ONE of Niseko’s most under-rated restaurants is Maru in Izumikyo (East Hirafu). It was started eight years ago by three chefs from the old Nikko Hotel in Annupuri. Hiramatsu Joutaro came to Niseko from Saitama, near Tokyo, 18 years ago to work as a chef at Nikko. He wanted to start a restaurant that wasn’t as expensive as a lot of the restaurants and hotels in the area – something that everyday members of the public could afford. He had good connections from his Nikko Hotel days and was able to get good deals on local produce, which he was able to pass on in the prices offered on the menu. Perhaps it’s because his meals are too affordable, but Maru will close at the end of March this year. Be sure to try the Maru experience before it disappears! Maru is on the free Hirafu shuttle bus route.