Sorry for the long absence. Household has been a little chaotic with comings and goings. My husband left for the UK last week, and my mom headed home to Canada today. So now it’s back to me and the kid. Hubby will be back in a few weeks and the whole household will be heading off into the sunset. Or sunrise, as it were.
Catching up with my Friday Armchair Travels, I promised a Part II to my Niseko Adventures. We spent a couple weeks in the summer in Niseko, staying again at Hirafu town but in a small cottage.
Coming from polluted, traffic congested Hong Kong, Niseko is literally lungfuls of fresh air. Niseko has a wonderful easy pace of life. Gorgeous green lanes that induce calm.
The train station is a single room affair, without any staff at all.
Behind it is the ski resort, with the pistes carved out from the blanket of pine trees. We took the gondola up one super hot day and found the cool air up there a delicious escape.
The railtrack was a single line that extended straight into the distant trees. It made me feel like Spirited Away had come to life.
Hirafu town, and actually everywhere in the area, is dominated by Mt Yotei, a constant presence.
When I travel I have a list of three basic criteria. A place has to hit two of the three. Scenery. Food. Accommodation. Niseko hits all three. And having awesome coffee gets it bonus points.
Green Farm Cafe in Hirafu town has it right. I really wanted to take their neon sign home and put it above my computer. Give me COFFEE and no one gets hurt. So true. We did a fair few morning runs for coffee to fortify ourselves before dropping our little one off at camp.
Give me coffee and no one gets hurt
But my favourite coffee hands down was Mountain Kiosk Coffee. DELICIOUS in a cup!
We also went camping, which I’ve never thought of as my thing. But Japanese camp grounds are so well equipped, and so damned clean, it really was a joy. We spent a day at Lake Toya, with its crazy clear waters. (Click on the panorama pics to embiggen)
We even set up our own tent, despite the instructions being so tiny and in Japanese only local nano-bots would be able to read them. Pretty chuffed.
The one negative was we got absolutely eaten alive by some tiny midge-like bugs. Only now, three months later, are my scabs finally healing over and the itching has actually subsided. Awful. I had to soak my legs in ice water (the water from the taps was super cold, lovely in the heat) pretty much every few hours to make the itching bearable.
Thankfully however, we did NOT get stung by these bad boys. Suzumebachi, aka Japanese killer hornets. One of them was flying around our car near Rakuichi, the soba place. We got in the car pronto and kept all the windows rolled up tight. The thing was four inches long. These guys sting multiple times, and keep stinging. Their venom can apparently dissolve human skin. Not anything I want to experience. Ever.
In summer not as many of the restaurants are open, but we did get a tasty selection of summer season fare. Niseko Ramen with its potato ramen was to die for. You first bought a little ticket for whatever dish you wanted from this vending machine, gave your ticket to the waitress and they then bring you your food. No faffing around at the end waiting for your bill. Fabulous idea.
We had soba on quite a few days, since it was pretty hot. Really refreshing.
We really wanted to try Rakuichi’s soba. Master Tatsuru-San is an ex-architect who quit to make soba, and is now reknown for his soba. Unfortunately we got denied the lunchtime we went since they don’t accept children under 12 in their restaurant. Instead, we hired a babysitter and made a dinner reservation.
The place at night is pretty magical. You cross over a wooden bridge, to the small restaurant. Only 12 seats.
We had a gorgeous kaiseki dinner. Everything beautifully presented, perfectly executed. We were very lucky as in the winter it’s almost impossible to get a booking.
Next to Rakuichi was the amazing house. One of the staff told us this is Master Tatsuru-San’s son’s house.
Niseko is famous for its potatoes and for its dairy. Niseko Gelato was a new place, and had these amazing spoons that changed colour when they got cold.
Good gelato, but my favourite is definitely Ruhiel. I’ve never tasted anything as good as their plum gelato. Soooo yummy.
Cheese tarts and cream puffs are another local speciality. Just amazing.
Milk Kobo had some great cheese tarts, and I’ve heard their cream puffs are also amazing, but we always managed to miss the Kobo cream puffs. We will have to try the cream puffs out next time. Kobo was another place where you did the vending machine tickets first, then gave the tickets to the staff in exchange for your yummies.
Niseko Supply Company was our go-to breakfast place. Great coffee, great crepes, and AMAZING fluffy ricotta pancakes. Sigh.
There was a cow parade on during our visit. Lots of cows all over Niseko. Makes for an interesting landscape.
The farmers market was too cute. Every product had a little postcard that included a photo of the person who made/farmed the product. Really personal approach.
And one of my favourite activities, visiting the cherry orchard! The cherries were delicious. Three different kinds, rainiers, small bright red ones, and huge dark ones. That place is heaven. Just minus the scary hornets.