There can be few better views
to wake up to from your bedroom window than a perfectly formed, visually satisfying
The symmetrical snow-capped Mount Yōtei (which means ‘sheep-hoof
mountain’, which, by the way, does not do it justice) is a dormant volcano and
a dead ringer for Mount Fuji. It is in the Japanese ski region of Hokkaidō
Island, widely considered to be the Whistler of Asia. Here, luxury chalets with
unobstructed views over the pulchritudinous sheep’s hoof can
get booked up years in advance.
Which is why when
world-famous design company Yoo wanted to make its first mark on Japan, the
prestigious Hirafu village in Niseko was an obvious choice. Earlier this year, Yoo
Studio, jointly owned by Philippe Starck and John Hitchcox, launched Loft Niseko
in conjunction with Asian developer Apex Property.
The development comprises four
luxurious three-bed three-bathroom apartments where the interiors are as aesthetically
pleasing as the mountain they overlook. And, unlike elsewhere in Asia, the fabulous
views are legally protected from being disrupted by another development.
Each fully furnished condo
occupies an entire floor of the sleek eco-friendly block, decked out with
hardwood heated floors, subtle grey-stone walls and a fully fitted kitchen.
Yoo used its quirky signature touches — from designer furniture to a futuristic
stainless-steel biofuel fireplace in every loft — and all the windows are floor
Having an on-site concierge
is a big plus as the development is being marketed to the world’s time-poor,
cash-rich globetrotters. The concierge is on call between 8am to 8pm to run
guests to and from ski runs and restaurants, and can help plan ahead of arrival,
making dinner bookings, reserving lift passes and arranging private ski
Niseko is not a big resort
but is famed for its fine powder and during the peak months of December–March the
main village of Hirafu is packed with powder hounds and snow bunnies alike.
During the summer it also serves as a well-regarded golfing destination. Niseko’s
VIP ‘pulling power’ is a talking point among the locals: Facebook co-founder Eduardo
Saverin is a regular visitor and last time stayed in nearby luxury apartment
The nightlife is no Val-d’Isère, but for those in the know
there are a couple of excellent drinking holes. Cocktail lovers and jazz
aficionados must not leave without trying Bar Gyu+, aka The Fridge Door Bar,
established 15 years ago by Canadian/Japanese wife-and-husband duo Ioanna and
Hisashi Watanabe. Blink and you would miss this hobbit hole of a bar, only
accessible via a fridge door embedded in a stone wall. Gyu offers one of the
finest collections of Japanese whisky in the village, as well as sensational
cocktails such as Dark Buttered Rum and Hot Apple Pie.
For dinner, a must-try is
Torimatsu in nearby Kutchan-cho. This is a tiny authentic izakaya restaurant (Japanese tapas). Everything is simple yet
grilled to perfection — try the yakitori chicken and pork skewers, and don’t
leave without sampling the gorgeously gooey eggplant. There is a private group
area on the tatami mats but by far the best seats are at the counter where you
can observe all of the action.
To ease tired muscles after a
day on the powder (or perhaps a night’s over-exuberant après-ski), there are a
couple of hot onsen (hot-spring baths) in the Niseko area. Most are split
between men and women (you have to bathe nude but you are given a little
modesty towel) and a few use natural thermal spring water. The Vale, another
luxury apartment development up the road in Hirafu, offers both the traditional
gender-split onsen using a thermal volcanic spring from Mount Yōtei and a private onsen, where you can bathe with your
When it is time to leave, the
concierge will take care of everything, including your transfer back to Sapporo
Airport. The only thing you need to worry about is how soon next year’s powder
from US$1,050 a night in peak season. For more information click here.