In commercial collaboration with Niseko Tourism.
Niseko Tourism invited me for a week in 2019 to try out some of the summer activities that Niseko has to offer. Some of you may already know Niseko as a popular winter destination.
- Kutchan Jaga Festival
- Lake Tōya
- Mount Niseko-Annupuri
- NAC Adventure park tree top
- Niseko Green Farm
- Niseko Hanazono Hill Climb
- Niseko Mountain Bike School and Guiding
- Oshoro Sea Kayaking
- Shinsen -numa marsh
- Hanazono Ducky and Canyoning
- Midtown Niseko, An Dining and Yukichichibu Onsen
- Other places I have visited in Japan
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. Different groups were differently dressed during the Jaganebuta parade. Each group performed its dance, and there was also a firework in the evening. There was a variety of food available so that 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 can 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 paddling with my packraft on the lake and snorkelled a bit but didn’t have the time to visit the island. I can recommend visiting Lake Tōya. The water of the lake is crystal clear.
Early in the morning, I hiked up Mount Niseko-Annupuri, which offered a scenic view towards Mount Yotei, looking 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 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 of filling up the bottle on the way up or at the mountain’s peak.
In the beginning, we were wearing headlamps as we wanted to see the sunrise. We also made noise as it is said that bears are roaming around in this area. 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 rockier, and the final part of the trail is not that steep as it was at the beginning of the trail. On the top, we watched 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 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 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 master the different challenges successfully. Unfortunately, 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, located between Kutchan and Niseko. There we had the opportunity to harvest our 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 stone cave. The dough was already freshly prepared for us. All we had to do was roll it out and add our vegetables and herbs on top of it.
The staff was amicable and explained to us what we have to do. Staff also helped us to put our Pizzas into the oven. Even the tomatoes used in the tomato sauce grow here.
And then it was time to try our self-prepared organic pizzas. 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
A few hours after we arrived in Niseko, we took part in the Niseko Hanazono Hill Climb. It is a popular bicycle race with a distance of 16km with an average grade of 4.6% and starts in the Kutchan Community Hall.
Even though the distance doesn’t seem that long, the constant climb and the heat made this experience quite exhausting. There was also a participant 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
I tried an e-mountain bike for the first time when I visited the Niseko Mountain Bike School and Guiding. There 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 a slope rather than going straight down. There were also bumps where we could jump. While cycling the way down, we also tried to take some pictures and videos from the scenery. We also had a guide who showed us the trail and how to use the e-mountain bikes.
Oshoro Sea Kayaking
We took our rental car and drove 73km from Niseko to Oshoro. There 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. When we reached Kabuto Cape, we got out of our Kajaks and climbed up the Cape to find 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 means marsh), where we had a magnificent walk at an altitude of 765m above sea level on wooden planks. The marsh was created from volcanic activity and is considered 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 and 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, you should try Ducky or Canyoning, which Hanazono offered. I have tried both activities for the first time, and it was fascinating. My guide for both activities was the same person, and he was friendly and very experienced. 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 of 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 that Niseko offers, I would recommend visiting the Yukichichibu Onsen.
Other places I have visited in Japan
During my two weeks in Japan, I also visited other places than Niseko. In addition, before I arrived in Japan, I also purchased a 1-week Japan Railway Ticket to travel in Japan.
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
When I arrived at Narita airport near Tokyo, I decided to visit the temple area of Narita, which has a history of 1000 years. It is about half an hour’s walk from the train station to the temple, and you can find plenty of restaurants and small shops along the road. Narita is also famous for its eel which is freshly prepared in almost every restaurant.
The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is quite fascinating. There are several buildings which can be visited and also a big park with a waterfall. There were also a few tourists wearing Kimonos while taking pictures of themselves with the buildings in the background.
Gujo Odori Dance Festival
Gujo Odori is one of Japan’s three most important bon dance festivals and celebrated for 400 years. The festival lasts for a month, and dance classes are held several times during the day. The dance itself consists of 10 dances and songs, and the festival was established to bring the people of the town together. In addition, to the performance itself, there is a small group of singers and musicians on a little stage in the middle of the street who dancers surround. The name of the song which is performed is displayed in a lantern, and we also spotted some tourists in the dancing crowd.
The next day we went by train (Yamada Line) to Morioka. Some friends picked us up and drove us to our campsite next to the Hei River, which we paddled the next day. Even so, the water level was quite low. It made it more challenging to paddle and was fun. There were just a few spots where we had to get out and walk a little bit along the river. The area was breathtaking, but it was quite warm, and we should have protected ourselves a little bit better against the sun.
Nikko Toshogu shrine
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Nikko Toshogu shrine, which was built in 1617 as the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The shrine complex consists of 55 buildings, and we also discovered the most decorative gate in Japan. The gate is called Yomeimon Gate.
There was also a 5 story pagoda at the entrance, which was quite impressive too. In the Honjido Hall, the guide showed us that an echo could only be generated in the room when you stand under the head of a white dragon. Moreover, the shrine complex is listed as a World Heritage site.
Next, we went to Jodogohama beach, one of the most famous places of scenic beauty on the Rikuchu Coast. It has also been referred to as heaven due to its contrast in colours such as the beach’s sand, the rocks, and the water. In addition, it is listed as one of Japan’s best beaches. Nearby the beach is also a small restaurant with an observation deck that can be accessed free of charge.
In Inuyama, we were visiting the Momotaro shrine, where we camped next to it so that we had enough time to paddle down the Kiso river on the next day with our packrafts.
The Momotaro shrine was interesting as it was quite different from the other shrines we have visited. So what was different? There were statues that we have not seen in other shrines. The shrine is supposed to be the birthplace of Momotaro (the peach boy), a popular hero of Japanese folklore. This spot is also a popular place for Instagram photographers.