Niseko’s cafés offer locally sourced produce, quality coffees and tasty pastries | Courtesy of Ichiseko Market
Beyond its world-renowned snow, summer alpine activities and exciting restaurant scene, Niseko’s high-quality local produce and the diverse influences of its international community mean that the town’s cafés also provide delectable experiences.
Whether you’re looking for a mid-ski pick-me-up, an afternoon spent sipping Japanese green tea, or somewhere to enjoy the town’s après-ski scene, Niseko regular Aja Ng picks the best cafés for quality coffees, tasty pastries and locally sourced food in Niseko, Japan.
Cafe, German, $$$
Courtesy of Graubunden
Lauded for its delicious food, great coffee and warm service, Graubunden is a charming, homely German-style café featuring wooden floors and furniture, lush potted plants and a wood-burning fireplace. The café is located a little way away from the heart of Hirafu, the largest of Niseko’s villages. For brunch or lunch, go for one of their signature sandwiches (try the Makkari bacon and egg baguette), with a slice of moist strawberry cake with fresh cream for dessert, and a robust cappuccino to top the meal off. Expect to spend ¥1,200-2,000 (£8-14) per person here.
Over in Niseko Village’s shopping enclave, Village Patisserie is a cosy little café decorated in the colours of a floral garden, set within the Machiya-inspired wooden structures of The Village, which are designed to look like traditional Japanese townhouses. On the menu are espresso-based coffees and gourmet teas, along with crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside waffles, fluffy pancakes, seasonal fruit-filled Swiss rolls and Japan’s famous Cremia soft serve ice-cream – made from rich Hokkaido milk.
Heaven for carb-lovers, Guzu-Guzu serves some of the most delicious breads, pizzas and pastries in Niseko. A coffee is ¥400 (£2.80), while sandwiches cost from ¥600 (£4) at this quaint, cosy café situated on the fringes of Hirafu, looking out on Niseko’s alpine forest. The Dutch babies (American-style popover pancakes) are a speciality not to be missed, and more substantial daily specials are also on offer for lunch.
Spacious Jojo’s is a fun and central destination in Niseko. Besides coffees, milkshakes, burgers and pastas, the space also houses an 11-metre-high (36-feet-high) rock climbing wall and an indoor kids’ playground, making it an easy choice that will please even the most varied group. “One of the things we’ve always done is support local producers,” says owner Ross Findlay. “Our coffee beans are sourced from Sprout in Kutchan, while our meat, vegetables and dairy are mostly made or harvested in Hokkaido.” Meals here can start at ¥1,000 (£7) per person, for breakfast or tea, while lunches and dinners are about ¥3,000 (£21).
No visit to Niseko would be complete without an afternoon spent at the Milk Kobo, a café and dairy farm that has garnered quite a following. Light-as-air choux pastries are filled with silky smooth vanilla-tinged custard, made fresh from milk and cream from Hokkaido cows. The café is clean and comfortable, and is housed in a log building close to Niseko Village, featuring large plate-glass windows overlooking the pastoral surroundings. Guests pop in to sample the yoghurt, ice cream, cheese soufflé cakes and milkuchen, which can also be taken home as gifts (most items cost below ¥400 (£2.80)). In wintertime, the field beside the Milk Kobo makes an ideal spot for building snowmen and sledding.
Serving some of the best coffees, hot chocolates, matcha lattes and freshly baked pastries in serene Annupuri, Ichiseko is beautiful and bright, with comfortable seating, rustic wooden tables made from tree trunks and cross-sections, and sleek stone serving ware. Large windows frame the gorgeous views and serene settings on this side of the mountain, adding to the zen ambience of the café. “Here in Niseko, we all take pride in our products, either hand-making or supporting local, organic or eco-friendly producers and concepts. You can feel the passion for local produce, and the love for Niseko,” head barista Melvin Acosta says. He describes Niseko as a place “where people are drawn by nature and the culture to pursue alternative lives.” Brunch would cost ¥1,500-1,800 (£10.50-£21) per person.
Taking its name from Hokkaido’s famed silver birch forests, White Birch is an off-the-beaten-track, ‘mom and pop’ café loved by Niseko’s residents. The interior sports earthy tones, lending it a relaxed ambience. Delicious coffees, pastries, sandwiches and burgers are available till 4pm. They open for dinner from 6pm, with a menu featuring their signature baked curry with Makkari pork and an array of wines.
Charming and cosy, Café If is run by a Japanese couple who make everything from scratch with the best locally sourced produce. Their whipped cream with berries is one of the signature dishes, along with a decadent mascarpone cheesecake. More substantial dishes come in the form of delicious pastas (vongole, carbonara) and pizzas, costing ¥2,000-3,000 (£14-£21) per dish. Just off the main Hirafu intersection, the brick building is set back from the busy streets, providing a calm spot in which to escape.
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture and enjoy green tea at Green Saso, a tiny 10-seater specialist café-cum-gift shop. Browse local pottery, confectionary and crafts, and then indulge in the creamiest of matcha sundaes, fragrant hojicha (a Japanese roasted green tea) lattes and scrummy pancakes filled with adzuki bean paste. The ambience is calm, with the café housed in a modern wooden structure in the quiet, wooded Kabayama area, away from Hirafu’s busier streets. A bite here is priced at ¥500–2000 (£3.50-£14) per person.
Serving specialty coffee near the main Kutchan train station, Sprout is a popular, buzzing café in Niseko. The cosy, inviting roastery and café serves a good range of single origin coffees and three house blends (¥450 (£3) for a cappuccino), which they also provide to other cafés in the Niseko area. Customers can partake in sandwiches, cream puffs, or choose one of the cakes on display. The café has also become a gathering place for cyclists, hikers and runners in the region, with legendary ultrarunner Scott Jurek spotted recently.
The early bird definitely catches the worm at Green Farm, one of Hirafu’s more popular cafés. Here, the tagline is “food from farm to fork,” and the café serves an array of Western dishes highlighting local produce. Breakfasts range from granola to proper fry-ups replete with eggs, bacon and sausages, while the lunch menu features hearty salads, vegan burgers and pork carnitas (Mexican pulled pork). Prices range from ¥300 (£2) for baked goods, and ¥1,000 (£7) upwards for plated dishes. The spacious café is full of natural light, with exposed ceilings, cement flooring, hefty wooden tables and gleaming cases displaying a plethora of deli items.
Over in Hanazono, Hana1 is more of a shack than a café, but it has a huge following. Located by the Hanazono Edge ski-in, ski-out eatery, the café serves some of the best barista-pulled, espresso-based coffee on the slopes, along with homemade six-spice chai, muffins, toasties and light snacks. The daily queue of skiers and snowboarders getting their morning coffee is testament to the reputation and quality that owner Mikey Flanagan has built here, and come evening people rock-up for après-ski shots and beers. In spring, they also hold sausage sizzles every weekend.
In Kutchan’s shopping mall, the sleek Odin Place, Koko offers pain au chocolat, croissants and Danish pastries, along with full-bodied coffees brewed from a blend of Hokkaido and South American beans, plus premium Belgian chocolate drinks. Not so ideal for sitting down and grazing, Koko is more suited for those who just want to grab and go, which is great because you can have your coffee while you browse the sartorial offerings of the boutiques in Odin Place. Prices begin at ¥300 (£2) for a pastry and ¥400 (£2.80) for coffee.