Prior to this reincarnation, I must have been a desert dwelling lizard. Nothing kills my buzz faster than chilly winds and waking up to darkness. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about visiting the brilliant white, snow covered mountains of Hokkaido. Will I be retreating to my hotel room like a hibernating bear or will the snow bunny residing deep within me come out to throw snow balls and make snow angels?
WHERE I STAYED - ONE NISEKO RESORT TOWERS, 455-3 Niseko, Abuta District. Walking in to the front foyer, it was clear that no one mentioned to the staff that Christmas had finished weeks ago, seeing as the Christmas tree was still in all its tinsel-clad glory. I'm not really complaining about this point, because sitting there, feet up, warm jumper, novel in hand looking out the glass doors as the white snow flakes danced to the ground, was the closest thing to an American styled Christmas day this Bunbury boy has ever experienced (thus far). The room was brilliant, feeling more like walking into your own home rather than being aware you were staying in a hotel - complete with a little eating area a low table, cushions on the floor and shoji, the Japanese name for the sliding, paper room dividers. Don't even get me started on the vast range of breakfast options during the morning buffet!
WHAT I DID - The obvious thing to do in this situation is to ski right? Who would have predicted that my complete inability to ice-skate or rollerblade, would translate into me being a complete, tumbling mess on skis. I totally saw that one coming but hey, I was going to give it a shot anyway. Walking into the resort sits a man and his laptop behind a desk, he booked us in. The ski gear (gloves, jacket, boots, goggles etc.) was all pre-booked before arriving in Japan. The resort offered a spa but I can't say that was my kind of scene, so I steered clear of that. That leaves us with eating! Taking the shuttle bus into the town (be careful about the times - don't want to miss the last trip back) we found a LOT of different cuisines. With all the American, Kiwi and Australian accents you'll walk past, you'll be forgiven for forgetting where you are - we would even walk into Japanese restaurants and find them serving you as part of their working holidays. Call me a traditionalist, but shouldn't my edamame beans be brought to me by a Japanese person and not Bryce from Brisbane?
MUST EAT – So here we are, plodding through the snow – okay, truth be told, Craig was plodding through the snow, I was tentatively taking minute steps, flailing my arms above my head with every hint at a slip or slide. The first restaurant proved to be booked to full capacity, much to my dismay, if only because it meant my non-existent balancing performance would be on full display for everyone else’s entertainment around me. Luckily for us, Yakiniku Niseko Soan proved to be a fantastic find. Walking in, you would might assume the kitchen was on fire. The smoke from the DIY Japanese BBQ stations clings to the air, coating you in the wonderful smell of cooked meat – Sorry to say, vegetarians, you will be dining else where. We selected the ‘All You Can Eat’ option (of course) providing us with a variety of juicy meat to go with the accompaniments of cabbage, onion and bean shoots.
THE VERDICT - Okay, I'm not totally converted to snow bunny status but with that being said, Hokkaido exceeded my low expectations for it. I can see why people love it so much and would wholeheartedly recommend Hokkaido for anyone wanting to experience building a snowman, lovers of winter sports and anyone with equilibrium. I guess everyone should at least experience being snowed on - just for the love of God, don't forget your beanies, unless painful ears is something you strive for.