Author: Sassy Eater.
I have to admit that the major reason I chose Hilton Niseko Village during my family’s last winter holiday was the Onsen in the property (FYI, Onsen is a term for Hot Springs in the Japanese language, sometimes used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. Japanese often talk of the virtues of “naked communion” for breaking down barriers and getting to know people in the relaxed homey atmosphere in the onsen. And onsen water is believed to have healing powers derived from its mineral content).
The tourism in the Niseko region began as a hot spring resort. The natural waters of Niseko Onsen village have three important qualities that are known for the benefit of skin care. When the combination of Hydrogen Carbonate, Sulfate and Sulfur are found together, they are indication of the highest quality spring water. The area has continued to be a popular destination for hot spring enthusiasts.
But it’s not the healing power nor the naked-is-a-must-in-onsen-thing that appealed me in the first place . It’s the mesmerizing view of Mt. Yotei, more famously known as “Ezo Fuji” (or the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido) from the outdoor onsen. And indeed it was an outstanding experience recuperating yourself in the hot water after a day on the slopes, while the wind was blowing and the snow was falling… and gazing at the magical forest in front of you was priceless!
The Onsen at Hilton Niseko Village has two bathing areas, an indoor bath on the upper level overlooking Mt.Yotei and a spacious outdoor bath fronted by a pond with a stunning view of the snowy forest and Mt.Yotei. The outdoor onsen is what we call here in Singapore… Die, die, must try!
Another best view was the picturesque snow mountain view from the large window in our Twin Hilton Room with Mt Yotei view. With beautiful surrounding that Niseko possesses, we could stay in the room enjoying the view and not going anywhere.
The room was a good size and so were the beds. (It’s more worth it to book two rooms for 4 person instead of squeezing 4 person in one family room. I compared the price for two rooms was slightly higher than one family room, but two rooms would definitely be more spacious than one room, and don’t forget to count 2 bathrooms as another advantage). Overall the room was comfortable and relatively quiet. It’s not a shiny or new hotel, yet we were still happy with the level of cleanliness and amenities.
Hilton Niseko is a very friendly hotel despite the vastness of the establishment. You will be spoilt with many choices of restaurants inside the property. The Flame, where you can have a hot drink and snack after an exhausting day on the slopes. Ezo Pub, where you can share pizza with friends while watching skiing highlights on the large screen. Melt Bar, where you can savor grilled meat or seafood with a glass of wine.
Sisam Japanese restaurant, offers a traditional Japanese cuisine that features local produce, meat and seafood from the Hokkaido region. It was the only restaurant in the hotel that we tried twice, once when we just arrived at the hotel after a three-hour-mesmerizing-bus-journey from Sapporo. The second time was when we had a lunch break during our ski session. At Sisam, we indulged in a flavoursome Makkari Herb Pork Cutlet Curry Rice with Pickles (JPY 2,100), Soba Noodles with Prawn Tempura (JPY 1,900) and Hot Pot Udon Noodles of Winter Vegetables with Prawn Tempura and Braised Chicken (JPY 1,800).
Restaurants in the hotel were a bit overpriced, but it’s a breeze to step out to Niseko Village for more option of restaurants, and fairly easy to take the free shuttle to Hirafu town for more reasonably priced meals.
Niseko Village, literally a stone’s throw away from the hotel, is a pretty little village inspired by traditional Japanese machiya architecture (Machiya are traditional wooden town houses found throughout Japan and typified in the historical capital of Kyoto) with its unmistakable sliding screens, wooden lattice facades and lantern-lit walkways, the village offers a good variety of contemporary dining concepts.
We had breakfast twice in one cafe called Village Patisserie at Niseko Village which offers a vibrant array of pastries, chocolates and Japanese cakes. The scrumptious creations are perfect over gourmet coffee, tea or beverages for a delightful respite from mountain adventures.
Yang Shu Ten was another restaurant at Niseko Village that we tried. They offers fresh Hokkaido produce and the oceans’ bounty, turned into sushi, tempura and teppanyaki dishes including delightful local dairy desserts. We had Eel Rice (JPY 3,500), Beef Rice (JPY 1,500), Live Japanese Hairy Crab (JPY 18,000), Japanese Wagyu Steak 80 gr (JPY 5,000).
Every evening during our 4-days in Hilton Niseko Hotel, we took free Hilton shuttle bus that leaves fairly frequently, to go to Hirafu Town (Hirafu is the nucleus of the vibrant nightlife that Niseko is so famous for), which was a 10 minute bus ride away. Hirafu Town is packed with a variety of hotels, pensions, and holiday homes. The town also offers an interesting range of restaurants and bars with an active nightlife, where English was spoken everywhere.
Enishi was one restaurant at Hirafu Town that we tried, lovely food with good variety, and very reasonable. We had Edamame (JPY 500), Butter Corn (JPY 500), Roast Pork (JPY 820), Gyoza (JPY 520), Teriyaki Chicken (JPY 980), Hokkaido Beef Steak (JPY 5,000).
At The Niseko Supply Company (TNSC), also at Hirafu Town, we dropped in the next day for dinner after making a reservation for Dinner Set Menu (JPY 4,000/person) the day before. Such a satisfying Cheese Fondue, with an exhilarating mix of cheese from France and Switzerland, served with their home-baked bread, Hokkaido potatoes, ham, pickles and salad, white wine Apremont Prestige 2013, Savoie, France (JPY 700/glass). The dessert of the day, the Crepe with additional ice cream was a sweet closure to the delectable meal.
Milk Kobo was one destination between Hilton Niseko Hotel and Hirafu Town, not to be missed if you are a cheese lover. The scent of freshly baked goods welcomed us as we entered the store. Their Chou Cream/Cream Puff (JPY 170), Cheese Tart (JPY 200) and the Cheese Cake (JPY 650/4 pc) are must-tries!
Hilton Niseko Village is by far the easiest way in Niseko, Japan to go skiing or snow boarding. You virtually step out of your room into an elevator, out of the elevator into ski valet, and out of ski valet onto the snow. A few steps and you’re on the local lift or the gondola taking you a couple of kilometres up the mountain. There are plenty of uncrowded runs and four faces of the mountain to explore, all accessible from the top lift. And of course plenty of snow powder.
Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido is probably the most famous Japan resort amongst international skiers and boarders. The four ski areas of An’nupuri, Niseko Village, Hanazono, and Niseko Hirafu are interconnected by the lifts and slopes towards the top of the mountain, but the base areas are not next to each other. For those who love powder, Niseko Japan is the number one pick for a ski holiday because it seems to constantly snow, and the deep, deep powder is way too enticing.
It’s tempting enough for me to book a family lesson. But at the end of our 4-hour-ski lesson, I realised that skiing was definitely not my cup of tea. My kids learned a lot and could manage very well. What I learned was only how to endure the pain on my shinbone that was hardly rubbed against the inside of the rented ski boots. Ha ha ha *sigh . Thanks to Niseko light powder snow I didn’t get any bruises from all the fallings.
On the other hand, our Snowmobile adventure which brought us through wonderful forest trails and mesmerizing snow covered pastures unreachable by foot or car, was an amazing escapade!
The snow in Niseko is probably some of the best snow in the world and by having a luxury hotel right at the gondola base with the convenience of ski-in ski-out facility made our days a lot easier. Hard to imagine it could be made any easier or better. So if I have another chance to come back to Hokkaido in winter (cross my fingers), I will definitely stay again in Hilton Niseko Hotel.