Researching everything about the ski season in Niseko, Japan? Here’s our travel guide on what you need to know about skiing in Niseko with kids!
Japan is finally open for individual travellers to visit, visa-free and just in time for ski season! Here’s our guide on how to have the perfect ski holiday with your family (and why you should choose Niseko in Hokkaido, Japan to ski with kids!).
Why choose Niseko to ski with kids?
‘Niseko’ refers to the four resorts on the flanks of Mt. Niseko-Annupuri in Hokkaido, Japan, collectively known as Niseko United. Each winter, freezing winds from Siberia sweep over the Sea of Japan, reacting with its moisture to result in the fluffiest, dry powder snow and dumping it across the mountains of Hokkaido. With 15-18 meters of snow per season, Niseko is one of the world’s snowiest resorts and makes a great place for kids to learn to ski!
Another plus – being in Hokkaido, a destination renowned for its superb produce be it dairy, meat or seafood, makes Niseko a natural haven for gastronomes and chefs alike, and Japanese food, high in umami (like Italian food) is very agreeable to younger palates too.
When does Niseko’s ski season start?
The 2022/23 ski season runs from 3 December 2022 to 7 May 2023, but the best time to go is honestly the second half of February to mid-March!
How to get to Niseko from Singapore
At the moment, only Scoot flies direct from Singapore to Hokkaido, Japan. It’s 7.5 hours from Singapore to Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport. Alternatives go through Tokyo, but be alert when booking as some Tokyo layovers require airport changes.
Once in Hokkaido, you will need to catch a coach for the 2-hour ride up the mountain, it’s a painless scenic journey through Resort Liner, or arrange a private transfer through SkyExpress. Don’t forget to stock up on snacks (sando and onigiri!) for the drive at the Lawson in the airport Arrival hall.
Read More: Life in Snowy Hokkaido: Singaporean Mama Merlin Chelliah
Which Niseko ski resort to stay in with kids
Which Niseko ski resort you stay at depends on your needs, though here, the term ‘resort’ encompasses not just one accommodation option, but multiple unique places to stay on each side of the mountain.
Niseko ski resort Hanazono
Where to stay: The easternmost resort on Mt. Niseko-Annupuri, Hanazono is a bit isolated but perfect for little ones. The Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono is breathtaking, and outdoors, the ski resort offers a brand new gondola – great for those who aren’t so comfortable with taking their kids on ski lifts yet! The groomed runs are wide and good for beginner to mid-level skiers.
Where to eat: There aren’t many options here but at the base for the ski lifts, Hanazono Edge is cafeteria-style with a huge variety for lunch and apres ski options. Park Hyatt offers some eight dining options, including Molière Montagne with 3 Michelin star chef Hiroshi Nakamichi. For more casual meals though, we love Olivio and China Kitchen. Park Hyatt is also the only place in Hokkaido to serve Pierre Herme patisseries, should you so desire. For something truly special, the chef’s table at Somoza, a restaurant and private gallery situated in a 150-year-old wooden house, tucked within the birch forest, is unforgettable.
Niseko ski resort Grand Hirafu
The busiest of the four resorts, Hirafu can best be described as buzzing.
Where to stay: There are multiple luxury condos and apartments, standalone chalets, villas and lodges to stay at, and the stretch across Upper, Middle and Lower Hirafu. Five-star boutique hotel Sansui opens December 2022, Chalet Murasaki is Niseko’s only ski-in, ski-out chalet, The Maples offers full-service slopeside apartments (don’t miss Singaporean chef Willin Low’s winter pop-up, Roketto) and then there’s the 6-bedroom chalet, Soseki.
Where to eat: Hirafu will have you spoilt for choice! We love Tsubara Tsubara for Hokkaido- style soup curry with varying spice levels, Niseko Ramen for potato ramen, The Alpinist for fondue and raclette, Ebisutei for izakaya delights, Bion for smoky, succulent Italian-style firewood barbecue, and Jojo’s for burgers and such (complete with play area and rock climbing for the little ones). If you have time to sneak off to a bar, choose Bar Gyu+, – this iconic Niseko institution makes solid cocktails and is all winter feels. Here, Lawson, the quintessential Japanese convenience store, and delis such as Green Farm will keep you well-stocked.
Niseko ski resort Niseko Village
To the east of Annupuri, Niseko Village comprises of ski-in, ski-out stays for every budget.
Where to stay: There’s the Hilton for classic international hospitality, The Green Leaf for modern Japanese inflections, Hinode Hills for roomy apartments with Mt. Yotei views, Kasara townhouses for luxurious residences with concierge service, and the all-new 50-room Higashiyama Niseko Village, Japan’s first Ritz-Carlton Reserve. There’s also a shopping village for those on the lookout for clothing and souvenirs, while for groceries, the travelling supermarket which visits Hinode Hills weekly offers a truly Japanese experience.
Where to eat: We love Ezo Pub at the Hilton for its easy access (ski boots accepted), and meals good for every member of the family. The Crab Shack for fresh Hokkaido crab in hotpot, and also don’t miss Niseko Takahashi Dairy Farm for its excellent choux puffs, soft serve and milk (bonus: the bus stop is right outside). Within the same area, Prativo also has a kids’ play area.
Niseko ski resort Annupuri
The westernmost resort of Niseko United, Annupuri has a distinctly quaint charm.
Where to stay: There’s a handful of accommodation options on offer from hotels, to pensions and ryokan, but we like the plush Annupuri Garden, which offers spacious 200 sqm apartments, fully-kitted kitchens, laundry facilities, private onsen, an excellent bakery and cafe, plus complimentary shuttle to the closest ski slope.
Where to eat: The handmade soba bar Rakuichi made popular by the late Anthony Bourdain, and Pizza del Sole are must-trys.
Ski passes and ski rental equipment in Niseko
If you’re planning to ski, get your lift passes directly from the Niseko United website based on where you’re staying or your ski level. The selection and professional service make Rhythm Niseko in Grand Hirafu our favourite place to rent equipment, but you can just as easily rent at the resort where you are staying at.
Ski lessons in Niseko
If you need ski lessons there are a few options including the Hokkaido Ski Club, Niseko International Snow Sports School, the Niseko Village Snow School and GoSnow – each will have great snow programmes for kids of all ages.
What else to do in Niseko with kids?
When not skiing, there are many snow activities to try (depending on where you stay) such as snow-shoeing, snowmobiling, horse riding, tubing, snow rafting and of course, unwind at the onsen.
Onsens are Japanese hot springs said to have therapeutic effects because of the minerals from the hot spring waters piped in from the surrounding mountains – observe onsen etiquette though; be quiet, bathe before entering, discard all clothing, hang on to your small ‘modesty’ towel, and no mobile phones. Kids can also work off their energy on the rock-climbing wall at Jojo’s in Hirafu, play at Galaxy of Kids in Hanazono or do winter camp with EdVenture.
Getting around Niseko with kids
Your Niseko ski pass gives you free access to the Niseko United Shuttle Bus, which runs on schedule, rotating between the four resorts. Alternatively, taxis can be ordered, but are expensive. There are also car rentals, but you will need an International Driver’s License to rent in Japan.
More Sassy Mama tips:
- Travellers heading to Japan need to pre-register their passport and arrival/stay details online here. They also to indicate their vaccination status; if not fully vaccinated then a PCR test needs to be taken 72hrs before. Those under 18 travelling with fully vaccinated parents/guardians do not need to do PCR or show full vaccination certs.
- Keep warm and toasty with good quality winter clothing which you can buy or rent in Singapore. We love Uniqlo HeatTech, and layer on the fleece, scarves, and hats, then make sure you have waterproof jackets and gloves to protect from the icy wind. Boots with strong tread to keep from slipping on roads slick with ice are an absolute must.
- Booking platforms such as The Luxe Nomad offer competitive rates on a variety of Niseko stays, and once you book, their concierge service (for transfers, restaurant reservations and more!), comes complimentary.
And last but not least, check on that travel insurance!
Happy skiing in Niseko!
Read More: A Trip to Hokkaido, Japan: Foodie Paradise