Chances are, if you're a skier, that you've already heard of NISEKO, around 100km west of Sapporo. In recent years, this giant ski resort, hugging Mount Niseko Annupuri and facing the dormant volcano Mount Yōtei-san (also known as the Ezo Fuji for its resemblance to its more famous southern cousin), has become increasingly popular. In and around the village of Hirafu, foreigners – Australians in particular – are buying up and developing every available plot of land, while over at neighbouring Hanazono, a brand-new 8000-bed holiday village is being proposed.
The dominant presence of so many gaijin is seen by some as robbing Niseko of what charm it once had, but, on balance, the fantastic range of facilities, including good accommodation and dining, not to mention some of Japan's best skiing (up to 15 metres of perfect powder snow falls here each year), make this a resort not to be missed.]]>Hakodate
The city has plenty of other compelling attractions. Be sure to check out the lively fish and fresh produce market Asa-ichi; the outstanding exhibition on Ainu culture at the Hakodate City Museum of Northern Peoples; and the night view from the top of Hakodate-yama. In addition, the Ōnuma Quasi National Park, a beautiful lakeland and mountain area with good hiking trails, is an easy day-trip.
In 1868, the last of the Tokugawa shogun's forces was defeated in a siege of Hakodate's Goryōkaku fort, a victory celebrated each year in mid-May with a period costume parade through the town. A much larger parade is held during the Hakodate Port Festival, from August 1 to 5, when 20,000 people in cotton kimono and straw hats perform the "squid dance", an entertaining jig where hands are flapped and clapped in time to rhythmic drumming.