What it's like to visit the 'Aspen of Japan,' where billionaires and actors dine on sushi in ski lodges and relax in natural hot springs on the side of an active volcano

Niseko JapanScott Markewitz/Getty Images

  • Niseko is an up-and-coming hotspot located on Japan's northernmost island that's home to some of the best ski slopes in the world.
  • The Wall Street Journal recently reported that several well-known luxury hotels plan to move to the area.
  • The area currently consists of four main resorts, which comprise Niseko United skiing.
  • Along with its fresh powder and natural hot springs, the area is also home to impressive restaurants and bars in the resort villages.

Niseko, Japan: Home to "champagne powder," a variety of luxury chalets, and an under-the-radar skiing hotspot where millionaires can eat fresh sushi in ski lodges.

It's no wonder that Niseko, one of the snowiest spots in the world, has caught the attention of luxury hotel chains and wealthy skiers.

In a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, Kosaku Narioka reported that while an assortment of expensive chalet rentals are already built up in the area, a fleet of luxury hotels will soon join the high-end offerings: A Park Hyatt will be completed at the end of this year, a Ritz-Carlton is forthcoming in 2020, and a W Hotel is set to arrive in 2021.

Read more: 7 cold-weather destinations every winter lover should visit

According to The Real Deal, the recent increase in hotel construction is mainly due to the rise in wealthy investor interest. This includes Francis Yeoh, whose company is responsible for the construction of the Ritz-Carlton and W Hotel.

Rentals aside, the area gained attention after the construction of "The Red Bull House," home to Chalerm Yoovidhya, one of Thailand's richest men and heir to the Red Bull company fortune.

Movie stars such as Hugh Jackman and Sam Neill have been known to frequent the area, which also includes a lively nightlife and extensive dining options. A feature by Vogue noted the area's incredible seafood, which sets it apart from other inland ski resorts around the world.

A visitors' guide published by Travel + Leisure said, "If Snow Country has a crown jewel, Niseko is probably it."

Keep reading for an inside look at one of the world's best ski spots.
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Niseko is consistently ranked as one of the top skiing locations in Japan.

Niseko is consistently ranked as one of the top skiing locations in Japan.

Source: Powderhounds, Lonely Planet, Forbes, Snow Japan

The resort has been compared to major luxury destinations like Aspen, Colorado ...

The resort has been compared to major luxury destinations like Aspen, Colorado ...

Source: Wall Street Journal

... St. Moritz, Switzerland ...

... St. Moritz, Switzerland ...

Source: Wall Street Journal

... and Whistler, British Columbia.

... and Whistler, British Columbia.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Niseko is located on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island.

Niseko is located on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island.

Source: Google Maps

Hokkaido is the second largest island, and Japan's coldest region.

Hokkaido is the second largest island, and Japan's coldest region.

Source: Google Maps

Though it is technically a town title, for most visitors, "Niseko" refers to the entire region near Mount Yōtei.

Though it is technically a town title, for most visitors, "Niseko" refers to the entire region near Mount Yōtei.

Source: Google Maps

Mount Yōtei is an active stratovolcano located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

Mount Yōtei is an active stratovolcano located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

Source: Japan Travel

The area is also beautiful in the summertime ...

The area is also beautiful in the summertime ...

... and visitors can golf at one of three main courses with the volcano as a stunning backdrop.

... and visitors can golf at one of three main courses with the volcano as a stunning backdrop.

Source: Niseko Tourism

However, the mountain is mostly famous for its winter activities. The mountainside is covered in the highly coveted "champagne powder" — high-quality snow that's perfect for skiing.

However, the mountain is mostly famous for its winter activities. The mountainside is covered in the highly coveted "champagne powder" — high-quality snow that's perfect for skiing.

Source: Travel + Leisure

It's listed as one of the snowiest spots in Japan.

It's listed as one of the snowiest spots in Japan.

Source: Holiday Niseko

To begin their trip, guests fly into New Chitose Airport, followed by a two and half hour car ride to the mountain.

To begin their trip, guests fly into New Chitose Airport, followed by a two and half hour car ride to the mountain.

Source: Holiday Niseko

Four major ski resorts make up Niseko United, a group of ski slopes and accommodations.

Four major ski resorts make up Niseko United, a group of ski slopes and accommodations.

Source: Niseko United

First, Annupuri is located on the southeastern side of the mountain, and offers a family- friendly atmosphere.

First, Annupuri is located on the southeastern side of the mountain, and offers a family- friendly atmosphere.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide, Niseko United

The ski area features 13 courses, from beginner to advanced levels, and also offers night skiing on some courses.

The ski area features 13 courses, from beginner to advanced levels, and also offers night skiing on some courses.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide, Niseko United, Niseko Annupuri Info

Grand Hirafu is the largest ski resort, and perhaps the most well-known.

Grand Hirafu is the largest ski resort, and perhaps the most well-known.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide, Niseko United

The resort includes a bustling village at its base with lively nightlife and shopping. Along with expensive ski shops that sell name brands like North Face and Patagonia, the village features a custom hat shop.

The resort includes a bustling village at its base with lively nightlife and shopping. Along with expensive ski shops that sell name brands like North Face and Patagonia, the village features a custom hat shop.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide, Niseko United, Niseko Tourism

Niseko Village is nestled between Annupuri and Grand Hirafu.

Niseko Village is nestled between Annupuri and Grand Hirafu.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide, Niseko United

It also features a village with shops and hotels, though significantly smaller and quieter than Grand Hirafu. Items sold here include luxury Japanese purses and custom glasswork by local artists in the nearby city of Otaru.

It also features a village with shops and hotels, though significantly smaller and quieter than Grand Hirafu. Items sold here include luxury Japanese purses and custom glasswork by local artists in the nearby city of Otaru.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide, Niseko United, Niseko Village

Finally, Hanazono is the second base of Grand Hirafu on the northeastern side of the mountain. Though smaller than the other ski areas, Hanazono still offers a ski school for both kids and adults.

Finally, Hanazono is the second base of Grand Hirafu on the northeastern side of the mountain. Though smaller than the other ski areas, Hanazono still offers a ski school for both kids and adults.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide, Niseko United

Each of these four resorts features a variety of luxe accommodations ...

Each of these four resorts features a variety of luxe accommodations ...

Source: Forbes

... the most impressive of which might be the private ski chalets. While an all mountain day pass is inexpensive (approximately $66), adding a chalet will quickly propel you up into the thousands.

... the most impressive of which might be the private ski chalets. While an all mountain day pass is inexpensive (approximately $66), adding a chalet will quickly propel you up into the thousands.

Source: Powder Life

The Annupuri Residences are one group of rentals ...

The Annupuri Residences are one group of rentals ...

Source: Niseko Annupuri Residences

... located just minutes from the closest slopes.

... located just minutes from the closest slopes.

Source: Niseko Annupuri Residences

Others private rentals are more secluded, such as the Keyaki Villas ...

Others private rentals are more secluded, such as the Keyaki Villas ...

Source: The Pavilions Ginto Residences

... which offer beautiful views of the surrounding forests, rooms for adults ...

... which offer beautiful views of the surrounding forests, rooms for adults ...

Source: The Pavilions Ginto Residences

... and accommodations for younger guests.

... and accommodations for younger guests.

Source: The Pavilions Ginto Residences

If wealthy skiers do not want to rent an entire property, luxury hotels such as the Green Leaf Hotel are available.

If wealthy skiers do not want to rent an entire property, luxury hotels such as the Green Leaf Hotel are available.

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village

The hotel features a bar downstairs ...

The hotel features a bar downstairs ...

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village

... and an array of modern bedrooms.

... and an array of modern bedrooms.

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village

For those looking to relax, the onsens — or natural hot springs — are a draw. The soothing baths are recognized for their purifying health benefits.

For those looking to relax, the onsens — or natural hot springs — are a draw. The soothing baths are recognized for their purifying health benefits.

Source: Afar

The Green Leaf Hotel is also home to some of the area's natural onsens.

The Green Leaf Hotel is also home to some of the area's natural onsens.

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village, Niseko Onsen Guide

High-end hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton are on their way, but for now, the most prominent chain is a beautiful ski-in, ski-out Hilton.

High-end hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton are on their way, but for now, the most prominent chain is a beautiful ski-in, ski-out Hilton.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Hilton Niseko Village, The Real Deal

Many international power players, millionaires, and celebrities choose to vacation in Niseko, including actors like Hugh Jackman ...

Many international power players, millionaires, and celebrities choose to vacation in Niseko, including actors like Hugh Jackman ...

Source: Powderlife

... and Sam Neil, who, according to Powder Life magazine, was spotted singing at Angel karaoke bar with Australian rugby union captain George Gregan.

... and Sam Neil, who, according to Powder Life magazine, was spotted singing at Angel karaoke bar with Australian rugby union captain George Gregan.

Source: Powderlife

And then, of course, there's the food. Among other great dining options, countless restaurants offer excellent seafood, thanks to Niseko's proximity to the ocean ...

And then, of course, there's the food. Among other great dining options, countless restaurants offer excellent seafood, thanks to Niseko's proximity to the ocean ...

Source: Vogue

... while others feature soba noodles, a Japanese staple made from buckwheat.

... while others feature soba noodles, a Japanese staple made from buckwheat.

Source: Vacation Niseko

Regardless which resort or chalet you choose to stay at ...

Regardless which resort or chalet you choose to stay at ...

... the incredible views alone make the trip memorable as you ski some of the best slopes in Asia.

... the incredible views alone make the trip memorable as you ski some of the best slopes in Asia.
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