Article courtesy of the Herald Sun: read the original article here.

MY HUSBAND is planning a week of skiing in Niseko, Japan, in February. I would like to go with him but I don’t ski. Is there anything else to do in the area? My interests are photography, cooking, crafts, reading – just not skiing. I am quite self-sufficient and don’t mind a few days away from him if I have something to do?

Advice from Doc: The Niseko area, made up of five ski resorts, is about two hours south of the city of Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido. You may be staying in the Hirafu village as it has the largest selection of accommodation and restaurants, and from here you can explore the other villages, all within a couple of kilometres, via shuttle bus.

Top of my list would be to relax in the many onsens on offer. Some properties feature their own on-site, while many others can be found around town. An onsen is a naturally heated, volcanic water spring, usually outdoors. It’s a tradition in Japan to bathe naked in the springs, and while there are some mixed baths, the majority are either for men or women.

They can be surrounded by a Japanese-style garden, looking out over the countryside. The water is usually around 40C and the minerals it contains are said to help with many ailments.

If you want to head off for a couple of days, go to Sapporo, where in the first two weeks of February you’ll find the Sapporo Snow Festival. It showcases hundreds of ice sculptures and snow statues, and teams from around the world participate. Book your accommodation well ahead as this is the busiest time of the year.

Sapporo also has many museums, including the Modern Arts, the Historical, the Winter Sports and the University. The Rokka Library is somewhere you can relax in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee and a book.

The Sapporo Pirka Kotan Culture Centre explores the history, culture and life of the Ainu people, the original inhabitants of Hokkaido. There’s clothing, tools and workshops teaching Ainu embroidery and how to make musical instruments.

From Sapporo, you could take a day trip by train to the seaside town of Otaru, about 30 minutes away. Walk around this lovely port and explore the canal, side streets and fishermen’s houses.

Take an overnight trip to Josankei Onsen. This town is located inside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

The hot springs here were discovered in 1866, and there are many restaurants and shops for you to uncover.

Back in Hirafu, try a snow-shoe tour, snow-mobiling or a horse-riding trek to discover the beautiful countryside.

Niseko Central: This is great advice showing how many non-ski activities there are in and around Niseko. In fact, if you are a total non-skier, I would add the world famous cuisine to this list. While your friends or family are off ploughing through powder, sit back and enjoy the wide-range of exquisite food on offer to you in Niseko from Michelin-starred fine dining through to rough-and-ready (but equally delicious) Japanese pubs.

Chris Pickering

Posted on 11 August, 2014 by Chris Pickering in Travel Tips, Winter.