If you’re a fan of snow, sake and sushi, you might want to start planning a ski trip to Japan. As far as winter wonderlands are concerned, Japan has it all: unparalleled powder, breathtaking scenery, cosy ski chalets and deliciously warming cuisine. Below, The Luxe Nomad takes you through two of the most popular Japanese ski destinations – Niseko and Hakuba – which both offer a unique experience that should earn a place on your bucket list.
Japan’s most well-known ski destination, Niseko is located on the island of Hokkaido, with the snow-capped Mount Yotei volcano towering above the slopes. The area is highly-regarded among professional skiers for its pristine powder snow, and is also widely popular for its lively village, amazing restaurants and pulsing nightlife, not to mention its natural onsen hot springs – a staple for any ski trip to Japan.
Powder: While all of Japan boasts world-class snow, Niseko takes the cake. With light and fluffy flakes that can only be described as magical, it’s like skiing on a cloud. The area also typically enjoys consistent snowfall, especially during January and February.
Luxury: For discerning travellers, Niseko is a mecca for modern and sumptuous accommodation, from ski-in, ski-out chalets like AYA Villas to high-end hotels like Ki Niseko. Head here if you’re planning to spend a great deal of time revelling off the slopes – some stays even come with your own private onsen!
Nightlife: While it may not quite match the lively aprés-ski atmosphere of the Alps, Niseko has a budding bar and nightlife scene and there is always fun and drinks to be had. For a laid-back atmosphere, grab a beer at The Vale Bar & Grill after your last run; for a full-fledged VIP nightlife experience, make table reservations at the newly opened Powder Room Niseko.
Host to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Hakuba is nestled at the base of the Japanese Alps on Japan’s main island of Honshu, about three hours from Tokyo. Like Niseko, the area is known for its incredible powder and onsens, as well as diverse terrain, breathtaking mountain views and plenty of tourist attractions such as Matsumoto Castle and Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you can see wild monkeys soaking in a snowy natural hot spring.
Accessibility: Hakuba is just a bullet train ride away from Tokyo, making it relatively easy to reach if you’re coming from Australia. Or you can cap off a trip around Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka with a visit to the Japanese Alps.
Variety: Niseko might win for best snow, but Hakuba has more variety, lauded as some of the world’s best terrain. With more than 10 ski resorts in the area, you’ll find everything from green groomers to double black diamonds, as well as phenomenal backcountry skiing.
Culture: While Niseko is very westernised, Hakuba has maintained a charming small-town Japanese feel that gives you a true taste of the country’s rich culture. You won’t find as many bars and clubs as Niseko, but Hakuba’s authentic cafés and restaurants more than make up for it.
Ready to earn your turns? The Luxe Nomad can help arrange all the details of your Japanese ski vacation.