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How To Get To The Home of Powder Snow, Niseko

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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.

By Plane

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.

For a private door to door service try Sky Express otherwise White Liner Ski Bus, Hokkaido Resort Liner  and NGS Big Runs all have various drop off points in Niseko.  

By Land

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  its  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.

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Chef du jour: Niseko Gourmet’s Sushi Master

in Destinations/Dining by

Niseko Gourmet complements your adrenaline-packed snow adventure holiday with an exceptional dining service, ensuring you are replenished and re-energized daily. All of your culinary requirements are catered for, from grocery shopping to gourmet food delivery and even in-chalet private chef dining experiences. A favourite with both locals and visitors, Niseko Gourmet has satisfied discerning palates for more than twelve years. Chef Kamada-San is a sushi master and an integral part of the Niseko Gourmet success story.  Starting as a 15-year-old and with a career spanning more than 50 years – Chef Kamada-San is credited as a founding influence on the Niseko food renaissance. As one of Niseko Gourmet’s longest-standing chefs and its sushi master, it was an honour to chat with him and savour his signature dishes!

Elite Havens: Hi, Chef Kamada-san. When and how did you make the move to Niseko?

Chef Kamada-san: When I was working in a sushi restaurant in Sendai (early 1972), a diner walked up to me and said that his friend needed some help at his restaurant in Kutchan. I decided to take the opportunity and made the move, where I worked for 3 years and coincidentally also where I met my wife. She was a loyal customer, and, from memory, I think it was me who said the first words to her. After we got married, we both went on to open our own sushi restaurant in Kutchan and operated it for 35 years.

EH: How did you come to work at Niseko Gourmet?

CK: I think it was meant to be, that at the time my restaurant shut, I met Tess Stomsky (the founder of Niseko Gourmet) and then began serving quality sushi to the customers of Niseko Gourmet.

EH: What makes you happiest at work?

CK: When my customers are at their most content, I am too. I also just love making sushi. The process and the pursuit of perfection gives me joy.

EH: What are you thinking of when you make each piece of nigiri?

CK: I am always focused on my customers and giving them the best food possible.

EH: What are some of your most memorable experiences?

CK: Working with different staff members from different countries.

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A Savoury Autumn with Niseko’s Food Festivals

in Culture/Destinations/Dining by

While Niseko is renowned the world over for its powder snow, and Japan is said to be most beautiful during sakura (cherry blossom season), locals will tell you a secret that not many tourists know. It is perhaps the world’s best kept secret that it is in Autumn, when Japan’s countryside truly shines. The leaves changing colour as fall approaches, a slight nip in the air, and autumn produce hitting the wet market, all of this makes for a magical vacation, before the crowds descend on the slopes.

Besides the beauty of its countryside, Hokkaido’s produce is what has gained the island a reputation few places in the world enjoy. It is only natural then, that Niseko and nearby Sapporo have in recent years developed a vibrant food scene, of Michelin star status. Most of these world class restaurants are booked solid through the winter months. But if you want to get a taste of Hokkaido’s best gourmet food, the autumn food festivals in Niseko and Sapporo are the best places to do so.

Sapporo Autumn Food Festival  

Attracting over two million visitors each year, the Sapporo Autumn Festival is Hokkaido’s largest gourmet event, now in its twelfth year. Spread out over the better part of the month, the event is scheduled to be held from 6-29 September, 2019.

Hokkaido has four distinct seasons which define the local life. The white winter gives way to sakura, when the snow melts into fresh spring water, essential for enriching the multitude of crops that grow here in summertime. Autumn is harvest season, when the locals enjoy the fruits of their labour and thanks to food fests like this one, now you can too.

A large island, Hokkaido is vast not only in geographical terms, but also in the variety of its produce and cuisines produced thereof. Due to the local ingredients used, Sapporo’s ramen is distinctly different from that of Asahikawa, both equally delicious. The country’s northernmost city of Wakkanai is said to have the best quality of uni (sea urchin) and salmon roe. But it may not be possible for everyone to travel across the island to try all these delicious dishes. Sapporo Autumn Food Festival comes to your rescue, a place where you can try food from more than 100 municipalities across the prefecture,

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Niseko Gourmet: The Chefs At Your Doorstep

in Culture/Destinations/Dining by

The lure of fresh, white snow is strong. The slopes call out for you to explore this pristine and picture-perfect landscape. You ski and snowboard to your heart’s content. Welcome to Niseko, where all your dreams of an adrenaline-packed snow adventure are fulfilled. With so much daily physical activity, there is a need to replenish and re-energize, and this is where Niseko really delivers the goods. Niseko Gourmet is the local culinary favourite, providing a private chef, fresh ingredients and a host to your own chalet.

Twelve years ago, Tess Stomski came to Japan to work as part of the winter staff in a resort. She vowed to come back and live in this wonderful country, a dream she fulfilled a few years later. She started providing food and dining experiences to skiers and other vacationers in Niseko and thus Niseko Gourmet was born. Needless to say, it was an instant hit.

“As one of the world’s top ski destinations, Niseko can accommodate 20,000 people. But the restaurants can only seat 2,000. Even if they do multiple seatings, the opportunity gap was fairly large,” says Jon Stonham, CEO of Elite Havens, which owns Niseko Gourmet.

Stomski ventured out to meet potential business contacts and farmers.  Niseko Gourmet’s first chef was Chef Chisato Amagai, with whom she co-wrote a book,  ‘Harvest Niseko’. Chef Chisato conceived the first home-cooked five-course dinner, to be prepared in front of the guests in their own holiday home. 

“We have three levels of offerings. At the very base, we can do market shopping for those who wish to self-cater. Then there is delivery of gourmet food to the chalet. And at the very top, we offer bespoke gourmet experiences like a chef preparing a special meal within your chalet,” Jon Stonham elucidates.

Stomski then met Chef Kamada, a 70-year old sushi master with his own 35 year old restaurant in nearby Kutchan. Kamada now makes two to three sushi dinners every night for the clients of Niseko Gourmet.

The most popular part of the Niseko Gourmet service is the bespoke experience. The indulgence of having a luxuriant meal cooked especially for you, makes it stand out. “We use local Hokkaido ingredients,” shares Annie Craig,

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5 Offbeat Things to do in Niseko this Summer

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation/Tips by

As the winter recedes, so do the crowds that throng Niseko for its dreamy powder snow. And in their wake, they leave behind a countryside that seems to slowly stretch out and rise from its winter slumber. The grinding sound of ski ploughs and the whir of ski lifts is replaced by melodious songs of summer breeze and chirping birds. The country blooms all around, unaware of its unpretentious innocent beauty yet not needing the crowds to confirm what it already knows. That Niseko is divine in the winters, but it is in summer that Niseko truly displays its mesmerising self.

It is a step towards the unknown, but curiosity is well rewarded. If you truly want to explore the heart of the countryside, why not take a walk away from the beaten path and indulge yourself with these quirky offbeat activities instead?

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