Feb 01, 2013
May 01, 2012
As the frozen ground thaws, Niseko bursts with spring color of varieties of wild plants such as Dogtooth violets, white arum, and amur adonis. You can see colonies of Ezoengosaku (corydalis ambigua) and Katakuri (Dogtooth violet) in Sakuragaoka Park in front of the Niseko Station, which is also great locations for bird watching.
Please rush to Niseko during the holiday weeks and don’t miss this moment of spring color!
No more words.Here you are!
Photo by KEI from Niseko HANAZONO Hill Climb Jikkoiinkai Jimukyoku.
Nov 08, 2011
As a resident of Niseko there’s always some new development to see, but there hasn’t been much change to basic infrastructure on the mountain lately. This summer, however, we’ve watched as construction workers drove cranes and tractors up the mountain to install shiny silver poles for a new, improved gondola, but up until recently there hasn’t been much else to look at, since cloths and scaffolds covered all the construction.
Well, the covers have come off the buildings! Both the gondola base and summit stations are bigger and renewed, there is a new mountain center right near the gondola, and the new cars for the gondola have arrived. I took a trip up the mountain to take a few pictures. They fit 8 people and offer fantastic views, as you can probably see in the pictures below.
On our way down, we had to take a short detour, so I snapped a shot of the new gondola station with all its little cabins lined up. If you look behind the station, the trail up to Miharashi is visible. Since it used to be an immediate right to start climbing that trail, you can really tell how much larger the station is.
From the mountain, you can see the Grand Hirafu Mountain Center below, which really looks great from the slopes. I’m sure that it will make a fantastic focal point and can’t wait to see it lit up at night. The bigger triangular windows are designed to frame in Mt. Yotei on one side and Mt. Niseko-Annupuri on the other. Looks good!
Now this isn’t something we’ll really see the results of for a couple of years, but it’s still pretty exciting. These holes at the top of Hirafu’s main street are the first step in a plan to bury all of the power lines and install road heating along the entire length of the road. We won’t see the results until the very end (they’ll dig holes and install all the conduits before starting to pull replacement cable), but it’s something to look forward to. It will make a huge difference in the feel of Hirafu in the years to come.
Less than a month until skiing starts!
Oct 28, 2011
Some place names in Hokkaido are derived from the Ainu language, the Ainu people were indigenous people of Hokkaido. The Ainu language has no traditional written form and is in danger of extinction.
With the selection of words below it is possible to figure out the meaning of some of the place names in Hokkaido, let’s explore some of the placenames.
mountain – nupuri
river – pet -nay
water – wakka
lake, bog – to
road – ru
big – poro
Below is a selection of place names that have had their meanings literally deciphered.
Sapporo – sat poro pet (dry, large river)
Rusutsu – ru sut (road end)
Noboribetsu – nupur pet (muddy river)
Lake Toya (Toya-ko) – to ya
Below is a selection of place names that have been translated into a slightly more understandable level of English. Using some of these examples and the websites below, give translating some Ainu place names a go!
You may notice that the some of the place names below are longer or shorter than how we are used to seeing them, this is mainly due to the fact that the Japanese people were not able to pronounce some of the Ainu words correctly.
Niseko – nisey ko an pet (cliff jutting over a river)
Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsu-ko) – shi kot (large valley)
Shiraoi – shirau o i (place with many horseflies)
Muroran – mo rueran (small slope)
By the way, Ainu means “human beings”. We are all “Ainu”.
The ladies playing traditional instruments “Mukkuri”.
The Ainu Association of Hokkaido
The Ainu Musium Porto Kotan in Shiraoi
Oct 20, 2011
Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of hosting a group of terrific cyclists from Hong Kong for a cycling tour in Japan. Despite snow the day everyone arrived and a very cold next day, they were a delight to have around and all smiles as we visited Lake Toya and some other spots around Niseko. Here are a couple of photos from the trip. Enjoy!
Oct 03, 2011
I have ridden the NISEKO steam locomotive.
You need a reserved-seat ticket between Sapporo and Kutchan,
but you can enjoy a small trip with local fare between Kutchan and Rankoshi. I savoured a short 50 minute round-trip journey between Niseko station and Rankoshi.
Retro-flavored seats and cafe lead you a nostalgia mood.
SL lunch box and special snacks for the SL perform a tool of your petit journey. Annoucement of touristic view points help you to understand scenery more from train windows.
The NISEKO Steam Locomotive is running on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays until November 3rd. Don’t miss the chance!
Sep 02, 2011
1.Nature and habits of hornets
Active in August and September
In Hokkaido most incidents caused by hornets are reported in August and September. Based on the number of hornets and the size of nests, hornets tend to be more aggressive in these months than usual.
Whites are not necessarily safe
Although it is said that hornets tend to be more aggressive toward the color black, there is no guarantee that white is safe. Hornets may tend not to approach the color white as easily as black.
Click to read more…
Aug 25, 2011
This past weekend marked the second annual Hirafu Matsuri. Though there was a bit of ominous weather in the morning, the skies cleared by the time the festival started.
For me, a major highlight of the day was seeing many local restaurants come out and offer their expert cooking skills for the rest of town. As much as I love typical Japanese matsuri fare, there’s something special about being able to have craft sandwiches, beef stew, or smoked salmon and a beer (or wine!) in sight of Mt. Yotei with the rest of the community.
Events included junior Yosakoi dancing and flag tiggy, but the real excitement came after the sun set. First, there was a candy toss, with heaps of people cramming together to catch treats tossed from the top of a tower (photo credit: Glen Claydon).
After that, with bonfire in full flame, a local Taiko drumming group performed. It was quite the long set, and really got the blood moving – good, because it’s already getting a bit chilly in the evenings!
The evening ended with a fireworks show, and a large number of people stood around chatting by the bonfire later into the evening. All-in-all, a well-done event with all the hoped-for flavors of Niseko. See you there next year!
Aug 11, 2011
For the past few weeks, sufferers of the Great East Japan Earthquake have been taking relief in Niseko through a program. It was named “Niseko Tsunami Relief Program.” We have only 20,000 residents in the area, naturally most locals involved to be volunteers, along with most companies, have been cooperating to offer the participants to enjoy their stay. The 420 people, mostly mothers and children (most fathers visit only for a few days, or cannot come due to work), are passing their summer vacations in a relaxed way, enjoying running around outside or just napping on the grass.
We have been delighted to offer the many kids from Fukushima, who can’t leave home and must remain in hot, humid rooms in Fukushima, to play around outside, frolicking in streams or catching bugs in Niseko’s great nature. At the same time, it’s been complicated to hear their stories of Fukushima, where they cannot live normally such as breathing outside or exposing to sunlight. Some participants in the program have already made the decision to move to Hokkaido, encouraged by Niseko’s wonderful nature and kind people.
The number of visitors from Fukushima have been peaking this week, with summer in full swing and many local festivals being held. Most children are under 12-years-old, and the volunteer team has been running plenty of events for the kids, such as English game time, hiking, and BBQs. There will be many opportunities to communicate with the families through the end of August.
We welcome anyone who is interested, especially families with kids!
If you would like more information, please call Yoko (Tel:0136-21-2551) or refer to brochures in the Owashi Lodge communication salon (Hirafu area).
Aug 05, 2011
With four restaurants and bars in green season, a host of buffets and other food events, the Hilton Niseko Village is a premier location for high-quality food in Niseko.
I was lucky enough to sit down with three chefs who work at the Hilton, Yoshio Kikuchi (Sous Chef at Melt, Bar & Grill), Manabu Ogawa (Sous Chef at Japanese Dining “REN”), and Tsutomu Oyane (Chef de Partie) to discuss how they ended up in Niseko, how they feel about the area, and how it’s affected their cooking.
Q: How did you end up in Niseko? Was it your own decision to come here?
Yoshio Kikuchi: I initially started working in Tokyo, but I’ve been in Niseko for quite a while – about 15 or 16 years. At the start I didn’t know what the area had to offer, because where I was born is very different from Niseko’s countryside. Of course, I met with no real problems and really loved the area, so I decided to stay.
Manabu Ogawa: I worked in Sapporo for a time as a French chef, but my mentor told me, “Why don’t you come to Niseko? There are all sorts of great opportunities for a chef here.” I checked out the area and decided to come, quickly realizing “Wow, this is a great place, I could live here with my family.”
Q: Having worked in other areas, what sort of unique opportunities does Niseko offer? How is the atmosphere around food and the gourmet industry different?
YK: The biggest difference quite simply is – vegetables. The most famous aspect of the area is how quickly and easy we can get our hands on fresh produce. Further, we have the unique chances to talk with farmers directly, so we can receive fresh vegetables from a short distance away in the morning and then offer them to our guests the same day.
MO: In particular, here at the Hilton we currently rent fields just down the street (near Milk Kobo), so we can hop in a car and check out the vegetable fields, think about how we want to use them, and then come back and cook it. Our guests up here will eat just about any sort of vegetables, and pastries are much more common.
TO: I agree as it’s the same for the fruits I use in my pastries. We can get hold of fruits and use them in cakes and baked foods the same day, which is something you don’t hear about too much in Tokyo or even Sapporo. This and also people’s desire to try these sorts of foods is unique to Niseko as a resort area.
Q: Although it’s clear that summer is the best time to enjoy fresh produce, Niseko is much more popular in the wintertime. How do you maintain food quality throughout the winter?
YK: Niseko has this mountain image, but the ocean is very close, and many fish are even more delicious when winter comes. In addition to great fish, Niseko and Hokkaido are known for great potatoes, too, which keep well through the winter.
MO: Exactly. In terms of potatoes and root vegetables, we have to wait a while to use them, but there are plenty throughout the winter, even though there aren’t too many green vegetables. Niseko has three main appeals – skiing as the main, onsen (hot springs), and terrific food, particularly our winter seafood –we try to focus on all three at the Hilton.
Additionally, as the Teppanyaki (Japanese grill) chef, we only use the highest-end beef, pork, seafood and other ingredients. To complement the food, we wanted to encourage a local style, mixed with modern décor and fusion ingredients.
TO: In terms of pastries, we receive many of our fresh fruits from the neighboring town of Niki where apples and cherries are quite famous. In the winter we switch our focus to Hokkaido’s great cheese and milk, emphasizing the best available ingredients.
Q: How has living in Niseko and the international atmosphere here affected your cooking?
YK: I try to keep simple dishes and side dishes in mind. I try not to change the ingredients too much, but rather let the ingredients and their flavors shine through, such as their sweetness and natural texture. I also try to think about how those flavors tie together.
MO: In Niseko I’ve studied new things like farming and different ingredients, one of which was asparagus. In Hokkaido green asparagus is well known, and people see it in the supermarket all the time, but white asparagus is something new to most people. They don’t know how to cook it or the simple way of eating it. Even now, when people are given a choice they’ll go for the green asparagus I think, but with white asparagus’s tastiness and charm it is a shame that people don’t realize how delicious it is, even though it’s fairly easy to find!
Q: Finally, last question – When you go out to eat, what type of food do you eat and where do you go?
YK: I go out for soba (buckwheat noodles). Or, because it’s Niseko, Jingis Khan (grilled lamb with special spices). Generally, I enjoy other Japanese foods.
MO: I like to go to nearby places for lunches, mostly because I’m curious how other people are cooking in the area. I get to see, “Oh, this is how they cook here.” In this area we’re all using the same ingredients but creating very different flavors. At the Hilton and around Niseko in general, we are trying to make sure that everyone can find something that appeals.