The Japanese island of Hokkaido is serviced by the major city of Sapporo. Sapporo's new Chitose International Airport receives flights from many international destinations from around the world. In addition, all the major domestic Japanese airlines operate numerous daily domestic flights to and from Chitose.
From Australia you can either fly into Tokyo’s Narita airport on an international flight and then take a domestic flight from Tokyo to Sapporo or you can fly to Sapporo directly via Hong Kong or Singapore.
Domestic flights from Tokyo to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport leave from both the Tokyo Narita International Airport and the Tokyo Haneda airport. You will need to take a 1.5 hour bus ride from Narita to Haneda if there are no flights available direct from Narita. The same bus ride applies from Haneda back to Narita on the return journey if you can’t get a flight directly from New Chitose to Narita.
Although Haneda was originally the primary airport for the Tokyo region, it now shares that role with Narita International Airport.Haneda handles almost all domestic flights to and from Tokyo while Narita handles almost all international flights.
You can then get from New Chitose Airport by coach, car or train.
There are 3 coach companies Chuo, Donan and Goodsports Whiteliner. You can purchase tickets on arrival at the bus information counter in the arrivals hall. All signage is in English and easily located on arrival. The coach journey to the Yutaka luxury accommodation in Niseko is about 2.5 hours in duration and costs ¥2,300 per person one way or ¥3850 return. You can book and pay for seats in advance or purchase seats in the airport. From the airport most people take the bus to Niseko, as it is direct and the cheapest option. Vist www.niseko.ne.jp/en/access.html for bus timetables to Niseko.
You can also book a private vehicle to take you from the airport to your Niseko luxury accommodation. This makes sense for groups of between 5 and 14 people, costing ¥35,000 each way for up to 5 passengers; ¥45,000 each way for up to 9 passengers; and ¥50,000 each way for up to 14 passengers (visit skybus.co.jp/en/rates/for current prices).
If you are coming straight to Niseko from Sapporo's Chitose Airport the train works out to be more expensive and it takes a little bit longer. You will have to lug your gear a lot more too and also have to change trains at either Sapporo or Otaru. Once at the Kutchan Train Station you will have to use a taxi or bus to complete your journey. The taxi ride can be in the vacinity of ¥ 2000, adding to the cost quite considerable. However most tour operators will pick you up and drop you off.
If you decide to take the train, you have to purchase tickets before you get on the train. There is a information help counter near the platform. The train leaves from the basement of the airport, just look for the JR (Japan Rail) signs.
If you are touring Hokkaido, then you may want to rent a car to make the most of you trip. Notethat in winter the driving conditions are extremely hazardous in Hokkaido due to the volume of snow that Hokkaido gets and therefore if you intend to spend most of your time in Niseko then there is no real need for a vehicle. Car rental is upwards of ¥15,000 per day and the travel time from New Chitose to Niseko is 2 to 3 hours. All vehicles have navigation and an English interface is available on request. Car rental companies will require an International Drivers License and a credit card with passport ID.
If you plan to drive to the Niseko ski resort from Sapporo-Chitose Airport, head south towards the town of Tomakomai via the expressway and then northwest on highway 276 to Kimobetsu, from where route 5 runs to Niseko and the resorts. Alternatively, you could go via Sapporo, highway 230 and then take route 5.
When you arrive in Niseko you will be able to pick up the keys to the Yutaka luxury accommodation chalets from the Ski Japan offices on the main street. The chalets are only 100 metres from the Ski Japan offices. If you arrive by coach you will need to get a cab or shuttle bus from the drop off area to the Ski JapanSki Japan offices. There is a cab rank at the drop off area. Sometimes Ski Japan are able to pick arrivals up from the coach stop.
The Hirafu village bus operates from 8:30am - 9:00pm and is useful for getting around the village and to the gondola.
You might want to venture to the nearby town of Kutchan
for groceries, ski shops, restaurants or the ATM. Kutchan is accessed by a free
night bus after 6:15pm, or there’s a public bus which runs all day each
hour for a small charge. Ski Japan offers “shopping tours” down
to Kutchan, which really consists of the transport and a one minute orientation
to the town, but that’s all you need.
Written by Paul White
For luxury accommodation in Niseko visit www.japan-ski.net