Authentic Japanese Cultural Experiences in Niseko

  • February 20, 2021

Niseko is one of Asia's most international ski resorts, with residents and guests from around the world visiting each year and cultivating it's worldly feel. But if you want to experience authentic Japan and live like the locals do during your trip, here are our recommendations. Keep in mind these activities can be done year round!

1. Stay in a traditional Japanese house

Ginsetsu is a 3 bedroom house in lower Hirafu, located in the heart of the village and just 2 minutes away from the local shuttle stop. But what makes this house special is its unique blend of Japanese and Western design that gives you a taste of real Japan without sacrificing the comforts of home. Think tatami bedrooms (ultra comfy traditional bedding is provided), horigotatsu dining tables and shōji doors.

2. Wear a kimono and drink tea during a tea ceremony

Journey to Iwanai for a day to experience one of Japans most beloved and revered traditions: the tea ceremony. Meet with locals, wear and learn about the kimono (Japan's national dress) and be taught how to drink 'matcha' in the traditional way by your accommodating host. If you're seeking to learn more about Japan's traditions while in Hokkaido, we recommend this tour!

3. Soak in a hidden onsen

Not many people know about Niseko's initial popularity as a renowned onsen' or hotspring village. Before it became the world's powder snow Mecca, Japanese people would travel from around Hokkaido and the rest of the country to soak in the abundant geothermal pools. Get back to nature with Niseko Snowshoe Tours' hidden onsen tour, where you can snowshoe through the Niseko forest to a natural sulphur onsen, filled with therapeutic volcanic mud and mineral properties. Bathe in the onsen for a rejuvenating and wild experience in the Hokkaido wilderness.

4. Pray at a shrine or temple

You can't say you've experienced Japan without visiting at least one traditional shrine (Shinto) or temple (Buddhism). There are many in Niseko, including the Daibutsuji temple (pictured), Konpiraji temple and Kutchan village shrine in Kutchan Town, the Soga shrine in Niseko Town, and the Yamada shrine in Hirafu. If you would like to pray at a Shinto shrine, visit the platform in front of the shrine, throw a small offering of coins in the box, bow twice, clap twice, say a prayer silently, then bow once again.

5. Bring in the New Year the Japanese way

New Year is one of the most important holidays in Japan, with many traditions and celebrations. If you are lucky enough to spend your New Year in Niseko, try some of these traditions, such as waking up and watching the first sunrise of the year (hatsuhinode), eating osechi (small dishes in a bento box) and praying for good luck at a shrine. Niseko Village resort usually runs a sunrise gondola on New Year's morning, so you can watch the sunrise over the majestic Mt Yotei.

6. Explore the tantalising world of Japanese alcohol

Japan is a paradise for lovers of artisan alcohol. Like many crafts, Japanese people bring a passion and ingenuity to the art of alcohol brewing, resulting in an endless selection of exciting drinks to try. If you'd like to taste what the Japanese regularly drink, be sure to order some local sake (we recommend Niseko Shuzo), umeshu (plum wine), a shochu highball (oolong tea and lemon sour are very popular) or a Sapporo classic beer. You can also try some experimental cocktails or quality Japanese whiskey at specialty bars like Toshiro's or Bar Gyu.

7. Make authentic Japanese cuisine in a cooking class

What better way to understand the mysterious world of Japanese cuisine than to make it yourself? Niseko Gourmet holds Japanese cooking classes with Chef Chisato Amagai, all in English and in the comfort of your accommodation! Chef Amagai will help you master Japanese flavours and techniques using seasonal produce and easily accessible ingredients. With this class you'll get a crash course on authentic Japanese flavours, traditional cooking methods and Japanese food culture. Afterwards you can take the skills home with you and enjoy authentic Japanese food whenever you like.

8. Attend a matsuri

'Matsuri' or festival, is a Japanese institution. Typically held to celebrate a shrine holiday, historical event or the change of the season, virtually every town in Japan has a matsuri of some kind, so it is very integral to the Japanese experience. Expect to see food stalls, carnival games, lanterns, parades, live performances and fireworks at a matsuri. You can experience a matsuri in almost every season in Niseko, with notable ones including the Jaga Matsuri (Potato Festival) in Kutchan Town in late Summer, the Hirafu Matsuri in August, the Konpiraji Matsuri in Autumn and the Yukitopia Festival in Winter.

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