Ultimate List of 23 Things to do in Niseko Japan if you don’t want to ski!
We decided to make plans for future trips, and deep dive into locations we have always wanted to visit. Today, we look at things to do in Niseko Japan, a ski resort in Hokkaido prefecture.
Why? We are going slightly mad.
The circuit breaker (Singapore’s version of a lockdown) is taking a toll on our minds as we dream about travelling every day. Although there are lots of ways to travel without going out, it still doesn’t beat the real thing.
Read on to discover the ultimate list of things to do in Niseko Japan!
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What's covered in this post
- Ultimate List of 23 Things to do in Niseko Japan if you don’t want to ski!
- Short introduction of Niseko Japan
- Logistics before visiting Niseko Japan
- Things to do in Niseko Japan
- 1. Find the best Ramen shops
- 2. Fresh ice cream at Niseko Takahashi Dairy Farm
- 3. Craft beers
- 4. BBQ at a local restaurant
- 5. Dine at a Izakaya
- 6. Stay out late and check out the nightlife
- 7. Sing to your heart’s content at a Karaoke
- 8. Check out Niseko View Plaza
- 9. Shop for souvenirs
- 10. Stand up paddling
- 11. Lake Toya cruise
- 12. Drive along the Panorama Line
- 13. Rafting on the river
- 14. Have a round of golf
- 15. Cycling
- 16. Get on a Hot Air Balloon
- 17. Climb Mount Yotei
- 18. PURE – Ziplining
- 19. Other hiking opportunities
- 20. Pay a visit to local museums
- 21. Soak in an Onsen
- 22. Activities for the little ones
- 23. Other snow related fun
- Things to know before going to Niseko
- Things to do in Niseko Japan: Conclusion
Short introduction of Niseko Japan
Niseko is a popular ski resort in Hokkaido prefecture, which is the second largest island of Japan and also its northernmost prefecture.
Very often, Niseko is called the snowiest place in the world, which led to its development to become a world class resort town. Skiiers of all skills level descend upon this town to enjoy the excellent facilities and spend time on its snowy slopes.
In general, the ski season lasts from late November to early May.
But what if you need a break? Or if you are travelling during the summer? Are there other activities you can take part in besides skiing?
Niseko, while blessed with a large amount of snow, is also a mountainous region and home to Ainu descendants. This means that there are large areas to explore as well as some of the best regional cuisine to enjoy, so yes, not taking part in skiing does not mean you have no activities!
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Logistics before visiting Niseko Japan
Find cheap flights.
Air tickets are usually the bulk of your expenses. Set up an alert and snag cheap fares with Skyscanner.
Getting around Japan.
One of the most efficient ways to get around Japan is by train, including its world famous bullet train. Get yourself a Japan Rail (JR) Pass to enjoy discounts on 1, 2, or 3 week passes.
Find the best accommodation.
Book a place ahead of time to get good rates. Booking.com has transparent fees and excellent rates.
Handy travel guide.
For the old school kid in you, get a travel guide book and get lost exploring the city.
Your mobile phone can do a pretty good job, but if you need an upgrade, we recommend the Sony A6000 (US) (International)
You don’t need us to teach you to be a responsible adult, do you? Get a quote here.
Planned for you activities in Niseko.
Need a guide to show you and your group around? Lots of operators here to choose from here. You know who they are and how they are reviewed.
More resources to help you.
What other useful travel resources we use when we book our trips.
Things to do in Niseko Japan
1. Find the best Ramen shops
Niseko has a number of excellent Ramen shops, serving up the crowd favourite all across town. One of the most popular ramen shops in Niseko offers ramen with a twist – you will find a mashed potato like cream on top of your bowl of goodness! Check out more of the Best Ramen in Niseko here!
2. Fresh ice cream at Niseko Takahashi Dairy Farm
Did you know that Hokkaido is home to most of the dairy farms in Japan? Yes, the same farms that produces the creamy and tasty milk that so many people loves.
A trip out to this dairy farm is an experience on itself, as you get to try out the dairy products made here. While you can’t actually step on the farm, you can visit Milk Kobo, where you can get your hands on cheese puffs and tarts. Don’t forget to pack some home!
Also in the same compound is the Niseko Cheese Factory, which has received wide acclaim for its quality cheeses.
These are all excellent ways to support local businesses.
3. Craft beers
Although the craft beer scene is not exactly widespread, you can still get your hands on some great brews around town.
Most of the bars and pubs here serves Sapporo, but they do stock up on a selection of unique craft beers made from locally sourced ingredients.
A few of the brands to look out for includes:
- Grand Kirin
- Lucky Dog
One of the most popular bars to head to is the Niseko Taproom.
4. BBQ at a local restaurant
While we are mostly used to having beef, pork or chicken for barbecue, what about trying out lamb meat for a change?
Here in Niseko, you can find a very popular restaurant that specialises in lamb BBQ, but of course you get to choose from other meats as well.
Prices are on par with most restaurants in the area, but one thing to take note is to make a reservation as they are always crowded!
5. Dine at a Izakaya
Personally, Keith loves Izakayas. The vibe, the atmosphere, the smells, all combine to make an unforgettable experience.
If you didn’t know, Izakayas are typically tiny bars where everyone squeezes behind the counter and gets cheap beer to go along with snacks.
The best ones are those that serves grilled food!
They are also great places for you to meet and interact with locals, if that’s your cup of tea.
6. Stay out late and check out the nightlife
You might think that Niseko is probably a sleepy town when it turns dark, but that cannot be further away from the truth.
We uncovered a number of very interesting bars here, ranging from speakeasys to top of the line bars, you will be spoilt for choice.
One of the most unique we found was Bar Gyu+, where the entrance takes the form of a fridge door!
7. Sing to your heart’s content at a Karaoke
Japan is the motherland of Karaoke, having invented it way back in the 70s. In case you didn’t know what Karaoke is, you are either living under a rock or your friends are not letting you in on their secret singing sessions.
It’s a fun activity where you get to sing along to songs with their lyrics displayed on a large screen, and typically this is done in an open setting. Yup, you get to perform to an audience.
Go on, give it a try. No one knows you there.
8. Check out Niseko View Plaza
Fancy grabbing some local produce? Niseko View Plaza is the best place to get them as they receive locally made food as well as craft from the area, plus you get a stunning view of Mount Yotei in the distance!
When you are done with your shopping, pop by next door to the food court to try out some freshly made local food!
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9. Shop for souvenirs
We love collecting fridge magnets, but we are also keen to find unique souvenirs when we travel.
In Niseko, you can find so really cute stuff to bring back to your loved ones, ranging from locally grown potatoes to quirky looking Marimokkori. No idea what’s that? See below! Warning though, it doesn’t look so child friendly, so make sure to give it to the right receipient.
You can find these cool stuff in Niseko Village, the boringly named Gift Shop Niseko or try out supermarkets to uncover some gems.
10. Stand up paddling
Staying on the subject of water activities, stand up paddling is an up and coming sport that attracts the whole family.
Located in Lake Toya, a short drive away from the main Niseko area, this is the perfect activity to spend a lazy afternoon. Guides are on hand to show you the basics, and looking at some of the videos online, it seems to be pretty easy?
Anyhow, it deserves an attempt, especially on Lake Toyo where the waters are calm and surrounded by lovely scenery.
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11. Lake Toya cruise
If you are not keen on getting wet, consider going on a leisurely cruise. It takes about an hour and takes you towards the 4 islands right in the middle of the lake.
Yup, there are 4 uninhabited islands collectively known as Nakajima. If you wish to disembark and try out some exploration via hiking, Oshima is your only option and you will need to book a separate ferry service for that.
12. Drive along the Panorama Line
There are lots of scenic roads in the world that are well documented and popular with lots of road trippers. The Panorama Line stays under the radar though, but is certainly worth a drive, judging by the stunning views it offers.
From Niseko, it takes about an hour’s drive to reach the town of Iwanai, which signifies the end of the line. The drive is pretty easy and cuts through the Annupuri mountain range, so you can imagine how beautiful it would be.
Do take note that the road closes from October to April.
13. Rafting on the river
While skiing is the main sport that visitors come to Niseko for, rafting is not far behind in terms of popularity. Grab your booties and make your way to the Shiribetsu River to try out an exciting ride down river.
We are certainly making our way there to pump up our adrenaline and at the same time experience the beautiful sights the line the river.
Be sure to check the operating times, as they are different slots for adults and children.
14. Have a round of golf
There are no lack of options for golf addicts in the Niseko area. All you need is a willingness and you will find yourself in golf paradise.
Thanks to the wonderful weather, which hardly gets over 25 degrees even in the hottest months, golfers can get to enjoy the various courses here without the sweltering heat.
Right around the main Niseko area, there are 3 golf courses to choose from. If you are adventurous, you may want to venture out and search for other options. There are at least 5 other courses within easy reach.
During the summer months, Niseko is considerably quieter than in winter, which means roads are empty of cars and makes for a great opportunity to cycle around.
Biking is one of the best ways to explore Niseko, given the mild weather and accessibility of the sights around town.
If you want a challenge, ride up Mount Yotei!
16. Get on a Hot Air Balloon
Unsurprisingly, Japan does not really construct high rise buildings, since it is extremely prone to earthquakes, about 1500 a year. Gulp.
So if you want a really good bird’s eye view of the city and its surrounding areas, you need to get on a hot air balloon ride. The ride takes you up to a height of 30 metres, offering you spectacular views of Mount Yotei in the distance,
17. Climb Mount Yotei
Mount Yotei is like the Big Brother around Niseko, but in a good way. Every corner you turn, you can catch a glimpse of this magnificent mountain looming in the distance.
Experienced hikers can give it a go to reach the 1,898 metres summit. The route is strenuous, and be sure to engage a guide as you attempt the hike.
Summertime is the best period to take on this activity, and on top, you get sweeping views across the entire sub-prefecture.
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18. PURE – Ziplining
We have mentioned Niseko Village a number of times in this article, so by now you should have realised that it contains a hive of activities.
PURE is an activity centre that conducts nature based programs, and ziplining is one that really gets the blood going!
With a total of 1.4km of zipline, this is the longest of its kind in Japan!
19. Other hiking opportunities
Besides Mount Yotei, hikers are able to embark on numerous trails to satisfy their thirst for nature. Mount Niseko Annupuri is actually the best vantage point to really take in Mount Yotei in its glory, as it offers a direct view.
There are a number of easy trails to check out and there are interesting detours like one that brings you to Shinsen-numa marsh.
All in a day’s work!
20. Pay a visit to local museums
Art and culture buffs will be in for a nice surprise as there are a surprisingly wide variety of galleries to visit in Niseko.
From the Shu Ogawara Museum of Art to the Hokkaido Art Gallery in Niseko Village, you get to see the exceptional pieces on display throughout the year.
Exhibits are rotated during the seasons, so each experience brings something new to the table.
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21. Soak in an Onsen
An Onsen is a hot spring that is quintessential Japanese, and it is said that soaking in them is beneficial to your body as they contain minerals.
Whether it is true or not, this is an experience that cannot be missed in Niseko.
Onsens are typically public affairs, which means you need to strip down in order to enter one. If you are shy, check out Kanronomori Hotel which offers private onsens.
Read about Onsen etiquette here.
22. Activities for the little ones
Kids are not forgotten here at Niseko, as there are purpose built facilities that cater to their every beck and call.
At HANAZONO Galaxy of Kidz, they can go wild at the indoor park that comprises climbing walls and obstacle courses that encourages them to learn while having fun. Perfect distraction for parents while you get yourself a beer next door!
Look, we get it. Skiing is not necessary for everyone, so check out these activities to keep yourself occupied beyond the ski slopes:
- Snow-shoeing – go hiking in the snow with the help of snow shoes
- Snow tubing – use a rubber tube to slide down the ski slopes instead!
- Snow rafting – just like rafting but done on land and tugged by a snow mobile
- Snowmobile – ride through the snowfields while operating a snow mobile!
Things to know before going to Niseko
When to go Niseko
Ski season, late November to April or May. If you are not skiing, then any time outside of this period is suitable.
How to get to Niseko
Nearest airport: Chitose Interational Airport
Transfers: Book here.
Alternatively, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakodate, and change to local train that brings you to Kutchan train station. If however you have the time and wish to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery across Japan, this will be suitable for you.
In that case, make sure to find out if the Japan Rail (JR) Pass is worth it to enjoy serious discounts on your train travels.
Where to stay in Niseko
There are not shortage of good accommodation in Niseko, but where is the best place to stay then? We did some research and here are the ones we think are the best places to stay in Niseko for their location and value for money.
Things to do in Niseko Japan: Conclusion
As you can see, there are plenty of choices if you are not visiting during ski season, or even if you are there to ski, there are alternatives to check out.
Which activity is your favourite? Will you be going to Niseko? Let us know in the comments down below!
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