You’ll notice a lot of people who have been to Niseko will mention the “Welcome Centre” in Niseko. So much so, when I first visited Niseko I half expected a giant building in the centre of town. In reality, Hirafu Welcome Centre is a simple bus terminal at the top of Hirafu village with a café and small cabin housing a help desk. If you book a coach or bus transfer from Chitose Airport and you’re staying in Hirafu, you will be dropped at Hirafu Welcome Centre.
Hirafu Welcome Centre has a little room where you have a staffed information counter, information brochures and magazines, plus toilets. Outside you have vending machines with hot and cold drinks. Yes, you can buy hot drinks from vending machines in Japan! Next door is a container café where you can treat yourself to a coffee or hot chocolate before making the final transfer to your accommodation.
If you need to wait for a connecting transfer you can wait inside. Many of the luxury chalets, hotels and apartments provide complimentary transfers between their property and Hirafu Welcome Centre. We recommend you confirm your pick-up and drop-off times with our concierge team prior to arrival and departure as it can get very busy and “winging it” can sometimes end in tears. Our concierge teams at Powderlife and Ministry of Villas can arrange this for you along with coach transfers from the airport.
Most buses and tour companies use Hirafu Welcome Centre to connect with other ski resorts and towns in Hokkaido, including Rusutsu, Kiroro, Niseko Village, Niseko Town and beyond. Fortunately, transport operators (everything, in fact) runs on time in Japan, including public transport. Still, we recommend being 15 minutes early for departure journeys, just in case.
As Hirafu Welcome Centre sounds like it is the beating heart of Hirafu, some people think they can walk to their accommodation on arrival. However, accommodation always appears closer on Google Maps but remember Hirafu Welcome Centre is at the top of the village and in the middle of winter, in the freezing cold – trust me – when I say, arrange the transfer before arrival as you will not regret it.
Once you have ticked all the boxes of arrival and check-in, you might start to feel peckish. We suggest one of two approaches, either hit up one of the many delectable restaurants on offer in Niseko or visit a supermarket to stock up on some groceries that you and your guests can prepare yourselves in your chalet.