Concierge Peter has worked at Kimamaya by Odin, in Hokkaido, for six years. UK-born, Peter has lived in Japan for almost 10 years, with six of them at Kimamaya by Odin and the previous three years in Japan’s south, on the main island of Honshu. Being a small property, Kimamaya by Odin allows Peter to interact with guests on a very personal level, attracting like minded-people always happy to chat over a glass of wine.
His favourite locale when enjoying a day off
I love to get my road bike out, a particular favourite being a circular loop around Mount Yotei which is a nice, 45-kilometre circuit. Otherwise, I will try to make the time to get out on the local parts of the Shiribeshi River which is great for fly fishing.
Where he takes his own guests when they visit
When friends and family visit it’s usually about the food and nature. So, visiting some of the local farmers’ cooperative markets, and local, artisanal producers, is always a must. When the weather allows, as well as taking in the scenery of the wider Niseko area, including the breathtaking Mount Yotei. I always make sure to visit Lake Toya and the Shakotan Peninsula. Both are accessible within 60-90 minutes from Niseko and whilst being spectacular for the vistas, they also have a bounty of local delicacies, which change with the seasons. The sea urchin, available around the Shakotan Peninsula, being a particular favourite in the summer season.
It’s a rainy day but we want to explore, what we should do
Being dominated by the outdoors scene, the rain can of course curtail many of the activities in the local area. However, one thing that will always leave you feeling relaxed, come rain or shine, is to visit one of the many local onsen (hot springs). The Yugokurotei Onsen being a particular favourite for the size of the outdoor rock bath. Of course, the food is never far away so going to Niseko View Plaza, a local famers’ cooperative market, and places like Milk Kobo (dairy farm). If there is the time, it can also be great to visit the nearby port city of Otaru, which is just 70 minutes away by train.
What he recommends as night-time entertainment
In Japan, we have many different kinds of restaurants with many focusing on different elements of Japanese cuisine. However, some of the most lively atmospheres can be found in Japanese Izakayas. If you translate the word Izakaya, is will say pub or tavern. But these places are equally about food as they are drinking, so think more gastro pub with almost tapas style servings. Some of the best in the area are Ebisute and Bang Bang. You can also find live DJ events at Musu which is an all-day bistro transforming into a great après-ski bar at night.
Key phrase or phrases should visitors learn
I think one of the best things to learn is itadakimasu (i-ta-daki-mas) and Gouchisousamadeshita (go-chi-so-sama-de-shita). The former being used before meals as an expression of gratitude and the later mention how delicious the meal was. Both are enshrined in the Japanese culture and using the latter on leaving a restaurant is a great way to show your appreciation to the staff and chefs.
Where the best shopping and souvenirs are
Being in the mountains, most of our shops are based around winter sports clothing and equipment. So, whether you forgot part of your gear or want a new jacket, some of the stores in Odin Place will have you covered. For souvenirs, Japan has a rich tradition of gift giving, particularly after you travel. Because of this, you can find many beautifully packaged sweet and savoury items to take back. Each area in Japan will have their own specialities, some in Hokkaido include Royce Chocolate and the very delicious Marusei Butter Sandwich, a type of cookie. Always remember to check out the domestic terminal in the New Chitose Airport. Here you can find an amazing array of shops catering to this gift giving tradition.
A child-friendly thing to do or place to go
Of course, we are in the mountains so, in the winter, we have great ski schools available for your children to learn to ski or snowboard. There are also some great play areas with tubing and sledging available. In the summer, there is the Pure Niseko adventure play area which can certainly keep them active for the entire day with tree walks, big slides and zip lines.
His best-kept secret or favourite hidden treasure
With the Niseko area being so small and also becoming very popular in the last few years, it’s very hard to keep a secret these days. But you should certainly take the time to visit somewhere like Somoza, which is a 150 kominka building which has been restored and transformed into stunning art space café and also chef’s table dinner experience.
The best way to get to the airport
It varies with the seasons. During the winter, without doubt, the best way is to take the very convenient coach transfers, which run from the airport to Hirafu. However, outside of the winter, a rental car is always a good idea, as it will also give you the freedom to explore. If you don’t have too much luggage there are also trains that leave directly from the airport to Kutchan station. Which also provides some great views along the way as parts of the track run along side the ocean.
The best time of the year to visit
My personal favourite will always be late summer, early autumn. With great temperatures and less rain, it allows us to enjoy the nature and changing of the season. Also, it happens to be one of the best times in the whole of Japan for produce as the local farmers work starts to pay dividends.
Anything else we should know when visiting
When exploring Japan in general, especially the bigger cities, a small but great piece of advice when using trains and subway systems is to check which exit number you need to use when leaving stations. Many of the larger stations in Japan have multiple exits and the difference between going out of number 10 or 11 can leave in a completely different area. Lastly, always remember to look up. When exploring in Japan many hidden gems can be found on the higher floors of buildings that occupy many of the cities. Some of the best meals I have had have been found on a random fifth floor of a high-rise block.
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