Where is Niseko?
Zooming in on Niseko
NISEKO is becoming synonymous with the Japan ski scene and epic powder. But before you arrive it might help if we give you a little orientation.
Niseko is in the southwest of Hokkaido - Japan’s rural, northernmost island and its largest prefecture. It’s about two or three hours by bus, car or train, southwest of Sapporo, the capital. Getting to Niseko.
Hirafu? Kutchan? Annupuri? Niseko Village?
So you know you’re going to Niseko… but you’re wondering why your hotel is in Hirafu, when the postal address is Kutchan?
Niseko is the name given to the four independently owned ski resorts on the southeast face of Mt Annupuri, collectively known as the Niseko United. The most well known and visited of these resorts is Grand Hirafu, commonly known as Hirafu. The resort itself is great, but unless you know your secret spots, the powder quickly disappears from the traffic it experiences during the day.
But that's the beauty of Niseko - there are four resorts you can ski between with ease, all with slopes and terrain to suit complete beginners to professionals.
If you’re looking up at the mountain from Hirafu, the off-piste powder haven of Hanazono is over a few hills and gullies to your right. To the left, across a massive avalanche-prone bowl, is the up market and slower-paced Niseko Village, formerly known as Higashiyama. And to it’s left, bookending the Niseko United is Annupuri, famous for it’s back bowls and tendency to hide secret stashes of some of the best powder Niseko has to offer.
Where is Niseko Town?
Niseko itself is a quaint, inconsequential township about 10 minutes drive from Hirafu or five from Niseko Village and Annupuri. There is little reason for foreign tourists to visit Niseko at this stage, but it is a pretty, well laid out village with a few interesting little shops and a variety of restaurants.
Where is Kutchan?
Kutchan is the closest ‘big’ town to Hirafu, about 10 minutes drive away. In fact, Hirafu actually lies within Kutchan’s boundaries, hence the reason Hirafu addresses are in Kutchan (Niseko Village and Annupuri are in the Niseko government district). It has a population of about 16,000 and is famous for its potatoes.