Niseko is now the "Vail" of Asia with newly built luxury high rise condos for sale. The old, quaint village has transformed quickly into an active site with more restaurants, bars, and foreigners. In fact, there are more foreigners (Aussies, Kiwis, Chinese, Korean, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Russians, Europeans and Americans) than Japanese. Most places have English signage and many announcements are made in several languages. Niseko is no longer the "hidden gem". It's been discovered and perhaps over-developed yet the constant powder snow showers, delicious cuisine, therapeutic onsens and polite Japanese hospitality make Niseko a "must-visit" destination for ski/snowboard advocates.
On another night, we took the Night-Go bus to Kutchan to eat at Yotei-Maru sushi, the rotary sushi place, which serves great fresh sushi!
This year, we stayed at the Pension Kanon, a 9 room bed & breakfast with the Sinclair's and Goodwin's. At 7:30am, Peter would knock on our door as our wake up alarm. At 7:50am, the owner would announce that breakfast would be served at 8am shortly on the intercom. The breakfast buffet was surprisingly good!
One night at our Pension, we had their special Crab Dining which included crab appetizers, boiled hairy crab, crab hotpot and dessert. It was very tasty!
We were fortunate to have Jojo & Sammy Cramer join us along with Mike,Jojo's beau. Jojo worked with us at PIC Saipan and she's now in Houston so the three of them made a long journey to join us for the holidays.
The sights of the flocked Christmas trees are impressive, especially during blue sky days. I took this photo from inside a restaurant at the Hilton Niseko Village.
While we visit during the peak holiday season, the slopes are seldom too crowded. With the All Mountain Pass, you can ski in Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri!
Here, Yoshie, Jojo and I do our "peace" signs.Otsukisama was a great restaurant find by me, Yoshie and Kathryn on one afternoon. It's located across the street from Sencho 1 and they have a great menu, and the prices are better. We ate a pasta lunch special which included bread, salad, pasta and a drink for JPY1000! What a bargain! We then decided to book our group for the night of the 28th and they had a more diverse menu including these grilled scallops in butter and soy.
On another clear day, Jason and Kathryn at the top of Hanazono 3 chair lift.
On the last afternoon of our stay, we ate at Abucha 2 and Russ ordered the ikuradon teishoku. Kathryn and I ordered tofu salads which were OK, but we wanted to save room for the desserts. My strawberry tart was very good! I like their Hokkaido shaped plates, too.
We went to Kutchan on January 1st and had an adult dinner at Shunsai, the place where we ordered a 7 course menu for JPY4000. One of my favorite courses that night was the smoked salmon.
At Fujizushi one night, I ordered the "genghis khan teishoku", sizzling lamb on a hotplate with vegetables accompanied by fresh sashimi, rice and miso soup.
This photo of me, Peter, Russ and Tina was taken on New Year's Eve. We had dinner at a soup curry restaurant and then had our SWAT meeting where we gave new members their code names and then the snow ball war began. The kids outnumbered the adults and they clearly won, although the adults deny it every time.
Paula also made brownies that day and we added vanilla ice cream and Frangelico (thanks, Charles!) to the concoction. It's definitely a winner!
This is the main bus stop where we caught the buses to Kutchan, Hanazono and Moiwa. It was conveniently located just 2 minutes away from the Pension Kanon.
Did I mention that we had Muku, the pension's 10 yr old golden retriever with us? He would be in his cage in the genkan (entryway) and greeted guests throughout the day. He was happiest in the mornings and in the evenings around mealtime. I enjoyed his company as I missed Harley & Butty.
On our final morning, Morio san, the kind pension owner, dropped us off at the Welcome Center to catch our bus to Chitose. The Welcome Center is where guests arrive and depart and it's a nostalgic place for us who've been visiting Niseko for 15 years.
Our Christmas winter trip has ended and we are grateful that we're able to take this trip annually with our friends. It's better than any gift I can get because memorable experiences last a lifetime. Can't wait for next year