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Niseko

Getting there & away

Unfortunately, in summer (the low season) there aren’t a lot of easy ways to get here unless you want to rent a vehicle.

The tiny JR Niseko station is a shock if you’ve just come from Sapporo, and don’t expect to walk with your gear to any nearby hotels. Depending on where you’re heading, it may make more sense to travel via one of two other stations serving the area, Hirafu and Kucchan.

Direct kaisoku trains run from Sapporo (¥2100, 2¼ hours); however, if you don’t time it right you may have to wait when changing trains at Otaru (¥1410, two hours). Alternatively, you could hop on a direct bus to Niseko outside Otaru station (¥1530, two hours). From June to September there is a daily bus from New Chitose Airport to the Niseko Hotel Nikko Annupuri (¥2300, 2½ hours).

Winter is an entirely different story: there are frequent direct buses to the area’s various ski resorts from Sapporo (¥2190, three hours) as well as New Chitose Airport (¥2300, three hours). A discount round-trip fare is also available from both places for ¥3850. Check out CB Tours (;011-211-0912; www.cbt.chuo-bus.co.jp in Japanese; 9am-6pm Mon-Fri) for packages out of Sapporo. One day with a round-trip bus fare and an eight-hour lift ticket at Niseko Annupuri costs ¥3900. One-night, two-day packages start at ¥18, 000 per person. If you’re stuck in Tokyo, JAL Tours (JAL;03-5460-8221; www.jal.co.jp/tours in Japanese) can whisk you to Niseko Annupuri for around ¥40, 000 per person, which includes airfare, two nights’ stay (double occupancy), lift tickets and breakfasts.

Trains are more frequent during the ski season as well, and all the major ski resorts have shuttles that run to and from the stations.

Onsen fans may want to check out the Niseko Yumeguri Pass, valid for six months, which allows entrance to up to three of the 15 local onsen for ¥1400.