Niseko swells with visitors during Chinese New Year, as guests from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China flock to enjoy some turns in powder heaven during their public holiday. This is a unique time of year, and I have some specific suggestions for ways to help you enjoy New Years Eve all over again, Niseko-style!
1. Let off fireworks
If you are like me, and fireworks are illegal in your native land, you are probably jumping out of your skin at the opportunity to let some of these bad boys off. Japan abounds in small, friendly little crackers, which make a very satisfying whizzing noise and varying degrees of actual light. Pick some up at the toy store in Kutchan for a whizbanger of a time, but remember to be respectful and don’t let them off too late at night, and be careful, because after all, these things do blow up.
2. Night skiing
The crazy thing about Chinese New Year is that the restaurants and hotels are bursting at the seams, but the ski hill is relatively peaceful. Sure, ski school is a gong-show, and the Family Run is like a carnival during the day, but at night the slopes of Hirafu are even more inviting than usual. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a quiet run or two in the golden glow of the night skiing lights, and watch the town roil with Chinese New Year celebrations beneath you.
3. Free pony rides at The Vale Niseko
That’s right, some very ambitious person has arranged for a live pony to be down at The Vale Niseko in honour of The Year of the Horse, and even if they won’t let me line up with the kiddies I think it will be worth checking out the spectacle. They are also offering free sake and a taiko drumming show, so be sure to pop by and check out Hirafu’s very own circus.
4. Make a restaurant reservation
As you may have guessed, restaurants are pretty much impossible to get into during the week surrounding Chinese New Year; for example, last I heard A Bu Cha is booked out until the 9th of February for dinner. If you do fancy a bite out, call around to make a reservation, because even the line at Seicomart is astonishing.
5. Drink red chu-his
Chu-his are just another Japanese product that I adore, and are very practical for sweet-toothed, easily drunk members of society such as myself. Chu-his are basically a vodka pre-mix, but oh, what a delicious choice of mixes! I am partial to the kiwi flavour, as well as anything pink, but there are also some sparkling wine choices that I highly recommend. Varying from 3%-8% in alcohol, you can choose the appropriate chu-hi depending on the night you have planned and your current mood, and obviously Chinese New Year screams red. Pick some up for around ¥100 each at Seicomart, Lawson’s, or get super prepared and stock up in Kutchan at the supermarket.
There you have it: from skiing to supper, I’ve got your Chinese New Year covered. Have a blast with the fireworks, and don’t try and push in front of me in the pony line! Gong Xi Fa Cai!