Nestled in the alpine mountains of southern Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, you’ll find keen skiers – and beginners, too – taking on the powdery pistes at Niseko Village. Often touted as the ‘Aspen of Asia’, it’s a resort famed for its breathtaking views, quality snow and luxury hotels.
But tucked away from the lively slopes lies an understated haven of tranquillity and elegance for those who want to split their time between the runs and relaxation – the Higashiyama Niseko Village, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
Whether you’re looking for an opulent base during a winter sports holiday or hoping to soak up the lush landscapes post-ski season, here’s why those in the know head straight to this Shiribeshi sanctuary.
While Val d’isere and St Moritz are popular European hotspots for skiers and snowboarders, Niseko Village is famed for its unparalleled snow quality (and quantity) during winter months – so if you’re willing to travel a little further, it’s certainly worth it.
This Ritz-Carlton reserve – the fifth in the world and the first in Japan – is perfectly located for travellers who want to enjoy the stunning scenery the area has to offer. How you do that is totally up to you; take it all in whilst whipping down the red runs, or marvel at the views from the Ume Lounge with a warming Shiraz.
A two hour drive from New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, it is located within Niseko United – four resorts housed on one mountain with over 2,000 acres of terrain to explore as you please. During the cooler months, the draw is obvious – fresh snow, and lots of it. But when that starts to melt away and the temperature rises, the surrounding area becomes a lush green landscape with forests and mountains perfect for all kinds of alfresco adventures. Whether you’re a keen hiker, cyclist or golfer, you’lll be well looked after.
But it isn’t just the roster of outdoor activities that makes Higashiyama Niseko Village a first-class destination. The hotel itself is such a delicious bubble of calm that you’ll enjoy staying indoors just as much. The service is impeccable, the mood is relaxed and your stay will be unforgettable.
The aim here is simple: inspired by the Japanese philosophy of ‘kachou fuugetsu’, the hotel ensures that the natural beauty of the world outdoors is just as prevalent in the design. Think intricate antler chandeliers, cherry blossom murals and forest-inspired carpets, as well as neatly stacked logs by an open fire and exposed rock pillars joining dark wood panelling.
From the moment you walk into the lobby you are faced with epic views of Mount Yotei courtesy of the endless floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and one thing will become abundantly clear: it’s a place of undeniable elegance and luxury, but it also embodies a certain warmth and intimacy. From the soft textiles to the cosy open library, it’s a delicately crafted balance of sophistication and comfort.
On slower days, make the most of Spa Chasi La Sothys and book yourself in for a 90 minute massage that combines aromatherapy and shiatsu techniques. Just make sure you haven’t got any plans immediately afterwards – you will feel like a fuzzy ball of bliss, so enjoy it for as long as you possibly can. There’s also an on-site fitness centre which is open to guests 24 hours a day, so you can work up a sweat whenever suits you.
But if there’s one thing not to be missed it’s the onsen. The ancient Japanese tradition of bathing in mineral-rich hot springs embraces the importance of rest and relaxation. It’s an impressive place to do just that – the steaming hot outdoor bath, totally surrounded by metres of snow and sky-high trees, will transport you to state of tranquillity within minutes. Perfect before bed, or first thing in the morning. And any time in between.
The hotel boasts 50 rooms and suites at the property, with king or twin options available. But it’s the Yotei Suite that really packs a luxury punch with outstanding views of the mountain from every window.
At 958 sq ft, it is an incredibly spacious offering which includes an open plan dining, living and kitchen area overlooking the endless pristine snow. You’ll find the usual modcons – a mini bar, Nespresso machine and flat screen TV – as well as seating for up to eight people. Through the hall you’ll find a large walk-in closet with its own vanity station and a bedroom with ample office space.
However, it’s the bathroom that will really get you excited. Not just because of the multi-function toilet with a range of buttons you never knew you needed, or the products which are locally produced in Hokkaido.
But because you’ll also get your very own onsen-style bathtub with direct views of Mount Yotei, and taking multiple baths a day will become irresistible.
The food and drink
Located just beyond the lobby, you’ll find Yukibana – the hotel’s main restaurant. As the day begins, the light pours in and gives the impression of being seated in a life-sized snow globe. By evening, the rich navy skies turn the dining area into a luxuriously comfortable spot for delicious Japanese bites.
This is where you’ll find an ample continental breakfast buffet, too. Freshly baked pastries, as well as cereals and seasonal fruits, will keep you sufficiently full until lunchtime. There’s also an extensive cheese and charcuterie section using high-quality and locally sourced produce. But make sure you take a look at the à la carte menu at least once – and try the Niseko Eggs Benedict. It’s definitely one for the brunch-lovers; juicy Hokkaido King crab with poached eggs and a sprinkle of chili on toasted cranberry bread with generous lashings of hollandaise. Delicious.
For dinner, Sushi Nagi offers an intimate authentic Japanese dining experience. Take a seat on one side of the counter as you watch multiple small, tasty and beautifully designed dishes come to life. The journey embodies the style of eating known as ‘omakase’ (or ‘up to you’ dining) whereby restaurant-goers are presented with plates that are carefully selected by the chef. Reservations are required given the limited seating, and it’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is the stomach.
What to do
The combination of stunning views, steaming outdoor onsen and luxury treatments will be enough to keep you comfortably inside the hotel – but there is plenty to do outside for adventurers.
Of course, with the slopes on your doorstep skiing and snowboarding are the obvious options. But for a slower-paced snowy activity, you’re perfectly located for a spot of snowshoeing. Grab a pair of the flat-bottom shoes and embark on a hike in the picturesque forest – you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to Narnia. For those after a more intense adrenaline rush, try snow rafting and snowmobiling.
Either way, make sure that you carve out some time to really soak up the outdoors (even if it’s just in between spa appointments).
Après-ski elegance – get the look
How to book
Rates at Higashiyama Niseko Village, A Ritz Carlton Reserve start from JPY96,000+++ (approx. £596, dependent on exchange rate at time of booking) per night during the winter season, on a room only basis.
For more information and to book, visit Ritz-Carlton Higashiyama (opens in new tab) or email email@example.com.
Information can also be found via YTL’s website (opens in new tab).