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March 2016

Lake Shikotsuko

Lake Shikotsuko is a one and a quarter hour drive from Niseko. If you take the bus from New Chitose Airport to Niseko you will drive right past this lake.

It has loads of onsen hotels, some very basic and some very smart places to stay but still fairly reasonable price wise.

We stayed a night at Lake Shikotsuko Daiichi Hotel Suizantei. It is a beautiful Japanese Onsen Hotel. The rooms were large and the buffet dinner and breakfast were delicious.

Lake Shikotsuko also hosts its own Ice Festival in February in line with the Sapporo Ice Festival. Much smaller in scale buy equally beautiful.

A Special Night to add to the Beginning or End of a stay at Fubuki

The most stunning new Ryokan Hotel has opened recently over near Hanazono and the Weiss Hotel.
It is called Zaborin.
I was lucky enough to spend a night there during February 2016 and it has to be one of the most memorable Japanese experiences I have had to date.
Zaborin is a fine example of Contemporary Japanese architecture and has interiors that compliment the peace and harmony of the surrounding nature.
It has only 15 rooms all with their own private indoor and outdoor onsen-private bath. Each room is individually named and ours was called FUBUKI of all things.
In the room rate, breakfast and dinner is included. It does not come cheap however the food was exceptional and the interiors were stunning..
Famous Hokkaido Chef Yoshihiro Seno who has worked in New York and Tokyo has returned to his roots and is all about using the locally grown produce and getting the best out of it all. His style is a northern version of Kaiseki which is more tactile and natural than the Kyoto Kaiseki style.
Dinner was an assault of visual excellence and taste.IMG_20160217_212739
Breakfast was much the sameIMG_20160218_094608
If you are after a special night either before or after a stay at Fubuki, make sure you book a night at Zaborin.

A Fubuki Restaurant Favourite

Whilst Niseko and Kutchan has an enormous amount of wonderful restaurants, a Beak Family Favourite is Rakuichi over at Annupuri.
Rakuichi, an intimate 12 seat soba restaurant was reviewed by Anthony Bourdain several years ago and with good reason. Tatsuru Rai makes the finest soba noodles in Hokkaido if not Japan. So delicious that he and his lovely wife Midori were invited to the 2014 MAP Symposium 2014 in Copenhagen to demonstrate their craft.
Lunch time is a traditional soba noodle meal and at dinner time Midori and Tatsuru do an 8 course degustation menu with local seasonal ingredients. Make sure you book though for dinner and well ahead! PH: 0136 583170

Niseko skiing side trip

Whilst Niseko has some amazing and super light powder snow skiing over 4 mountains, if you are after a day skiing elsewhere and a change of scenery try Kokusai which is about 70 mins drive away from Niseko. The drive over is quite beautiful and well worth it.
We skied there both early January and late February with one of the best “powder” days for the season.

2015-2016 Niseko Ski Season

Well, what a season it has turned out to be.
With a slow start which had many Niseko veterans worried, the snow arrived and has not stopped.
David and I were lucky enough to be able to spend from mid December 2015-end February 2016 in Japan with the odd side trip to the UK for Christmas, the US (Jackson Hole) and Singapore but largely in Japan.
Our trip began with 6 days in Hakuba from 16th December. Sadly there was little snow there for our 6 days of skiing however we could imagine that when the snow did eventually fall, the skiing would be great. Very different scenery to Niseko, more like the Alps and quite spectacular. David managed to tag along with some mountain guides who did 2 training days up very high and the rest of the time we did a little touring. We visited Matsumoto Castle, or Crow Castle as it is locally known due to its black exterior, in Matsumoto City and Jenkoji Temple in Nagano City. If you do have the time to make it here make sure that you also walk around the surrounding streets which are filled with lovely traditional buildings and shops. A visit to that part of Japan would not have been complete without a drive to Jigokudani Monkey Park at Yamanouchi to see the famous Snow Monkeys bathing in their own hot spring up in the mountains. What a sight!