Niseko FAQ (Updated June 2017)
Thinking about coming to Niseko sometime this year? Here is everything you need to know to start your planning!
Niseko is on it's way to becoming one of Asia's top year-round destinations. It has cemented itself as the best international ski resort in Asia and is becoming more and more known throughout the world. During 2016/17, Niseko started making headlines as a top travel destination for more than just snow. National Geographic named Niseko the second best place in the world to experience the great outdoors and Trip Advisor's Traveller's Choice Awards placed Kutchan Town as the third best destination in all of Japan.
For specific tips on when to come and how to get here, please visit our travel and season pages, otherwise have a read of the frequently asked questions below. If you have any questions that aren't on our list, don't be afraid to contact us here or on Facebook.
Questions concerning health and safety in Japan:
Do I need any vaccinations?
There are no vaccinations that are required to travel to Niseko, Hokkaido and there are no requirements for foreign travellers from any countries regarding certificates of vaccination.
Are their hospitals and doctors?
Yes, there are a number of clinics and hospitals across the Niseko area. The majority of them are in Kutchan Town, which is about 10–30 minutes, depending where in the Niseko resort area you are.
The largest hospital in the area is called Kutchan Kosei Byoin or Kutchan General Hospital. They have a number of staff who can provide assistance in English and have keep a translator on staff to assist with English-speaking patients.
Not every hospital will be able to assist in a language other than Japanese, but many doctors in Japan are able to speak a limited amount of English.
For serious emergencies, the injured party may be transferred to a larger hospital in Sapporo.
Questions concerning money in Japan:
Can I use my credit cards?
Japan is largely a cash society, although this has been changing rapidly over the last few years. The Niseko area could be considered to be leading this trend as many shops and restaurants in the area accept VISA, MasterCard and American Express. Travellers should keep in mind that many shops that are unable to process credit card transactions and so it is recommended to carry cash.
Can I use my debit card / debit credit card?
If you are using a debit credit card, you should be able to use it at any hotel, restaurant or shop which accepts credit cards.
It is unlikely that you will be able to use your debit card for direct debit payment at any shops, restaurants or hotels and accommodation providers.
Is it safe to carry a lot of cash in Japan?
Japan is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world. The country has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and most residents of Japan commonly have enough cash to make it through the day or week even. It is not uncommon for people in Japan to carry large amounts of cash on their person.
Are there any international ATMs that I can withdraw money from in Niseko, Japan?
Yes, there are a number of ATMs in and around the Niseko resort area where you can withdraw money from your foreign bank (in English). The popular convenience store, 7/11, maintains international ATMs that operate 24/7.
You can use most debit and credit cards to withdraw from your overseas account, standard international transaction and currency exchange fees will apply. The withdrawn money will be in Japanese yen—you cannot withdraw foreign currencies.
There are a number of 7/11 convenience stores in the Niseko area with international ATMs. Additionally, you can find 7/11 ATMs in the following locations:
- Lucky Supermarket (Kutchan Town)
- Co-op Sapporo Supermarket (Kutchan Town)
Can I use Travellers' Checks or pay in foreign currencies in Japan?
Travellers' Checks and foreign currency are typically accepted at major hotels or banks. Foreign currencies would not typically be accepted at most restaurants, shops or services.
Many accommodation providers in the Niseko area offer foreign exchange services at their front desk or can advise you where to go. It would be recommended to exchange your foreign currency or Travellers' Checks for Japanese yen for convenience of use.
Questions concerning getting around in Japan:
Can I Use My Mobile Phone In Japan?
Generally yes, although it will require you to turn on international roaming which may incur significant charges. Please ask about the compatibility of your mobile phone in Japan with your mobile phone service provider in your own country before departing.
You can also consider renting a SIM card or rental phone when you arrive here in Japan. Most airports have SIM / phone rental booths.
Free wifi hotspots (FON network) are quite common in Japan and throughout the Niseko resort area. Almost every accommodation provider and the majority of shops and restaurants offer free wifi.
I Don't Speak Japanese...
Niseko is one of Japan's most international regions. As such, you will find that many businesses across the region either have someone on staff who can speak English or are familiar with assisting international guests.
More and more staff with English ability and from overseas are being employed across the Niseko area. During the winter season, the majority of seasonal staff are from overseas. Almost all accommodation providers offer support in English and Japanese, with many also employing Chinese-speaking staff too.
In recent years, English-language support has extended further in Niseko, with English signs in supermarkets, convenience stores, banks and taxis. You will have little to no problem getting around Niseko with zero Japanese and will likely encounter many people who can assist you in English.
Do I Need An International Driver's License?
If you wish to drive in Japan, you must have an appropriate permit. You will require either a Japanese Driver's License or an International Driver's License. International Driver's Licenses must be obtained prior to arrival in Japan and can be issued through over 90 countries under the 1949 Treaty of Geneva.
Is it easy to drive and park in Niseko, Japan?
Parking is in short-supply in Niseko, particularly during the winter season. While some accommodations offer parking, it is generally recommended that winter travellers avoid driving if possible.
Aside from the parking limitations, winter driving conditions are challenging even to those who are experienced winter drivers. Roads become narrow as snow piles up along side them and visibility can be low due to weather. In the morning, sunlight reflecting off the snow can reduce visibility and snowfall can further limit visibility. This said, it is not impossible to drive here in Niseko during the winter, but we would advise against it for many travellers given the increased risks during winter.
During the spring, summer and autumn, driving is a very different case. The roads are wide and easy to drive for the most part, but there are still some tricky sections up in the mountains. Roads are usually poorly illuminated in the evenings, so visibility during the night time can be low.
If you do choose to drive to Niseko, please take a look over the local rules for driving and parking. Most shops and restaurants do not have any parking and it is illegal to park on the road. The local governments are cracking down on illegal parking and issuing fines as appropriate.
Also keep in mind that it is illegal to drive after consuming any alcohol in Japan. If you are stopped and have even a trace of alcohol in your system you will be arrested. Passengers may also be subject to arrest for knowingly riding along with a drunk driver.
Is it easy to get around without a car in Niseko?
Many hotels and accommodation providers have a shuttle service between one of the train stations at Kutchan Town or Niseko Town (it is best to confirm with where you are staying as to which one). Shuttle service runs more frequently during the winter, but is often available during the spring, summer and autumn.
There is a public bus that runs between the resorts and the main towns. During the winter this bus route runs more regularly than during the summer.
Within and between the resorts, there are a number of free shuttle services that run during the winter, but which do not operate during the spring, summer and autumn.
During summer, walking around in the resort areas is no challenge at all. None of the individual resorts are so large that any point within the resort is out of walking distance. Walking between the resorts is even possible, but prior planning is recommended.
During winter, walking around within the resort areas can be a bit more tiring in some sections. Town governments and local businesses join together to provide road clearing and in Grand Hirafu, the main road leading up the resort village's upper half is heated; making getting around in Grand Hirafu much easier and safer.
Getting around via taxi, between the resorts and towns or within a specific resort, is becoming increasingly easier. A taxi between Niseko Town or Kutchan Town and any of the Niseko resorts will cost between 1,500–4,000 JPY one way, but will vary tremendously depending on which resort you are coming to and from.
At peak times during winter, taxis are still hard to come by and we would recommend booking early. Sprint Taxi use an app called TaxiCaller which you can use via the link before or download for free on Android and iPhone which can make getting a taxi much easier.
Niseko is incredible...I want to work here!
Not a problem! As Niseko continues to grow there are more and more year-round jobs available. There are wide range of jobs available, from those based in hospitality through to finance and marketing. If you are just thinking about a single season, there are hundreds of seasonal jobs available each winter. Seasonal winter hiring tends to start around June for the following winter.
You can have a look at our jobs page for the widest range of jobs in the village.