In commercial collaboration with Niseko Tourism
Niseko Tourism invited me in 2019 to visit Niseko to try out some of their summer activities. Some of you may know Niseko already as a popular winter destination but Niseko has also plenty of summer activities to offer. In particular, I tried out these summer activities in Niseko:
- Kutchan Jaga Festival
- Lake Tōya
- Mount Niseko-Annupuri and Yōtei
- NAC Adventure park
- Niseko Green Farm
- Niseko Hanazono Hill Climb
- Niseko Mountain Bike School and Guiding
- Oshoro Sea Kayaking
- Shinsen -numa marsh
- Midtown Niseko, An Dining and Yukichichibu Onsen
Let’s dive into each of the activities where I participated in more detail.
Kutchan Jaga Festival
The Kutchan Jaga Festival is the biggest summer event in Kutchan and takes place beginning of August to celebrate Kutchan’s speciality – the potato. I found the Jaganebuta parade quite interesting where groups were dressed differently but each group was wearing its own distinct clothes. Each group performed its own dance and there was also a firework in the evening. There was a variety of food available so you won’t go home with an empty stomach.
Lake Tōya is a volcanic caldera and almost circular lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park in Hokkaidō. The name of the lake could be translated from the Ainu expression to ya meaning lakeshore.
I took a rental car to get from Niseko to Toyako and it took me around 50 minutes to get there. It is said that Lake Tōya is the second most transparent lake in Japan. There is also an island in the middle of the lake called Nakajima Island where the Tōya Lake Forest Museum is located.
However, I was just paddling with my packraft on the lake and snorkelled a bit but didn’t have the time to visit the island. I can definitely recommend visiting Lake Tōya and the water of the lake is crystal clear.
Early in the morning, I got up to do the morning hike up to Mount Niseko-Annupuri which offers an excellent view towards Mount Yotei which looks a bit familiar to Mount Fuji.
Mount Niseko-Annupuri is 1,308 m high and is quite easy to ascend. The mountains are part of a volcanic group of active stratovolcanoes and lava domes situated in Hokkaidō but the last eruption was about 6000 years ago.
We started the hike from the Goshiki Onsen and it took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get up to the top. At the beginning of the trail, there was also a register (a small book) where one can check-in and out as a hiker. It’s also important to take sufficient water on the hike as there is no possibility to fill up the bottle on the way up or at the peak of the mountain.
In the beginning, we were wearing headlamps as we wanted to see the sunrise. We also made some noise as it is said that bears are roaming around in this area and bears usually stay away from noisy people. The hike itself was not that difficult and we also met one or two trail runners running up the trail while we were descending. During the first part of the trail, there were trees until we reached the tree line where the trail also became rocker and the final part of the trail is not that steep as it was at the beginning of the trail. Once we reached the top we enjoyed the sunrise and the fantastic view over Mount Yotei.
NAC Adventure park tree top
The NAC Adventure Park is Japan’s largest adventure park with a size of more than 2 acres. The course is about 5-13m high with 6 different difficulty levels and over 130 different challenges.
For me, it was the first time visiting such an adventure park and at some point, it felt a bit scary to hang there on the top of the trees but that is probably what it makes it so exciting. I have not tried the difficult level but rather stuck with beginner and medium trails.
As equipment, we got a helmet and a climbing harness with two ropes and carabiners attached to them which had to be attached to a rope throughout our walk in the treetops as a safety measure. We also had one of the staff with us who guided us along the trail and gave us some tips on how to successfully master the different challenges. We didn’t have enough time to do all the challenges and you can easily spend the whole day or even two days there trying to master all the challenges.
Niseko Green Farm
On our last day, we visited the Niseko Green Farm which is located between Kutchan and Niseko, where we had the opportunity to harvest our own fresh vegetables from the fields for our stone-oven-baked Pizzas. Here you can also learn about organic farming and experience how it is to be in the countryside.
The kitchen where we prepared our Pizza was located in some sort of stone cave. The dough was already freshly prepared for us, so all we had to do was to roll it out and add our vegetables and herbs on top of it.
The staff was very friendly and explained to us what we have to do and also put our Pizzas into the oven once we were done slicing our vegetables for our pizzas. Even the tomatoes used in the tomato sauce grow here.
And then it was time to try our self-prepared organic pizzas and all I can say is that they tasted great! It’s maybe not the most inexpensive Pizza which you can buy but you also pay for the experience and the fresh ingredients!
Niseko Hanazono Hill Climb
Just a few hours after we arrived in Niseko we took part in the Niseko Hanazono Hill Climb – a popular bicycle race with a distance of 16km with an average grade of 4.6% which starts in the Kutchan Community Hall.
Even though the distance doesn’t seem to be that long it was the constant climb and the heat which made this experience quite exhausting. There was also a participant who was riding on a foldable bike in a suit which was quite amusing. However, riding the way back down was quite refreshing and it was possible to focus more on the scenery than on the way up. The scenery was fantastic and upon reaching the finish line we were rewarded with isotonic drinks and ice cream!
Niseko Mountain Bike School and Guiding
The first time I ever tried an e-mountain bike was when I visited the Niseko Mountain Bike School and Guiding where I received my mountain bike, helmet, knee, and elbow protectors. I found it quite interesting to cycle with an e-mountain bike as it didn’t require much energy to cycle up the mountain. Almost like being 20 years old again.
The trail down was basically a slope rather than going straight down. There were also bumps where we could jump and while cycling the way down we also tried to take some pictures and videos from the nice scenery. We had also a guide with us who showed us the trail and taught us how to use the e-mountain bikes.
Oshoro Sea Kayaking
We took our rental car and drove 73km from Niseko to Oshoro where we rented a kayak and PFDs and paddled together with a guide to the Kabuto Cape.
Paddling out from Oshoro fishing port we were able to sea birds, jellyfish, and starfish until we reached Kabuto Cape where we jumped out from our Kajaks, climbed up the Cape where we found a small stone shrine. From there we had a great view over Oshoro Bay.
Shinsen -numa marsh
From Niseko, it’s a 25km drive to the Shinsen -numa marsh (numa basically means marsh) where we enjoyed a magnificent walk at an altitude of 765m above sea level on wooden planks while passing by many different ponds. The marsh was created from volcanic activity and is considered to be one of the most beautiful marshlands around Niseko.
After a hectic week with lots of activities, it was nice to come here for a relaxing walk. I was also able to take some closeups of a dragonfly with my telephoto lens but also of beautiful flowers. The trail was very well marked and is easily doable also for inexperienced hikers.
Hanazono Ducky and Canyoning
If you are interested in water sports then you should try Ducky or Canyoning which was offered by Hanazono. I have tried both activities for the first time and it was really exciting. Ducky was a bit similar to packrafting where I had already experienced. My guide for both activities was the same person and he was friendly and very experienced. In fact, he told me that he was the one who explored the Canyoning trail for Hanazono. It was also fun to build up the duckies on top of each other and job from the top into the rapid.
Midtown Niseko, An Dining and Yukichichibu Onsen
During my stay in Niseko, I stayed in the newly built Midtown Niseko which offered a wide variety when it came to breakfast. The gym was also great and the staff very friendly. For dinner and lunch, I went two times to An dining which offered fine and casual dining. Head Chef Shinichi Maeda has spent many years abroad and now he combines local Hokkaido products with his international experience and the taste was fantastic. I have also tried real Wasabi for the first time in my life. If you want to relax after all those activities which Niseko has to offer, I would recommend a visit to the Yukichichibu Onsen.