Can I get around Niseko easily even if I cannot speak Japanese?
Yes, of course! Most people in Niseko have a basic knowledge of English and a lot of the signs are written in English too. However, it would be beneficial to learn a few basic phrases or have a phrasebook to hand as situations may arise where English is not understood at all.
Where can I go shopping?
For basic necessities, there are convenience stores located in Hirafu such as Seicomart and Hirafu 188. You can also head to Kutchan town (8km away from here), where there are numerous supermarkets, and you can find almost anything you need. MaxValu, Lucky and Coop are all good options. There are buses running to and from Kutchan, or you can go by taxi, which costs about 2000yen from Hirafu.
If you prefer online delivery, Hokkaido Marche and Niseko Konbu Onsen Market offer delivery services to some accommodations in Niseko.
What kind of restaurants are located in Hirafu?
From traditional Japanese to Western style food and from fine dining to fast food, there are no shortage of options in Hirafu. Spanning across 40 restaurants in Hirafu and 200 places to eat in the Niseko resort area, we are sure there is something to suit every taste. The average price for dining is between 2000-3000 yen per person. The Niseko Promotion Board publish a free wine and dine guide each winter for the Niseko Resort Area.
Do the restaurants offer vegetarian meals?
Most restaurants offer vegetarian options however, it is not common in Japan therefore the ‘vegetarian’ dishes may still contain meat or fish stock. It is always best to check with the service staff before ordering. Often the chef can leave out the meat or fish from some dishes if requested.
Should I leave a tip?
No, tipping is not customary in Japan and you should not leave a tip on the table as the waiting staff will probably think you forgot your change and chase after you to return it.
What is the best payment method in Japan?
Most ski rental companies and ski goods stores accept credit cards, as do the lift ticket company however most bars and restaurants in the Niseko ski resort are do NOT accept credit card therefore cash is the most common method of payment and is recommended. You can exchange your money in Hirafu, but you will get better rates at the airport. There is an international ATM that accepts VISA card and the main post office in Kutchan accepts most international cards.
Is there a daycare service in Niseko?
Yes, we recommend Niseko Babysitters who provide safe and fun childcare for newborn babies to fourteen years of age with experienced babysitters. They are English speaking and available at any time of the day in the comfort of your accommodation.
Can I use my mobile phone in Japan?
If you have a triband or quadband phone, it might work in Japan but, in all cases, it is best to check with your service provider prior to arrival to see if it will work here. If not, there are rental phone shops around Japan, including Niseko, where you can pick one up for about 300 yen per day. Public telephones are also readily availlable throughout Japan.
What happens if I have an accident or get injured in Niseko?
The health care system in Japan is comparable to that of Western standards. The nearest hospital is located in Kutchan (8km from Hirafu) and is well equipped with highly-trained staff. They may be able to speak English or there are also volunteer interpreters available too. Be aware that treatment costs in Japan are quite high therefore if you have an accident and require evacuation, you will be expected to cover the rescue costs as well. Be sure to have the appropriate insurance.
What is the etiquette and/or laws in Japan?
We recommend you familiarise yourself with the etiquette and laws in Japan before arrival. The following are important rules but it is not an extensive list:
What do I need to bring to Niseko?
You can arrange to rent equipment such as skis, boots, poles/snowboards and boots here in Niseko. Most people opt to bring their own clothing however you can also rent everything you need here so don’t worry if you forget to pack something! Items such as weatherproof jackets, pants, gloves and goggles, beanies/helmet are available to hire.
Socks are also available to hire here in Niseko however it will be cheaper to purchase these before you arrive. Socks should run approximately 2/3rd of the way up to your knee. Some people prefer to wear two sets of thin socks which is better than one pair of thick socks as some boots may fit snugly and you can always remove a pair if necessary. If your socks are too thick they may restrict circulation, resulting in colder or numb feet. If you suffer from cold feet you can also purchase inexpensive, disposable boot warmer pads in Niseko.
Layers of clothing is important as are thermals, or inners. We do not recommend cotton inner layers as they do not allow for perspiration to pass through as you excersize which could then freeze as you take the chairlift up the mountain. A good alternative is woolen or breathable synthetic thermals which will keep you warmer and are available for purchase around Niseko.
Are lessons available in Hirafu and Annupuri? Where should I ski or board?
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced skier, both Hirafu and Annupuri are suitable and a have multiple ski schools to choose from. We recommend first timers, who may be a little nervous, to start in Annupuri as the terrain tends to be less busy.
Is it OK to mix skiers and snowboarders in a first-time class?
Unfortunately it’s not usually possible to mix skiers and snowboarders together in a lesson. This is to ensure you receive the highest quality lessons and more focused attention from the instructor to cater for your specialised needs. It is common however, to take skiers and snowboarders out together for tours and mountain guiding activities.
Are lessons available in Japanese language?
Yes – we can recommend the Niseko Annupuri Ski School, which is based at Annupuri in the Nook and teaches in Japanese.
Do my lessons include lift passes?
Most schools lessons do not include ski lift passes therefore these must be purchased separately. You can book the All Mountain Pass through our website.
How hard is skiing on powder snow?
Even the fittest skiers who can generally handle most mountains may find skiing on powder snow exhausting and it can also expose technique flaws. That being said, our expert instructors will teach you how to conquer the powder and leave you coming back for more! After all, it is the reason skiers from all over the world return to Niseko each year.
Do we need to use helmets?
We recommend that all ski and snowboarders wear helmets at all times, not only is it paramount for safety but it also helps keep your head warmer. You can contact us for assistance with hiring helmets.