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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about Hokkaido and Japan

What do I need to know to before using the onsen (Japanese hotspring)?

The onsen is an ancient and cherished Japanese custom, and bathers need to be completely naked and thoroughly clean before entering the mineral rich water. Wash yourself thoroughly at the shower stations before entering the water, and remember to ease yourself in; the waters are often piping hot. There are signs as you enter the onsen with instructions for bathing, and we ask all Guests to be respectful of Japanese culture and etiquette.

Naked! Do I really need to be 100% naked?

Yes. You must be completely naked to bathe in Japan’s mineral hot pools. Onsen are usually gender segregated - and mixed onsen have separate changing and entry points for men and women. Onsen are an ancient Japanese tradition and observing the correct rituals is both respectful and the ideal way to immerse yourself in local culture.

While it may be frightening at first - going naked into an onsen is a very safe and normal practice in Japan - relax and give it a try.

Can I use my mobile phone in Japan?

Depending on your service provider and plan your mobile phone may be active in Japan. You can also buy SIM cards for data only at the airport and in the local convenience stores such as Lawson and Seicomart. Check that your phone is unlocked and compatible for SIM change before purchasing a data SIM card.

Most of our luxury hotels and chalets have wifi - but having your own phone in Japan can be great in a pinch / for the 'gram.

Is it safe to drive in the snow in Hokkaido?

Many people worry about driving in the snow when considering renting a car in Hokkaido but don't worry. Car rental companies in Hokkaido are prepared and all rental vehicles in winter are equipped with winter / snow tyres (if yoiu're not sure, please ask them).

Winter tyres give great grip in snowy conditions and the speed limit across most of Hokkaido is around 50km an hour. Most people get into trouble by driving too fast or by not being aware of icy conditions late at night and early morning. Take it easy, drive defensively with space between you and others. Travel during daylight hours where possible and avoid travelling during blizzards.

Driving is a great way to see multiple ski resorts, access grocery stores and onsen if you're an experienced driver we recommend it. Just make sure you confirm parking at your accommodation.

What licence do I need to drive in Japan?

You will need a valid International Drivers Permit to legally drive in Japan.

In Japan cars drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car.

In Australia you can obtain an international drivers license from registered outlets such as RACQ or NRMA for a modest fee.

What power points and voltage are used in Japan?

Japanese power points are compatible with the two-pronged plugs commonly found in America. Many power points do not have the third hole for the grounding pin, so try and source an adaptor without a third prong. Hotels such as The Vale Niseko offer the complementary use of adaptors for in-house guests. Voltage in Japan is 100 V, which is lower than most regions of the world. Invest in a power converter to use your appliances safely.

Questions about Niseko

How are the snow conditions in Niseko right now?

Take a look at our live web cam and snow camera page where you can see the current conditions at all of Niseko's ski resorts and towns.

Are there English-speaking doctors and pharmacies available in Niseko?

You can find basic medical supplies at Sapporo Drug Store in Hirafu 188 on Hirafu’s main street at places MaxValue and Tsuruha Drug.

The Niseko International Clinic is located just a few minutes’ drive from Hirafu town. English speaking services are available from 9am – 5pm during peak winter months.

For after-hours medical appointments, guests can visit Kutchan Kosei Hospital in nearby Kutchan, approximately 15 minutes from Hirafu. Translation services are available at set times – please ask your NISADE Front Desk Agent for more information.

Can I pay with credit card around town? Where can I withdraw money in Niseko?

Niseko is becoming increasingly credit card friendly, but it is still advisable to carry cash. Hirafu has international ATM is housed in the Hirafu 188 building, Seicomart, and Lawson. You can also withdraw funds from most Seven Eleven stores across Japan.

Do I need to be able to eat with chopsticks to enjoy dinner in Japan / Niseko?

Niseko is an international ski resort with plenty of Japanese and non-Japanese options.

If you don’t see a fork or spoon at your restaurant, simply ask your waiter to bring you one – we guarantee you’re not the first person to make the request.

Do I need a special license to drive in Japan/ Niseko?

You will need to qualify for an international driving permit in your country of residence in order to drive in Japan. You are required by law to have this with you every time you drive a car. The Niseko roads are often covered with snow and can be icy. Private or public transfers are recommended for anyone who is not completely comfortable at the thought of driving in snowstorms or on ice.

Is Niseko a safe area?

Absolutely! The locals are friendly and the streets are safe. The only things to be wary of are walking on sometimes slippery sidewalks and taking care to not get lost in the snow when walking home after a late night out.

What’s the deal with restaurant cancellation policy in Niseko?

Niseko restaurants have very strict cancellation policies. It is your responsibility to be aware of cancellation policies, location, menu prices and set menu options before you ask NISADE Concierge or Guest Services to assist you with a booking, whether you discover this information by asking NISADE staff or by conducting personal research.

What are the busiest times of year in Niseko and Hirafu?

Like most winter destinations, Niseko and Hirafu are extremely busy during Christmas and New Year. Chinese New Year is also one of the busiest times of year. During these peak periods the demand for accommodation and services are at an all time high, so get in early to secure your requests.

We will usually have specials discount for off peak or shoulder periods - and include useful tips on the best time to visit in our emails we send to customers.

Do local shop keepers / bus drivers/ waiters speak English?

Niseko is one of Japan's most international and cosmopolitan ski areas - especially around Hirafu.

The local Japanese can speak varying amounts of English, but it is very limited. Almost all restaurants offer an English menu and in smaller, more traditional Japanese izakaya there is often a photo menu. Prices and numbers are almost always in western numerals and signage is often in English as well as Japanese.

Questions about accommodation

Can I request for a particular room or floor?

Unfortunately we are not able to guarantee a specific room or floor as rooms are only allocated closer to guest arrival.

My promo code did not work. Why did that happen?

We recommend that you check the following:

Has the promo expired?

Please check the validity under Specials or in your newsletter and check if the promo is still active.


Did your trip meet the promo criteria?

Some promotions are only applicable on certain dates, number of nights, properties or categories. Please double-check your promo code terms and conditions to ensure that your trip met the promo criteria.


Did you enter your code correctly?

The codes are case sensitive so enter it exactly as it is written and try again.


If the promo even exists

Promo codes are given via newsletter and official website. If you received this promo code from a friend, on the internet etc. the promo code might not actually exists.


Still need help?

If none of the above helped answer your question, please contact us at [email protected] or +81 136 231724

I saw this special on your website; can I still get the discount after it has expired?

We often leave sale pages up on our website after they end to avoid broken links from search engines - however if a competition has expired according to the expiry date on the page - we are not able to give you the discount.

Please subscribe to receive our latest offers or check our current specials.

Why can’t I upgrade or change my NISADE room or apartment upon arrival?

Our apartments and rooms are individually owned. Your reservation is a direct booking between the guest and the owner that is facilitated by NISADE. Changing your booking is comparable to switching hotels, and will incur similar cancellation and change fees.

Is breakfast included in NISADE room rates?

Breakfast is not generally included with room rates for NISADE properties, with the exception of hotel rooms and studios (winter only) without full kitchens at The Vale Niseko or where explicitly stated.

Breakfast is not available as room service at The Vale Niseko, but the restaurant is conveniently located in the lobby of the hotel.

Breakfast is often included, depending on time of year, at Always Niseko.

What is tatami or a tatami room?

A tatami room is a traditional Japanese-style room that features flooring made of woven straw mats called tatami. These rooms are typically used for various activities such as sitting, sleeping, and tea ceremonies, and they exude a sense of tranquility and cultural heritage.

Sleeping in a tatami room almost always means you'll need to sleep on a futon. Some of our properties feature tatami rooms.

What exactly is a futon?

A traditional style of Japanese bedding, a futon comprises of an unsprung mattress with bedding and is included in tatami bedrooms and additional sleeping arrangements for bookings where number of guests exceeds western bedrooms. Some of our properties feature futons.

Does my baby count as an additional person? Can my baby stay in my room?

Infants are categorized as 5 years old and below, infants can stay for free if no bedding is required but will still count towards the overall occupancy. Due to fire regulations we cannon exceed the maximum occupancy listed on the website.

For example:

  • in a room that has a maximum occupancy of 3, 2 adults and 1 baby would be charged as two persons and be allowed
  • in a room that has a maximum occupancy of 2 - we cannot allow additional guests (5 years old and below

Guest Services and transport

Can you pick me up from the Hirafu Welcome Centre?

During the winter season, our Guest Service Relations (GSR) staff are subjected to availability for pick up/drop off services. Please contact us again, within the upcoming days prior to your check-in date for more information. For Always Niseko guests, please check the Always shuttle bus timetable here.

Can I change my activity bookings once I’ve arrived?

Local cancellation policies are very strict (100% within 16 days of arrival), especially for ski or snowboard lessons and guiding. If you want to keep a flexible schedule we would recommend booking with Concierge after you’ve arrived, but availability cannot be guaranteed.

I'm not much of a skier - would you still recommend visiting Niseko in winter?

If you like good food, quirky or boutique shopping and playing in winter wonderland then you will love Niseko both on and off the slopes! Activities such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, horse riding and snow kiting are readily available. There are also several massage providers for anyone in need of a little pampering.

Resorts like Rusutsu offer non-skiing activities that may be suitable for your needs.

Is it necessary to book services such as ski school in advance?

Many ski school services book out during peak periods. We highly recommend you book in advance, particularly if you’re interested in private lessons or have a special request, such as a Chinese-speaking instructor.

Do I need to book ahead for restaurants?

Niseko’s famous restaurants are fantastically busy in winter, and advance bookings are highly advisable. Many restaurants now have easy-to-use booking systems online, which offer direct confirmations.

Our Guest Services team is happy to provide you our NISADE dining recommendations.

What are the benefits of booking with NISADE Guest Services?

As well as taking the hassle out of arranging all the components of your holiday, booking with NISADE Guest Services will ensure you overcome the language barrier, book with the region’s best suppliers, and get in early to book restaurants in high demand.

Our team’s fantastic local knowledge ensures every aspect of your holiday will be tailored to delight and suit your party.

Does it cost extra to book my activities with NISADE Guest Services?

The use of our Guest Services department is free of charge to any NISADE guest. From ski school to restaurants, our team is here to ensure your holiday runs as smoothly as possible. NISADE has close relationships with the most reputable suppliers in town. We look forward to combining your activities, accommodation and transfer details into one, easy-to-manage reservation.

What type of skis do I need for the backcountry?

Depending on your trip, you will need touring skis, powder skis, or even a split board. The professionals at the local guiding companies can offer expert advice on what kind of equipment you will need for your backcountry adventure.

There are a few excellent guiding companies that we recommend, contact our guest services team ([email protected]) to find out more.

Do I need to pre-arrange equipment?

You should definitely book your rentals in advance to ensure your ideal rental equipment is available. Peak season is extremely busy and rentals can sell out quickly.

Can I store my equipment at The Vale Niseko?

Every room and apartment within The Vale Niseko has a state-of-the-art locker in our heated and ventilated boot room. For those staying at our nearby properties, we offer a communal locker room, accessed by a pin-code. Guests renting from The Vale Snowsports can also enjoy free overnight storage in the shop as part of their rental package.

What is the minimum age for snowmobiling?

The minimum age is 12 or 13 for most companies. Due to strict safety regulations, the tour companies are very firm about this age minimum.

Can my child double up with me on one snowmobile?

Provided your passenger meets the minimum age requirements, there are some companies who can offer double ups on snowmobiles.

What is that 1000 yen deposit for lift passes?

This is simply a deposit against the electronic lift pass. Your card can be easily refunded for cash at the end of your visit.

Can I access all the Niseko ski areas from Hirafu?

Yes, depending on the weather and your ability level, you can access all of Mt Annupuri’s four resorts (Hirafu, Hanazono, Annupuri, Niseko Village), although it may involve some traversing and walking.

Do kids need lift passes if they are taking lessons?

Yes, lift tickets will need to be purchased separately as lessons do not include equipment or lift tickets. Our friendly Guest Services team is happy to help you ensure that your child has the appropriate lift ticket for their lesson, and can pre-book all your lift tickets and have them waiting at your accommodation when you check-in at no extra fee.

Do I need to pre-book lessons?

Yes, we highly recommend you do! Lessons book out months in advance for peak season, and even during the quieter periods you should pre-book so that the lesson can fit in smoothly to your holiday schedule. Pre-booking your lesson means there is no hassle with booking or paying once you have arrived on your holiday.

How can I get to Hanazono for my lesson?

Hanazono offers a free shuttle bus between several Hirafu destinations and Hanazono 308, with a stop right out the front of The Vale, or just outside Seciomart for Freshwater / Setsumon Guests. The shuttle runs between 7:50 am and 5:30 pm and departs every 20-30 minutes for the 15-minute journey to the Hanazono learning facility.

Children’s lessons include a supervised shuttle bus that leaves from right behind The Vale Niseko near the Family Ace Chairlifts, and drops off in the same place again in the afternoon.

What is the difference between NISS and NBS?

NISS and NBS are two of the largest and leading ski schools in Niseko, offering highly qualified instructors and excellent lesson packages. There are a couple of key unique points: NISS’s comprehensive learning facility at Hanazono 308 includes magic carpets, gentle slopes and awesome kids’ facilities, making NISS the pick for first-timers or nervous skiers. NBS offer the convenience of having their base right next door to The Vale in Hirafu, which will make your morning a breeze.

What type of skis do I need for backcountry?

Depending on your trip, you will need touring skis, powder skis, or even a split board. The professionals at the local guiding companies can offer expert advice on what kind of equipment you will need for your backcountry adventure. There are a few excellent guiding companies that we recommend, which you can find here.

Can the rented vehicle be ready at The Vale Niseko for me on arrival?

Yes, as long as the vehicle has been booked more than 48 hours in advance and the rental company has your credit card details, the car can be waiting for you at The Vale.

Can I reserve a parking space at The Vale Niseko?

Yes, you will need to reserve a car parking space at The Vale prior to your arrival, as parking is limited. Our parking area is located out the front of The Vale, along the bank that lines the driveway down to the hotel. Upon check-in, a Front Desk Agent will give you a parking notice for your front dashboard, and request a license plate and mobile number.

Can you arrange transportation?

It is our pleasure to help you arrange transportation, either ahead of time with our Guest Services team, or on the spot with our Front Desk Agents. Be sure to allow plenty of notice for a taxi request during the busy season, as their services can book up quickly, particularly around dinnertime.

Do you provide free airport shuttle? What’s the best transportation method to get to Niseko?

Although Nisade offers no complimentary shuttle service we are eager to help you make your transfer arrangements. A number of shared services are available, but for your ease and comfort we recommend a private transfer which provides a door to door service direct to your accommodation. Representatives will meet you at your arrival gate and ensure a smooth journey to Niseko without any waiting, lugging of baggage, or cramped cabins. Contact our friendly Guest Services team for help with booking your transfer.

How long does it take to from New Chitose Airport to Niseko?

The drive is between 2 – 3 hours, depending on traffic, road conditions, and rest stops.

Restaurants

Can you help us make a restaurant reservation for my check-in date?

Due to the strict restaurant policies here in Niseko (see above), our Nisade concierge is unable to assist with the reservations on check-in date, in the case of any unforeseen or natural circumstances that were occur. We highly recommend for you to either ask our Concierge for recommendations for you to book directly. OR! You may approach us at our concierge desk or receptions for assistance after checking in!

Can I make a reservation for lunch?

Many restaurants are "Walk-in Only" during lunch. Please ask our team for restaurants that do accept lunch reservations. i.e., the Ramen/Soba stores in Niseko are generally "walk-in only" for lunch.

How strict is restaurant policy in Niseko?

Very strict! Restaurants count on the busy winter to sustain their businesses over the slower shoulder and summer seasons, so no-shows or last minute cancellations will incur a fee and be added to your accommodation, as room charge. Please be cautious and aware of the restaurants cancellation policies!

Do I really need to make dinner reservations weeks in advance?

As strange as it might seem, advance reservation is a must if you want to experience Niseko’s famous restaurants during the busy season. Even the tiniest cafes will book out during this time, so if there is a restaurant you feel you just can’t miss, please ensure to ask our Guest Services team for assistance with guidelines on how to make the booking directly ahead of time.

Do restaurants take credit card?

Some restaurants do take credit cards as payment, but as Japan is still a cash-orientated country many smaller stores are still "CASH ONLY". It is advised to carry some cash (Japanese Yen) on you, just in case.

Questions about Furano, Fenix Furano or Fenix West

When does the ski area near Fenix Furano open?

Both Fenix Furano and Fenix West are located next to Furano Ski Resort's Kitanomine Zone. Kitanomine Zone always opens slightly later than Furano Ski Resort's other area - known as the Furano Zone. We offer a shuttle service when the Kitanomine Zone is not in operation. View our Furano lift opening report for exact dates.

I'm staying at Fenix Furano of Fenix West before the ski lifts open - how can I go skiing?

Don't worry! When the Kitanomine Zone is not operating - we provide a complimentary shuttle to the nearby Furano Zone for you to go skiing.

Please contact the Fenix Furano and Fenix West teams directly for information or to book a time in advance.

Please note:

  • Due to the limited vehicles there may be a wait at certain times of the day.
  • If a guest does not arrive at the pre-announced time when returning to Fenix Furano from the Furano Zone and the next Shuttle appointment has been booked, the next appointment will take priority.
  • If Shuttle is not available at the guest's preferred time Taxi or Bus are also options we can assist with.

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