Niseko Bluebird Days—Part I

It’s Friday Armchair Travel time! It’s hot and humid in Hong Kong and I need a little cool weather, so today’s post is all about Niseko, powderhound heaven.

Hokkaido in northern Japan averages an incredible 18 metres of snowfall every winter. If you’re a skier, it is truly paradise. The snow is dry, light and smooth, the epitome of champagne powder.  Jagata-kun, the skiing potato, and his snowboarding girlfriend potato Jagata-chan, are the mascots for Kutchan, the biggest town nearest Niseko.

Jagata-kun welcomes you!

Jagata-kun welcomes you!

It also doesn’t hurt that the place is beautiful and the food is amazing, Hokkaido has natural bounties galore. It’s home to some of the best seafood in Japan, is famous for its corn and dairy, and Niseko in particular for, can you guess? Yes, for its potato. Jagata-kun is even on the local fire services.


Mt Yotei is a constant presence, and dominates the landscape.

Mt Yotei at dawn

Mt Yotei at dawn

The ski resort is rather spread out, and not quite as large nor the runs as long as some resorts in North American and Europe, however, the snow. Oh man, the snow!!! It is perfect. So dry it squeaks when you glide over it. Packed it is a delight to ski, but the powder is something else. Like skiing in clouds, there is no weight on your skis, no real need to lean back a bit and keep your tips up. Paired with bluebird skies it’s pretty hard to beat.


Mt Yotei from the 1000m Hut

The skiing is lovely, not too crowded, and the night skiing is a not to be missed experience. Super quiet and beautifully lit there is something so serene about swishing around in the dark.

Niseko night skiing. Magical.

Niseko night skiing. Magical.

Taiko drumming is popular and there were alot of impromptu demonstrations. From little drummers in Hirafu town centre…


…to adult drummers stopping at various hotels to perform. The beat of the drums and the energy of the drummers really burrows right into your chest. The thrill of it is almost primal.

Cozy izakayas, kind of a Japanese equivalent to the UK pub, abound, and serve fabulous comfort food—rich ramen, bubbling hot pot, crisp steaming gyoza, gut-warming donburi.


Shabu shabu at Abu-chan

And if you just wanted a hit of chocolate, the hot chocolate on the slopes got two thumbs up. Rich, smooth, and constantly stirred by these machines.  hotchoc

Occasionally we came across these tents selling local seafood.seafoodstreet

But really, the highlight is the skiing. The hardcore powderhounds hiked up to the top of Mt Niseko An’nupuri to reach the pristine powder.

climbing top

The groomed pistes and a bit of tree skiing were enough to keep me more than happy. I had quite enough adrenalin from King Lift #4—pretty much a plank of wood attached to a bent metal pipe hanging off the cables. I was too scared to take a photo on the lift, but I got a good one from another lift (one with a metal safety bar and a seat larger than a postage stamp).scarylift