Skiing in Japan over Christmas? Finally my dreams have come true.
I get to spend Christmas in a winter wonderland – the ultimate white Christmas! As a self-confessed foodaholic on ski holidays I was excited to experience Japanese ski cuisine for the first time. But what about the vin chaud and the freshly baked baguettes I have been indulging in during past ski trips to Europe? Without them, is it even a proper ski trip?! I couldn’t imagine stopping for lunch after a long morning on the mountain, to feast on sushi and sake. Japan was unknown to me and far outside my comfort zone. I wasn’t convinced a Japan ski trip would live up to the European ski trips I was used to. I am pleased to say I was proved wrong. Very wrong. Japan blew me away.
After a long day travelling, we drove into a very snowy Niseko village on Christmas Day. We checked into our hotel and rushed to the nearest bar; the holiday had officially started. We had a very merry Christmas dinner that evening at the Barn by Odin, a very popular restaurant, promising the best ingredients that Niseko and the wider Hokkaido area has to offer, served in a warm buzzy atmosphere.
Sat in a stunning glass fronted building, we watched the snow fall outside whilst guzzling crisp Japanese beers and foie gras sushi, one of their signature dishes. Not the traditional Christmas Day menu but absolutely delicious.
The next morning, with slightly fuzzy heads, we headed up the mountain into the clouds – the best way to dust off a hangover. I was instantly impressed. SO. MUCH. POWDER, but more about the snow later.
After a bracing morning on the mountain we stopped at A Bu Cha 2 for lunch, a restaurant with a typical izakaya atmosphere, serving Japanese comfort food. Everyone seemed to be eating hot steaming Sukiyaki, a Japanese hot pot dish, with meat (we chose beef) and vegetables, slow cooked in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. It’s a do it yourself delight! The perfect mid ski lunch, warming and filling, but not so filling that you want to remain horizontal for the rest of the day (memories of fondue induced afternoon ski-failures!).
Dinner was booked at Ezo Seafood, boldly claiming to be ‘the best fish restaurant in Niseko’, serving the freshest Hokkaido seafood. We had heard great things in advance, so had emailed ahead to book (it can book up months in advance during peak season) and were quickly convinced that it really is THE best seafood restaurant. The snow crab legs will never be forgotten – the sweetest, meatiest crab I’ve ever tasted. It was so good that while there, still licking our fingers surrounded by piles of crab and scallop shells, we managed to book in again for later in the week. Ask the chef for the daily special, I was feeling brave that day – it was cod sperm. I will be sticking to the crab legs in the future.
Other memorable meals included an incredible tasting menu at Niseko’s finest dining experience Kamimura, a Michelin starred contemporary Japanese French restaurant. Highlights included melt in the mouth black cod and fat succulent Hokkaido scallops. I love a tasting menu and a white tablecloth situation, but I wasn’t really expecting to come across one on our ski holiday; luckily there wasn’t a strict dress code!
Back on the mountain, we came across Bo-yo-so by chance, during a particularly unpleasant blizzard. It is a small log cabin, set into the mountain, serving excellent traditional Japanese cooking. The perfect spot to warm up and refuel with a delicious steaming katsu curry.
Unsurprisingly I didn’t even think twice about my usual baguettes; why would I when gyoza were available. I ate my bodyweight in gyoza that trip; we ordered them anywhere and everywhere. Our friends at Blo Blo Bar had to stock up for our après ski arrival every evening. Blo Blo Bar is a cosy set up with a roaring fire pit outside and strong drinks! The guys working there are lovely; don’t be put off by the stripper pole!
While it was the traditional Japanese cooking and the local produce that really stands out for me, there is a great selection of Western options too. Niseko Pizza was incredibly busy all the time – of course we tried it and agreed; damn good pizza. And if nothing will do but fondue, there’s the Alpinist, serving up some serious Alpine cuisine overlooking the spectacular Annupuri mountain range.
We ducked through low doors for ramen and skied through blizzards for katsu, from fancy white tablecloths, to wooden ski cabins, Niseko really was the culinary adventure I wasn’t expecting.
And I got my white Christmas. The snow fall was incredible that year, meaning the ski conditions were epic; the best conditions I’ve ever experienced. I would say that I ski at an intermediate level, when I don’t get ‘the fear’. The pistes in Niseko are wide and rolling, and because of this, much less busy than Europe. It is therefore a great place for beginners as well as experienced powder hounds. I even gained the confidence to try out some off-piste skiing with a guide.
It’s exhausting but incredibly satisfying once you have mastered the art of surfing through the lightest of snow, avoiding the snow drifts rather than diving into them headfirst! I also tried night skiing for the first time, which completely surprised me; at times it was even better than day skiing. The visibility at night was excellent as all the slopes are flood lit, and the pistes were a lot quieter. We went every night.
Do you want to ski in the famous Japanese powder and finish the day with freshly caught snow crab? Mabey Ski LOVES Japan and is here to make sure every moment of your Japanese experience is as memorable as the last.
Mabey Ski’s adventure designers have travelled and skied all over the world to find the most unique and wonderful ski experiences on the planet. If you are interested in heading to Japan or anywhere else in the world for your next adventure, then we are here to show you how.