Famed for prolific white powder snow, fabulous accommodation and apres-ski scene, Niseko lures winter sports enthusiasts from around the globe. Yet this beautiful region in the northern island of Hokkadio, Japan, has more to offer than top notch skiing and snowboarding, with stunning alpine scenery making it a popular year round destination. Here’s our insider tips on how to get to Niseko.
Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport is just 110 km from Niseko and is well serviced by domestic and international flights from many parts of Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok as well as Hawaii. Those travelling from further afield can easily connect through Tokyo Narita International airport, with a two hour flight time to Sapporo.
Ski season runs from late November to early May and if you fly into New Chitose, the quickest way to hit the ski slopes is by taxi or private transfer. Catching a bus is also cheap and easy and takes approximately 2 – 2.5 hours.
Self drive is another option, but while rental cars are fitted with snow tyres, it is not recommended unless you are experienced driving in wintery conditions.
Parking in Niseko is also limited in the busy winter months, so its perhaps better to save the hire car option for the summer months when you can enjoy a leisurely cruise up to the mountains, stopping to enjoy the glorious scenery along the way.
Trains also depart direct from the airport to JR Kutchan Station (a 10 minute taxi ride from Niseko), but you will need to change at Otaru station for a total travel time of around 3 hours. Japan has one of the best developed rail networks in the world which is something to consider when travelling from other regions.
If coming from Tokyo you can experience the famous Shinkansen – bullet train, which travels up to 320 km an hour and hurtles through an undersea tunnel that connects the main island of Honshu with Hokkaido. Travel time is around 4 hours to Hakodate where you can connect with a regional train to JR Kutchan (3.5 hours) .