An island nation in the Pacific Ocean with dense cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. Shinkansen bullet trains connect the main islands of Kyushu (with Okinawa's subtropical beaches), Honshu (home to Tokyo and Hiroshima’s atomic-bomb memorial) and Hokkaido (famous for skiing). Tokyo, the capital, is known for skyscrapers, shopping and pop culture.
Conversion Rate: .0088 USD
Drive Side: Left
Time Difference: +13 hours (CST)
Prime Minister: Shinzo Abe
Hidden in Tokyo’s business district on top of a 40-story glass office tower, you’ll find an urban sanctuary in Aman Tokyo. Aman is the Sanskrit word for peace, and that is exactly what this hotel delivers: tranquil, exclusive relaxation. Escape from the madness of the megapolis in the hotel’s patch of trees and greenery or in the minimalist, modern rooms.
An urban retreat on the top of the Otemachi Tower, Aman differs from the usual business hotels. A library in the lobby is equipped with chess sets and books focused on Japanese art and culture.
The breathtaking Aman Spa on the 33rd and 34th floors is the biggest in Tokyo. Japanese wood paneling and a terrace with a view of the city make it a one-of-a-kind experience. The spa uses its own brand of exquisite chemical-free products made in Australia. A gym, a yoga studio, onsens (or hot baths) and a striking black basalt swimming pool are within the expansive spa.
The 84 rooms and suites of the luxury hotel are arranged in Japanese residential style — simple and luxurious. The granite baths with heated stone flooring are separated from the rooms by sliding shoji screen doors. Cypress paneling and chestnut wood flooring give the spaces an earthy, warm atmosphere. Each room is a nod to Japanese culture with local artwork, traditional ceramics and paper lanterns.
Japan’s busy capital mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. The opulent Meiji Shinto Shrine is known for its towering gate and surrounding woods. The Imperial Palace sits amid large public gardens. The city's many museums offer exhibits ranging from classical art (in the Tokyo National Museum) to a reconstructed kabuki theater (in the Edo-Tokyo Museum).
The northernmost of Japan’s main islands is known for its volcanoes, natural hot springs (onsen) and ski areas. Rugged Daisetsuzan National Park is home to steaming, volcanic Mount Asahi. Shikotsu-Tōya National Park contains caldera lakes, geothermal springs and a Mount Fuji look-alike, Mount Yōtei. Popular ski resorts include Rusutsu, Furano and Niseko.
Skiing In Hokkaido
Hokkaido skiing is incredibly rewarding. Hokkaido, the north island of Japan, is ideally located in the path of consistent weather systems that bring the cold air across the Sea of Japan from Siberia. This results in many of the Hokkaido ski resorts being absolutely dumped with powder that is renowned for being incredibly dry. Some of the ski areas receive an amazing average of 14-18 meters of snowfall annually!
Niseko is the powder capital of the world and as such is the most popular international ski destination in Japan. It doesn’t seem to stop snowing in Niseko, which is the major drawcard. Other famous resorts include Rusutsu and Furano, and Asahidake is gaining more notoriety amongst international skiers and snowboarders. Hokkaido also has many ski resorts that are somewhat off the beaten track for international tourists.
Hokkaido has a reputation for being deep not steep, and whilst this is true of some of the Hokkaido ski resorts, places such as Sapporo Teine and Kurodake blow this myth out of the water.
Niseko Ski Resort
...in Hokkaido is probably the most famous Japan resort amongst international skiers and boarders. For those that love powder, Niseko Japan is the number one pick for a ski holiday because it seems to constantly snow, and the deep, deep powder is way too enticing.
The Niseko ski resort gets the Powderhounds award for the best ski terrain in Japan. Niseko also gets other "best skiing in Japan" awards for best powder, best off-piste terrain, best slackcountry (easily accessible backcountry), and best overall resort in Japan.
Niseko is suited to skiers and boarders of all ability levels. For powder hounds Niseko has great off-piste skiing. The slackcountry and backcountry options are also very impressive, and thankfully both off-piste and out of bounds riding is permitted. Another element that sets Niseko apart from many other Japanese ski resorts is the combination of both alpine and tree skiing. Fair weather skiers who want to get a tan are the only ones that might not like Niseko. Niseko rarely sees the sunshine and has plenty of cold weather in the peak of winter.
Niseko is the largest ski resort in Japan and is made up of four interconnected areas: An’nupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu; and Hanazono. The ski resort of Moiwa is also interconnected, but a separate lift ticket is required for this resort.
Niseko is a town on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island, near the dormant volcano of Mt. Yotei. Major ski centers like Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu occupy the slopes of Mt. Niseko-Annupuri. The surrounding mountains are dotted with numerous hot spring resorts, known as onsen. The Shiribetsu River is known for its white-water rapids. The area also features several golf courses against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks.
An inactive stratovolcano located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Hokkaidō, Japan. It is also called Yezo Fuji or Ezo Fuji, "Ezo" being an old name for the island of Hokkaido, because it resembles the more famous Mount Fuji.
Led by Powder Company Guides...Mt. Yotei is an incredible riding experience and a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity to experience the pinnacle of the Niseko backcountry. Weather is often a real challenge but with the right window guest hike up the mountain, ski down into the volcano; then hike back out and down the other side. The journey takes 1-2 days depending on weather conditions
Mt. Yotei Photos
Looks Fun Eh ???
Matt, the Everything Man, Shifrin departs at 12:25pm on February 10th from Denver International Airport. Though a few hours shorter than Tyler & Will's flight, Matt's non-stop flight delivers him to Japan the following day, February 11. He has coordinated his own accommodations.
Matt Flight Info
Flight #: United Airlines 139
Flight Time: 11:08 hours
Plane Type: 787-8
Departure Time: 12:25pm
Arrival Time: 4:35pm
Matt in the Big City
Matt has two options...(1) Sleep off his Jet Lag at the hotel or (2) go explore the world's largest metropolis while he awaits the other two knuckleheads. We'll leave it to him to decide...
Tyler & Will Departure
Knowing that Matt has arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun, Tyler & Will eagerly await their flight at Chicago's O'Hare International. After a celebratory glass of Champagne, we board an All Nippon Airlines 777 en route to Tokyo. ANA is a Japanese airline so we'll get acclimated to Japanese fare and etiquette.
Flight #: All Nippon Airlines 11
Departure Time: 10:45am, February 11
Flight Time: 13:25 hours
Arrival Time: 3:10pm, February 12
The Arrival, Feb. 12
Weak in the knees, restless, but excited the Chicago lads arrive at Narita International Airport around 3:30pm. They should expect one hour to get thru customs and an additional 1.5 hours in the car to get to their Accommodations at the Aman Tokyo. Transportation has been arranged at Narita to take them there. Matt should plan on meeting them at the Hotel. Once we check-in and drop off our luggage we will head out to dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi. Dinner is at 7:00pm.
We arrive at Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi to enjoy a world renown sushi dinner served by Jiro's son Takashi Ono. Sake, fresh fish and desert will surely not disappoint. Each item is served one at a time at a rapid pace. Expect to enjoy the best sushi of your life.
2 Michelin Stars
Featured in Jiro Dreams of Sushi
After a long flight, a wonderful meal and some well needed rest we start our day in the award winning rooms at the Aman Hotel overlooking the city. Breakfast is available in the room (as seen in this pic) or the group can head down to the lobby where there are panoramic views of the city. The menu has both Western and Japanese options...though there's nothing better than eggs and bacon in the morning.
After we eat, we will leave their bags with the concierge and head out for a quick lap of the city. Lot's of options but very little time to hit them...so they should plan ahead.
Weird Japanese Stuff
Tsukiji Sushi Market
Or just Karaoke!
This wonderful 2016 Toyota Voxy will be our primary mode of transportation for the week. Although the guides will be picking us up every morning and dropping us off in the afternoon...this will allow us to head into town at any point or venture to other resorts if we should decide to do so.
The Drive from Sapporo to Niseko will take somewhere between 2 & 3 hours depending on conditions and our ability to drive on the Left side of the road. I think I'll call the early shotgun on this one.
We then meet our hosts Fletch & Yuko at Sweet Wasabi in Niseko. This will be digs for the balance of the trip.
Once we unpack and set up shop we can head into Niseko Village for dinner + drinks.
February 14 - 18
Every morning at the crack of dawn we'll get up and make breakfast at the dojo. From that point Powder Company Guides will come pick us up at 7:45am. They have been instructed to take us where the snow is best regardless of location. That being said, we might be hiking, we might be in-bounds, we're leaving it to the experts so every day should bring a bit of adventure.
- 7:45am: Picked up by Powder Company Guides @ Sweet Wasabi
- 9:00-3:00pm: Ski + Board our asses off
- 3:00-4:00pm: Ride back to Sweet Wasabi
- 4:00-5:00pm: Clean up
- 5:00-5:30: Cocktails and Ride back into town
- 6:00-10:00: Dinner and hang
While there are several guiding companies in Niseko and the surrounding area, Powder Company Guides seems to be the most authentic Japanese outfit. They have come highly recommended by everyone that I have asked and they are featured in virtually every ski + snowboarding movie filmed in the area. Powder Company will handle all of our avalanche safety equipment, our snow-shoes, and any other equipment that we might need. Note that they do not have skins in house so if you want to have them...bring your own.