Hirafu log house in Autumn

The journey was over.  We had a few short days to move in to our beautiful (and some might say romantic) log cabin before we were to start work.  We found this amazing log cabin months earlier, at the start of our journey.  It was a two-story, loft-style log cabin right in the middle of Hirafu!  We were walking distance to all the bars and restaurants, as well as walking distance to the gondola and chairlifts.  The rent wasn’t too bad either, ¥110,000/month (plus utilities).  And Risa also managed to find a job, working in reception/sales for The Niseko Company (who were managing our property).

I was lucky enough to land a dream job working at Powderlife magazine as an assistant editor-slash-photographer.  The original plan/dream was to work with one of the companies in town taking photographs, but this job offer came up first and was far too good to turn down, even if it meant that I didn’t spend as much of my working time on the mountain as I could have.  I still think I had one of the best jobs in town.  Photographing (and writing about) food, restaurants and parties!

Niseko Hirafu early November with no snowNiseko Hirafu early November with no snow - Snow Machine & Mt YoteiIt was still early November, so winter hadn’t officially started, in fact, winter this season got off to a false start with a very early snowfall in October, and then very little in November.  The opening ceremony was held without there actually being any snow!

Wild Bills Niseko Hirafu Opening PartyWild Bills Niseko Hirafu Opening PartyNiseko Hirafu Splash Bar partyNiseko Hirafu Splash Bar partyNiseko Hirafu Gyu+ Bar aka Fridge Door BarSure, some first-timers were a little worried, but generally the town continued to open with huge opening parties every other night.

Niseko Hirafu early seasonNiseko Hirafu early seasonNiseko Hirafu early seasonBut, this worry didn’t last.  As always, the snow came.  And came.  And came.  It only took a few days of snow to bury everything and transform the town to the usual winter season hustle and excitement.

Niseko Hirafu Log House Winter_PKO1699

Niseko Hanazono Zip Line_PKO5764Niseko Hirafu Park w. Mt YoteiNiseko Hirafu - Learning to skiNiseko Hirafu Mt. Yotei 80's FluroNiseko Hanazono 80's FluroNiseko Villiage MTV Jump CompetitionNiseko Hirafu Disabled Gentemstick riderThere was also snowboarding (or skiing if you’re that way inclined) to be done.  Niseko is famous for the abundance of light and dry snow.  The low altitude also makes for interesting off-piste terrain, as there are still trees to snowboard in and around.

_PKO3010Erin McNaught - MTV NisekoArt vs. Science - MTV NisekoErin McNaught and some excited fans - MTV NisekoArt vs. Science live - MTV NisekoNiseko Hirafu New Year's Eve FireNiseko Hirafu New Years EveNiseko Hirafu Vale Bar Grill Vale JamEven though Niseko is such a small town, there was always a lot going on off the slopes.  Competitions, parties, live music.  MTV even came to town and brought with them Art vs. Science.

Yuki-chichibu Onsen, Niseko GoshikiYugokorotei Onsen, Niseko AnnupuriGoshiki Onsen, Niseko GoshikiNiseko is also blessed with an excellent assortment of onsens (hot springs) to soak in, though to get to the best ones, you’ve got to be prepared to travel as some of the ones in Hirafu can get a little crowded.

Niseko Kutchan Yukitopia Snow FestivalNiseko Kutchan Yukitopia Snow FestivalThere was also the nearby town of Kutchan with its own snow festival, Yukitopia, complete with a ‘glide across the water’ competition.

Hiking Mt. Yotei, NisekoAnd, even though the resort area of Niseko is enormous (well, at least quite large), there comes a time to venture out to other locations.  Within clear view from almost anywhere in Niseko is Mt. Yotei, Hokkaido’s version of Mt. Fuji (a 1:2 scale).  After years of wanting to, with a few friends, we finally climbed (as far as weather would permit), strapped our snowboards on and snowboarded the beautiful fresh snow that buried the exciting terrain.  We were all experienced snowboarders with considerable back-country experience, but not being familiar with the mountain, we hired a guide from Niseko eXtreme.  We’ll never forget that day.

But, we couldn’t spend too much time enjoying ourselves, we had a wedding to plan…