Niseko, Japan

Wild flowers are at their best in Niseko!

Niseko Green Season

As the frozen ground thaws, Niseko bursts with spring color of varieties of wild plants such as Dogtooth violets, white arum, and amur adonis. You can see colonies of Ezoengosaku (corydalis ambigua) and Katakuri (Dogtooth violet) in Sakuragaoka Park in front of the Niseko Station, which is also great locations for bird watching.

Please rush to Niseko during the holiday weeks and don’t miss this moment of spring color!

No more words. Here you are!

New gondola, mountain center in Hirafu

Niseko Daily Life

As a resident of Niseko there’s always some new development to see, but there hasn’t been much change to basic infrastructure on the mountain lately. This summer, however, we’ve watched as construction workers drove cranes and tractors up the mountain to install shiny silver poles for a new, improved gondola, but up until recently there hasn’t been much else to look at, since cloths and scaffolds covered all the construction.

Well, the covers have come off the buildings! Both the gondola base and summit stations are bigger and renewed, there is a new mountain center right near the gondola, and the new cars for the gondola have arrived. I took a trip up the mountain to take a few pictures. They fit 8 people and offer fantastic views, as you can probably see in the pictures below.

On our way down, we had to take a short detour, so I snapped a shot of the new gondola station with all its little cabins lined up. If you look behind the station, the trail up to Miharashi is visible. Since it used to be an immediate right to start climbing that trail, you can really tell how much larger the station is.

From the mountain, you can see the Grand Hirafu Mountain Center below, which really looks great from the slopes. I’m sure that it will make a fantastic focal point and can’t wait to see it lit up at night. The bigger triangular windows are designed to frame in Mt. Yotei on one side and Mt. Niseko-Annupuri on the other. Looks good!

Now this isn’t something we’ll really see the results of for a couple of years, but it’s still pretty exciting. These holes at the top of Hirafu’s main street are the first step in a plan to bury all of the power lines and install road heating along the entire length of the road. We won’t see the results until the very end (they’ll dig holes and install all the conduits before starting to pull replacement cable), but it’s something to look forward to. It will make a huge difference in the feel of Hirafu in the years to come.

Less than a month until skiing starts!

Ainu Language

Niseko Daily Life

Some place names in Hokkaido are derived from the Ainu language, the Ainu people were indigenous people of Hokkaido. The Ainu language has no traditional written form and is in danger of extinction.

With the selection of words below it is possible to figure out the meaning of some of the place names in Hokkaido, let’s explore some of the placenames.

mountain – nupuri

river – pet -nay

water – wakka

lake, bog – to

road – ru

big – poro

Below is a selection of place names that have had their meanings literally deciphered.

Sapporo – sat poro pet (dry, large river)

Rusutsu – ru sut (road end)

Noboribetsu – nupur pet (muddy river)

Lake Toya (Toya-ko) – to ya

Below is a selection of place names that have been translated into a slightly more understandable level of English. Using some of these examples and the websites below, give translating some Ainu place names a go!

You may notice that the some of the place names below are longer or shorter than how we are used to seeing them, this is mainly due to the fact that the Japanese people were not able to pronounce some of the Ainu words correctly.

Niseko – nisey ko an pet (cliff jutting over a river)

Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsu-ko) – shi kot (large valley)

Shiraoi – shirau o i (place with many horseflies)

Muroran – mo rueran (small slope)

By the way, Ainu means “human beings”. We are all “Ainu”.

The ladies playing traditional instruments “Mukkuri”.

The Ainu Association of Hokkaido

http://www.ainu-assn.or.jp/english/eabout01.html

The Ainu Musium Porto Kotan in Shiraoi

http://www.ainu-museum.or.jp/en/

Hong Kong cycling tour in Niseko

Cycling

Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of hosting a group of terrific cyclists from Hong Kong for a cycling tour in Japan. Despite snow the day everyone arrived and a very cold next day, they were a delight to have around and all smiles as we visited Lake Toya and some other spots around Niseko. Here are a couple of photos from the trip. Enjoy!