Hokkaido is a relatively sparsely populated island with beautiful scenery, dormant volcanoes and several National Parks.
Niseko Hirafu is 300m above sea level. 1900m high Mount Youtei, 14km away, dominates its skyline. Skiing is on the slopes of 1300m high Mount Annupuri, another dormant volcano at the edge of the village.
Niseko Hirafu is only 30km from the island's west coast. Big depressions blow directly across from Siberia and dump massive amounts of snow in winter.
We really missed not being able to speak Japanese. We found the Japanese so helpful and friendly. Also we would have liked to be able to read at least some signs, food labels or even the instructions on the washing machine. A challenge for the coming months, maybe?
Here are some photographs we took. Click on the little
thumbprint photographs to enter each chapter
Niseko Hirafu Village
Some 15 000 Australian skiers visit each year, which has had its
positive and negative sides. Most of them had left when
we visited, it was mostly Japanese students when we were there.
Still, it's handy that some local
travel staff speak English and the local Seicomart
stocks sliced wholemeal bread and cheap wine.
The village and the skislope developments are all quite recent. No ancient village atmosphere here.
Everything is relative. Japan was having its warmest winter on record and the locals were complaining. They had only had 7m of snow instead of their usual 14m. There was still plenty of good snow for us, though. Plus . . . no lift queues and uncrowded slopes (most of the time)
Some 15 000 Australian skiers visit each year, which has had its positive and negative sides. Most of them had left when we visited, it was mostly Japanese students when we were there. Still, it's handy that some local travel staff speak English and the local Seicomart stocks sliced wholemeal bread and cheap wine.
It didn't snow the first and the last day we were there,
all other days we had some snow. Visibility could
become a bit of a problem sometimes then.
Temperatures varied from just below zero
at the bottom to minus 12 degrees with
(sometimes) strong wind on top.
Overall verdict: . . . great!
We had a three-story apartment all to ourselves. A heated storage room for ski gear, luggage and shoes downstairs. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry with washing machine and drier on the first floor. Then, on the second floor, the master bedroom with ensuite, plus an enormous lounge cum dining area. Also about the best equipped kitchen you could wish for.
Wickedly over-the-top luxury!
Some restaurants had European style seating with chairs and tables, in others we dined Japanese style on cushions on the floor. Meals were cheaper than we expected. We could have a great dinner for about $A 50.- for the two of us, including a large mug of the local beer, which was always on tap.