Getting To Niseko

Getting To Niseko

Travel to Niseko and Around

There are various options for airport transfers to Niseko or getting to Niseko from Sapporo City. The Niseko travel and booking option information includes:
Other Niseko transport information includes:

Where is Niseko?

Niseko is located in Hokkaido Japan, the powder capital of the world!

Niseko Resort is about 100 km southwest of Sapporo city and Sapporo New-Chitose airport, which is about 2.5 hours drive away.

There is a town called Niseko but the term “Niseko” is often used to refer to “Niseko United” which has four interconnected ski areas. Each Niseko ski area has a village with a corresponding name at the base:

The town of Kutchan is close to Niseko and only 8km from Hirafu which is the largest of the Niseko Resort base areas. The actual town of “Niseko” is about 7 to 8km from the ski villages of Higashiyama (Niseko Village) and Annupuri. You can look at our Niseko map to get a feel for the location of the different villages and see the getting around Niseko section for road distances between the different zones.

Flights to Sapporo Chitose Airport

The New Chitose Airport (Sapporo Airport) is the best gateway airport for Niseko. You can use a flight aggregator to compare different airlines and routes to find a flight that suits you.

There are limited international flights to New Chitose from other Asian cities (e.g. Hong Kong, Seoul or Taipei), and many flight routes will necessitate that you fly into Sapporo on a domestic flight from Tokyo (Haneda or Narita) or Osaka. For the former, where possible arrange for your international flight into the same Tokyo airport as your domestic flight to New Chitose. It’s an hour plus bus ride across Tokyo from Narita to Haneda. This process can take a few hours and has added hassle.

For some flight schedules you may need to stay overnight in a Narita Airport hotel or a Haneda Airport hotel. If you don't want to stay overnight in one of the Chitose Airport hotels or use a private Niseko transfer service, ensure arrival times into New Chitose Airport (CTS) are not later than 7pm for domestic flights and 6:25pm for international flights. To line up with airport shuttle buses, outbound flights should be after 11:40am for domestic flights and after 12:45pm for international flights. Or you can get a private transfer or catch trains instead.

If you need to overnight at the New Chitose Airport, really convenient hotel options are the Air Terminal Hotel or the Portom International Hokkaido. Or there are other New Chitose Airport hotels nearby.

Sapporo Chitose Airport to Niseko Bus & Transfer Services

Bus transport is the most convenient and economical way for a Sapporo airport transfer to Niseko. The Niseko bus takes about 2.5 to 3 hours depending on road conditions and your drop off point.

Hokkaido Resort Liner provides the cheapest options for Sapporo to Niseko bus transport, with drop off / pick-up points at:

If you’re not staying at one of these hotels, you may be able to walk to your accommodation from a bus drop-off point, some accommodations provide a free pick-up service, or you can get a taxi or shuttle bus. Note that bookings can usually only be made from August onwards and need to be made at least 9 days prior to travel.

Or the ultimate in convenience for an airport transfer to Niseko is a private transfer service or limousine transfer where you choose what time you want to travel, and get dropped right at the door of your Niseko accommodation.

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Sapporo City to Niseko Bus Transfers

Hokkaido Resort Liner provides a morning bus service from 10 hotels in Sapporo to Niseko. If you want to stay at one of the Sapporo hotels where the bus stops, see our Sapporo hotels page. Bookings need to be made at least 9 days prior to travel.

If you are wanting a private door-to-door service, Sky Station can arrange a chartered Niseko transfer for 1 to 40 people.

Train to Niseko

Train from Sapporo to Niseko

Although a little complex, it’s possible to catch trains to Niseko from the airport or Sapporo City. From New Chitose airport a rapid train takes about 35 minutes to Sapporo. A train from Sapporo to Otaru takes from 32 to 50 minutes, and then a train to Kutchan takes between 1 hour and 1:20 hours. Niseko station is a further 15-20 minutes on from Kutchan. For train timetables and fares check out google maps or Navitime Japan Travel.

Kutchan is the best train station for those staying in Hirafu or Hanazono, whilst Niseko station is closer for those staying in Niseko Village (Higashiyama) or Annupuri. Buses are available from Kutchan train station, and taxis available from both train stations, or some lodgings provide a pick up service. A taxi between Kutchan station and Hirafu costs about ¥2,500 and takes about 15 minutes.

Trains from Honshu to Niseko
A tunnel runs between Honshu (the main island of Japan) and Hokkaido, and trains between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (southern tip of Hokkaido) only take just over 4:15 hours because it’s a bullet train. In the future, a shinkansen will continue up to Kutchan whilst currently trains take about 3:20 hours from Shin Hakodate up to Kutchan, with a change of trains at Oshamambe. See Hyperdia for routes and fares or Japan Travel Navitime for timetables.

Driving to Niseko

Another option for getting to Niseko is to rent a car at the New Chitose Airport or in Sapporo (or here is another option to search for rental cars). This provides the flexibility to do day trips to other ski resorts near Niseko or to do some sightseeing (e.g. to Otaru or Lake Toya) on down days.

You can rent a car with an English GPS, you plug in the phone number of where you want to go (e.g. the telephone number for Hirafu Niseko for GPS navigation is 0136-22-0109), and the GPS shows you how to get there. Or of course you can use google maps. It’s also reasonably easy to self navigate because many of the road signs are in English. You don’t need to put chains on, because the rental cars out of Sapporo have 4WD/AWD and snow tyres.

Please note that it is mandatory to have an international drivers license to rent and drive a vehicle in Japan. If you turn up without one, the rental company will not rent you a vehicle.

See our Japan driving tips for more information.

It’s also possible to rent a car in Niseko, but this is increasing in popularity so try to book a car as early as possible.

Other Ski Resorts Nearby

There are various ski areas near Niseko, some of which are close by whilst others further afield but still within striking distance for a day trip from Niseko, although they may be better accessed from another base such as Otaru or Sapporo. You can see the map at the top of this page for relativities of ski resorts near Niseko.

You may want to rent a car so that you can readily visit other ski areas near Niseko, or it’s possible to get some nearby ski resorts via bus or other transport. If you book a private Niseko ski guide or private ski/snowboard lesson, transport can be provided between your lodging and various nearby ski areas. Or if you think you might want to spend most of your trip chasing powder, you might want to look at a multi-day guided group trip or a bespoke private guided trip. You can contact us if you want advice on this.

Ski Resorts Near Niseko - Road Distances
 Ski Area  Distance
from Hirafu
from Annupuri
from Kutchan 
 Renowned for
 Moiwa  12km SW  2.5km W  18km SW  sidecountry
 Rusutsu  28km SE  26km SE  29km SE  in-bounds trees
 Asahigaoka  8km NE  18km NE  1.2km W  tiny local ski area
 Iwanai  40km NW  39km NW  32km NW  cat skiing
 Kiroro  51km NE  62m NE  43km NE  lots of snow
 Sapporo Kokusai  84km NE      lots of powder
 Sapporo Teine  98m NE      steep trees
 Tenguyama  66km NE      low elevation
 Asarigawa   70km NE      good for windy days
 Pirika  87km SW      small local ski area
 Nakayamatoge  49km E      closed in main season

Moiwa (aka Niseko Moiwa) is well known for its off-piste and steep side-country runs, and there’s a slightly better chance of scoring freshies than at Niseko. Moiwa is interconnected with Niseko United via the slopes (when the backcountry gates are open). You can get a taxi there.

Rusutsu has some good powder stashes and is slightly less crowded than Niseko and a guided tour can help you get the most out of Rusutsu. Or an inexpensive way to travel between Niseko and Rusutsu is the Donan Bus (NB only Kutchan to Rusutsu bus operating in 23/24). Or you can get a bus and lift ticket package with Niseko Ground Services if a reservation is made. They have an office next door to the Hirafu Welcome Centre. The main limitation with this bus to Rusutsu is that it gets there too late for first lifts.

Kiroro potentially gets even more snow than Niseko. If you don't have access to wheels, Sky Station provides private transfers between Niseko and Kiroro.

The tiny little Iwanai Ski Resort is best known for the Iwanai Cat Skiing operation.

Other Cat Skiing Near Niseko

There are a handful of Niseko cat skiing operators and they all provide transport to/from your Niseko accommodation. You can see the Niseko cat skiing page for comparisons of the operations.

Travel Between Niseko and Furano

Furano is about 4 hours away from Niseko so it’s not ideal for a day trip, but it’s popular to combine multi-day stays at Niseko and Furano on a Japan ski holiday. Hokkaido Resort Liner provides a daily service to / from Furano via Rusutsu. Click here for Furano/Niseko schedules and bookings (bookable from September onwards). Or you can get private door-to-door transfers between Furano and Niseko with Sky Station.

Travel Between Niseko and Tomamu

Tomamu is about 240km from Niseko. Click here for buses between Niseko and Tomamu (bookable after September).

Getting Around Niseko

Niseko is really well geared up for tourists so there are very well established shuttle bus systems to get around and between the different villages (we'll try to forget the schmozzle bus service of 2002/23). A tourist map in English that outlines the various shuttle bus routes and timetables is readily available throughout Niseko, and your accommodation will be able to assist with timetables too. Note that not all shuttles run all season, and some only operate during the peak season.

Be aware that the tops of the four Niseko ski areas are very close together, but the villages at the base of each area fan apart so there is some distance between them. Road distances from Hirafu Niseko (the main village):
  • Hanazono is 10km to the north (10-15 mins)
  • Niseko Village (Higashiyama) is 9km southwest (10-20 minute drive from Hirafu)
  • An’nupuri is 12km southwest (20-30 mins) and just a little further around is Moiwa 
  • Town of Kutchan is 8km northeast
  • Town of Niseko is 10km south 

Niseko United Shuttle
The Niseko United shuttle buses link the bases of Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and An’nupuri. This bus is free if you have a Niseko United lift ticket. Otherwise there is a small fare depending on the distance travelled. The Niseko United shuttle doesn’t operate after about 9:30pm.

Niseko Village Bus
This shuttle bus is targeted to those staying in Niseko Village. The bus travels a few times a day between the Hilton, a few locations within Niseko Village, the Hirafu Crossing, Hirafu Welcome Center, and Kutchan Station. Timetables are available at the Hilton or Niseko Village accommodations.

Hirafu Shuttle
There is a shuttle that runs every 20 to 30 minutes around the Hirafu village and up to the slopes. There are a few different routes.

Hanazono Shuttle Bus
The Hanazono bus has a few different routes and offers a very frequent service (the short staffed 2022/23 season an exception). The bus operates from 8:00am until the evening and is useful for getting around the Hirafu village and Hanazono.

Hotel Shuttles
There are lots of Niseko accommodation providers, particularly some of the big hotels, that offer shuttle services around Niseko. Some provide shuttles to the lifts or evening transport around Hirafu or even into Kutchan.

Local Buses
You might want to venture to the nearby town of Kutchan for a change of scenery or for groceries, ski shops, or restaurants. There are various different buses that go to Kutchan including the Kutchan Night Go bus. Similarly there are various buses that travel around to some of the onsen including those in the Annupuri and Konbu Onsen area.

Taxis are readily available, particularly in Hirafu, and can be hailed on major streets or you can use an app such as GoTaxi. Many taxis have roof racks but they may have to be a little creative when fitting in large ski or board bags. Prices are reasonable but more expensive than many other parts of Japan.

Having a car offers the ultimate in flexibility to travel around Niseko and surrounding areas. Cons are that parking around Hirafu can be very scarce, and the traffic around Hirafu can be rather nasty, especially near the Hirafu intersection.

Walking is a common mode of getting around the Niseko villages, especially to get around Hirafu and its outlying neighbourhoods. Wear very sensible shoes because the roads and footpaths can be incredibly slippery and you might even want to put over-shoe chains on. Don’t be wandering around in your stilettos and don’t be that gaper that wears sneakers in Niseko. And when the powder machine is pumping out snow, you’ll want to have long boots like Sorels on because the paths can be delightfully snowy.