The pick of Japan's winter sports accommodation
Make the most of your winter sports holiday in Japan by staying in the best hotels and inns.Whether you are looking for ski-in, ski-out accommodation or a cosy guesthouse in the heart of a resort town, we can provide some great accommodation. There is a full range available from lower budget options up to super luxurious catered apartments. Here are just a few of our suggestions.
La Neige Higashi-kan
Old-fashioned and faded yet endlessly charming, La Neige Higashi-kan offers some of the resort's cosiest ski accommodation. There is an open fire and complimentary marshmallows in the lounge, and guests stay in log cabins set in quiet woodland groves. As you return at the end of each day, the impeccably helpful staff will take your skis and boots to be stored until you need them the next morning. The hotel is not ski-in ski-out, but there is a free shuttle to the slopes for guests.
If you are looking for sleek, modern design and state-of-the-art technology, you won't find it at La Neige Higashi-kan. Instead, expect large, comfortable rooms, a welcoming atmosphere, and eclectic décor that ranges in its inspiration from “farmhouse in Provence” to Art Deco. In addition to its Deluxe, Superior and Standard rooms, La Neige Higashi-kan has two Finnish-style log cottages set apart from the main building in the surrounding woodland.
The owners were inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the hotel has been designed to make the most of its natural forest setting. In the lobby, a heterogeneous assortment of sofas (mostly sourced from Europe) cluster around a roaring fire, adding to the cosy and convivial atmosphere.
Breakfast is included and there is an in-house restaurant, which is known for its excellent wine list and the high quality of its French cuisine. The service throughout is impeccable, and the staff speak some English. It is a five-minute walk to the foot of the nearest ski slope, or the staff will be happy to drive you there on request.
For those looking for a superb budget accommodation option in Hakuba, there's nowhere better than Morino Lodge. Run by a couple of expat Brits, the atmosphere is of a welcoming backpacker's hostel, with a nabe (Japanese hotpot) dinner every Wednesday, a wholesome in-house café, and a common room equipped with 50-inch TV, Wii, Playstation 3 and extensive English-language DVD library. The owners have a great knowledge of the local area and Japanese culture, and are always happy to help.
With Happo's main gondola less than a five-minute walk away and one of the main shuttle bus hubs right outside the front door, you've got easy access to all the resorts in the Hakuba valley! There are also plenty of restaurants, bars and all-important onsen (hot spring baths) nearby.
The dining room serves a continental breakfast every morning (included in price). You can help yourselves to cereal, toast, muffins, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, juice, etc. Guests also have access to the kitchen if you want a snack or don't feel like going out to one of the nearby restaurants. The lodge has a drying room to store and dry your ski gear, free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities (washing machine and airer), waxing and repair room, and they can help you arrange rentals, lessons and tours (or we can pre-book these).
Most importantly of all, however, with over 14 years of combined experience in Hakuba, the staff at Morino Lodge can offer you a wealth of information on anything you like – from the best spots on the slopes to their favourite local onsen.
The Green Leaf Niseko Village is a beautifully crafted hotel at the base of Mount Annupuri, offering ski-in, ski-out convenience, hot spring baths and spa treatments, fantastic food and great customer service. There is a lovely roof terrace with a fire pit and great views of Mount Yotei beyond. Be aware, however, that there are very few dining and nightlife options in the area: the nearest restaurants are about a 20-minute walk away.
Newly renovated in 2010, guest rooms are modern, well-sized, and very comfortable. Most have very pleasant views, whether they look out over the slopes on one side or Mount Yotei on the other, and there is free Wi-Fi available throughout the hotel. Ski and snowboard lessons, equipment hire, local tours and experiences such as snow rafting and snow shoe tours can all be easily arranged from the front desk, and for après-ski we recommend a cocktail at the convivial lounge bar. A great base from which to enjoy Japan's best winter sports in style!
The location of this hotel is perfect for those who have come for the snow and want to spend every possible moment on the slopes. There is a chairlift practically on the doorstep (the “Banzai”), and from the top of this it's a short ski down to the Niseko Gondola. Meanwhile, a free shuttle bus service links the hotel with all the other local ski areas.
The hotel's outdoor hot spring bath should be a highlight of your stay, giving you a chance to rest those muscles after a long day on the slopes. Be aware that the hotel is in a very quiet area with regard to restaurants and bars, so to access Niseko's nightlife you'll have to walk 20 minutes into town.
The Alpen Hotel is the premier hotel in the Niseko Hirafu ski area and features its own indoor swimming pool, hot spring baths (indoor and outdoor) and a true ski-in/ski-out location at the bottom of the main gelande.
While the hotel is pretty seventies-looking from the outside, the guest rooms are smart, modern and relatively spacious. The hotel itself is not going to be the most memorable you've ever stayed in, but if you're serious about your skiing (or boarding), you won't find a better location. The nearest chairlifts are less than a minute from the doorstep, and the train station is a 15-minute taxi ride.
Each guest room has its own (very spacious) locker in the hotel dry room, and there is a convenience store on the ground floor. Breakfast includes a wide range of Japanese and Western-style foods, and there is an in-house restaurant – although with the Niseko Village shops and restaurants just a short walk away, you may wish to explore further afield instead. The hotel's hot spring baths are another highlight, offering both indoor and outdoor baths included in the price of your stay.
The Hakuba Springs is a comfortable hotel in a very central location in Hakuba, just five minutes' walk from the Happo lifts.
Although it's not ski-in/ski-out, the hotel's position at the heart of Happo Village means that you'll be amply compensated for the slight inconvenience. Amongst its many advantages, there is a minimart and ski hire shop right by the hotel, plus a huge array of bar and restaurant options within walking distance.
The hotel has its own bistro, and owns the nearby Jacks Sports Bar – with live sport on HD screens, a resident DJ, and delicious food. There are also great communal hot spring baths, a mist sauna, and a Jacuzzi; perfect for a relaxing soak after a long day on the slopes. There is also a common room where you can hang out in the evenings and meet fellow skiers and boarders, and a range of books and games for you to use.
A night in Yudanaka Onsen makes a fantastic addition to a longer skiing holiday in Hakuba, just an hour and a half away by road. With private hot spring baths attached to every room, and some lovely indoor and outdoor baths, this is the perfect place for a final night of relaxation after a week or two on the slopes. What's more, with an overnight stay you'll be able to visit the snow monkeys before the tour buses full of day trippers arrive from the resorts.
Yudanaka itself is a quiet, wood-panelled town, surrounded by green mountains in summer and covered in a thick layer of snow during the winter. There is not much to do in the town itself besides take advantage of the local collection of bathhouses - but this a blessing when you're staying somewhere as lovely as the Jinpyokaku. At a ryokan this nice, why would you need any districtions?
The ryokan has six traditional-style rooms, each of which is spacious, elegantly decorated and set apart from the main building to ensure a sense of privacy. Every room has its own private hot spring bath, and there is a beautiful set of communal onsen – including indoor and outdoor baths segregated by sex, and a large, mixed-gender outdoor pool. The idea of mixed-gender bathing might put you off at first, but the small size of the ryokan means this bath is often deserted.
The Jinpyokaku Honten is just footsteps from the entrance to the Jigokudani Monkey Reserve, where a group of Japanese macaques have learned to stave off the cold by soaking in the natural hot springs.
Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo
The Keio Plaza is a luxurious hotel in the centre of Hokkaido's capital city, just five minutes' walk from Sapporo Station. We highly recommend adding a couple of extra days in Sapporo to a longer skiing or boarding holiday in Niseko – especially if you are fortunate enough to be visiting during the city's February snow festival. Day trips skiing or snowshoeing in small resorts just outside the city can be easily arranged, while the larger resort of Niseko is three hours by road from the city.
The hotel has a range of room styles to choose from, including family rooms, triples, and suites. Amongst the services available to guests are a room service food menu, car park, laundry service, in-room massages, and a range of extra service for families – including childrens' nightwear, cots, and bed guards.
There is an in-house gym, a large swimming pool, a sauna, spa, and “high ultrasonic vibra-baths” – though don't ask us what those are. There is an extra fee to use the facilities, but if you're an early bird the gym is free to use between 5am and 9am. The hotel's excellent city-centre location means that you'll be spoilt for choice in terms of restaurants, bars and shops – but if you'd like to eat in, there are eight different cafés, restaurants and bars inside the hotel itself, including a patisserie and a Cantonese restaurant.