest way to hit the ski slopes is by taxi or private transfer. Catching a bus is also cheap and easy and takes approximately 2 – 2.5 hours.
Driving yourself is another option, but while rental cars are fitted with snow tires, it is not recommended unless you are experienced driving in wintery conditions.
Parking in Niseko is also limited in the busy winter months, so it’s better to save the car-hiring option for the summer months when you can enjoy a leisurely cruise up to the mountains, stopping to enjoy the glorious scenery along the way.
Trains also depart directly from the airport to JR Kutchan Station (a 10-minute taxi ride from Niseko), but you will need to change at Otaru station for a total travel time of around 3 hours. Japan has one of the best-developed rail networks in the world which is something to consider when travelling from other regions.
If coming from Tokyo, you can experience the famous Shinkansen bullet train, which travels up to 320 km an hour and hurtles through an undersea tunnel that connects the main island of Honshu with Hokkaido. Travel time is around 4 hours to Hakodate where you can connect with a regional train to JR Kutchan (3.5 hours).
Regular ferry services also connect Hokkaido with Japan’s other islands so if you have time on your hands and the romance of travel by sea appeals.
You can sail to the port of Tomakomai. From here it’s a 1.5-hour bus ride to Sapporo and then another 2 hours onto Niseko.
There is much to discover and enjoy in Niseko.