Trip Report Impressions of Niseko for First Time Visitor

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Laska Goralska, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    So this was not only my first time skiing overseas, but my first time to Japan. I’ve travelled through most countries in Asia but Japan has evaded me for some time. Wife and I had been planning a trip to Japan for some time, but a mate living in China organised a ski trip to Niseko and pulled that rug from under her and roped me in for it.


    Firstly, didn’t have great conditions. Felt like skiing Perisher to be honest, slushy snow down low, hardpack up top, and not much in the way of genuine steeps. Having said that, I loved the trip. To use the format of a standard trip report I’ll go through in days.


    Arrival

    Arrived in Hirafu on the afternoon of the afternoon of the 26th of Feb. Snowing lightly all the way from Sapporo to Hirafu, was pretty excited at the prospect of more snow, alas. Got to the house in Hirafu, down the bottom of the village. Pretty plush joint called Kado, has its own onsen downstairs and was absolute looxury, glad I wasn;t paying for the accommodation though, yikes.


    Got into the strongu, umeshu and Nikka pretty hard on night one due to the excitement, but was ready to hit the slopes in the morning fresh and well slept.

    Day 1
    Went skiing with my brother (who just that morning when loading the van slipped on ice and bruised the hell out of his tailbone) and a close mate who lives in China. Bluebird day, bit of fresh from the night before, probably the best all round conditions we had for the whole trip. Spent most of the day heading up the Ace Quad and heading over to skiiers right of the chair and through the gate there into some lovely terrain, little tree lined chutes and some off camber steepish stuff that you can see from the left of the chair as you’re heading up. This was pretty nice skiing and steeper than I thought I’d get as I’d been warned about the lack of steeps. Laps of this off piste stuff all day, and a cafeteria style lunch at the King Bell or a surprisingly edible katsu curry and the creamy draught biru. Happy as Larry.


    We had dinner at this great little izakaya two mins walk from the house called Ebisutei. Definitely a step up from the cafeteria lunch on the hill. Fish roe, snow crab, lots of beers and a slippery walk home. More strongu, more Japanese whiskey, home onsen and loads of anti-inflammatories. Great day.


    Day 2
    No companions today. Mate too hungover and sore to go riding, brother can’t walk without proper tailbone pain. Headed up high and rode the meathook single chairs and played in the bumps up top. Did some exploring to get my bearings, skiing down to Annapuri in the morning, then across to Hanazono in the afternoon. Snow conditions starting to pack down up high and soften down low.


    Lunch at Boyoso was nice. Great little hut on the hill on the Hirafu side, I’m sure lots of you know it. Definitely the best on hill food I had while there (went back most days), beats the shit out of the Frostbite Café’s chips and gravy. Was fun not having to wait around for others so did lots of hard skiing and headed back to the house to get changed and head to an outdoor onsen nearby. Was lovely to sit in there and recover after big ski day.


    Lots of beers/strong at home to wash down the voltaren, then first dinner at that ramen joint just up from Rhythm. Awesome dinner. Supply run to Seicomart and fried chicken, some sushi and other snacks for second dinner.


    Day 3
    Brother back in action. Mate from China boarded with his wife. Snow conditions worsening (getting really sloppy down low). Stayed high, carved up a storm off the single chairs down to mid mountain and lunch again at Boyoso (oh man the salmon roe bowls, stick them in my face).


    First dinner/late lunch at the food vans (the sloppy Bolognese filled baguette with a stack of cheese hit the spot well). Strongu, whiskey, umeshu and home onsen, followed by dinner out at an izakaya across the road from Ebisutei called Nagomi (I think). Loved it, ate so much it’s not funny, drank about four or five lovely creamy draught beers (how do they get it so creamy???) and tried basashi (horse sashimi) which was pleasantly mild and clean tasting, and a few other memorable delights. $45 a head for the bill. Just outrageously cheap.


    Day 4
    All back on the mountain together. Nothing extreme just having fun riding as a group, which is something I do rarely. Lunch at Boyoso again, then the afternoon skiing by myself as all the others were knackered. Headed through some other gates to find pretty rough, bumped up lines which were fun at times and a chore the later the day got. Walked all the way back from the hill with kit slung (and walking boots luckily). Stopped off at Seicomart for first dinner and a refreshment. Those little containers of karaage are amazing, and those perfect little sandwiches with no crusts, and a goddamn katsu curry. F you aussie 7/11s.


    Went night skiing for a couple of runs, but it was like skiing on frozen cauliflower. Canned it pretty quickly and went home to get changed for dinner.


    Dinner at this French joint just up from Rhythm. Melted raclette, charcuterie, a full gruyere fondue. Say what you want about it, that sort of food makes my smile in the cold after skiing all day. Then home for onsen and digestifs. Great day.


    Day 5
    Skied with my brother and mate again (his last day on snow). Met up with a friend of his who lived in Hirafu for a year so showed us a few sneaky spots. The trees around Miharashi at the top of the gondy still had some powder to be found, as long as you stayed dangerously close to the trees. Lunch again at boyoso. Couple of runs all together after lunch, then I stayed on this hill while everyone left for a pre-dinner snooze.


    As I was coming down past the double chair that takes you to the singles, I saw a female boarder writhing around in absolute agony on the ground, with nobody stopping. Obviously did the right thing and asked if she was Ok, and she was not, looked like a broken arm, she was not in a good way at all. I clicked out, crossed my skis up the hill a bit and tried to flag a few people down. Four or five people just said sorry can’t help ior just waved their hands at me and kept skiing on! Granted they were all Japanese but I would have though grabbing ski patrol was de rigeur when you see crossed skis. Ski patrol finally came up the hill, asked if I knew her and thanked me and said I could go. The injured woman, who was Chinese and introduced herself to me as Wendy, begged me to tell her friend down the bottom what had happened. I was to look for somebody in black jacket and brown pants, to tell them Pu-Pu (not Wendy as she had told me) was hurt. So I started asking asking people who matched the description: ‘excuse me, are you waiting for Pu-Pu?. F*ck I got some funny looks and gave up after the fourth or fifth person. Still shocked at how few people even slowed down for her on the hill when she was clearly in a pretty bad way.


    First dinner from Seicomartu on the way home. Lots of strongu (the grapefruit one, my god it’s deadly) then off to second dinner at a ridiculously nice place called Acorn for a 9 course deg that just rocked my world. Amazing. Chef trained at El Bulli, glad I wasn’t paying. Still, nicest meal I had there (or this year for that matter).


    Started snowing that evening. Snowed pretty hard for a little while. Pretty excited that I might get some fresh for my last day.


    Day 6
    Not much snow settled in the village, but when I got up to the hill, caught the gondy up and saw no foot tracks up the Miharashi walk, headed up there. Finally, fresh, untracked powder. Not knee deep, but powder and fresh lines nevertheless. Did about 11 laps of gondy > walk up > fresh tracks. Chased a big white hare through the snow and ripped through the trees (much more skier friendly than gnarly old branchy gum trees!). Absolutely cooked my legs as it’s a pretty flat cat track out and a walk up each time, but man that was the best skiing of the trip. Was a Monday too, so the only other people I saw walking up there were two Japanese snowboarders. Had it all to myself. Heaven. Didn’t even stop for lunch, was having too much fun to ruin it with something as banal as food!


    And that was it. Bus trip back to Sapporo hotel that night, then early flight out the next day after pissing away the rest of my money on Pokemon and Melon Kuma stuff for the kids, and loads of gorgeous sweet stuff for the family. Royce chocolate, wow. The chocky chips. Amazing. Not to mention a lazy konbini dinner, absolutely shits on a soggy or dry meat pie with sauce.


    So, all in all was what I expected in terms of the village; a Japanese themed ski resort. Didn’t see any cringey bogan behaviour or anything like that. Snow conditions not ideal until the last day (and doesn’t look like they’ve gotten any better since), but I get stoked skiing supertrail so I’m easy to please I guess.


    Looking forward to going back with the family when the kids are old enough, and hopefully getting some faceshots and knee deep. Also, first thing I did when I got home was to start trying to find somewhere in Australia to buy a washlet to retrofit. I’ve been spoiled, and have not enjoyed using the toilet (usually a fairly enjoyable activity) since getting home. Bless Japanese toilets, they’re amazing.

    Highlights
    konbini booze - strongu, japanese whiskey and sour umeshu for the win
    konbini food
    izakaya food
    first day through the gates and last day miharashi laps in untracked though not too deep powder
    the house and semi outdoor sunken wooden spa opening up into a giant snow mound for rolling around in

    Lowlights
    skiing partners having a low threshhold for hangovers!
    brother's injured tailbone
    lack of fresh snow

    Oh, and I’ll post a few photos soon.
     
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  2. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local
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    Excellent report, thanks for sharing. Re the creaminess of the beeru, most taps have two spouts - the second is for pouring an extra creamy head.
     
  3. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local
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    Oh, and look forward to seeing the pics.
     
  4. Sbooker

    Sbooker One of Us

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    You're not selling it to me well.:)
    None the less I plan on sampling Japanese skiing and snow in 2020.
    If it's as good - even in a different way - to North America and Europe I'm sure I'll love it.
     
    #4 Sbooker, Mar 13, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
  5. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    It seems as though its been years since it snowed "properly" in Niseko consistently.
    Other places have been getting their fill.
    However the old days of 50cm overnight day after day after day seemed to have disappeared
     
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  6. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local
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    We were in Rusutsu 3 years ago and got 10-20cm every night for nine nights. All the north and west facing pistes were scoured but plenty of deep stuff on the leeward side. No big dump though.
     
  7. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Back in the day.
    Even before all the BS social media hype and so forth.
    The snow in Niseko used to be relentless.
     
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  8. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    First lot of snaps, didn't take many as I chose not to have my phone with me but there're a few around
     
  9. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Couple more...
     
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  10. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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  11. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    Nagomi is my favourite place to eat in Niseko - went back 5 times in 25 days, including my 50th birthday. Please tell me you tried the tofu and vegetable soup (yasai no tofu agedashi) - Lordy be its MAGIC! The owners are such lovely people.

    You seem to have found most of my favourite spots on the hill and in the village. LOL

    @Laska Goralska you should’ve reached out - we were on the hill happy to have extra ski buddies (especially as he boys broke themselves on Yotei)

    The snow was most definitely low tide.
    It was the same last March. But it hasn’t been that bad previously. If you had fun as it was, then if you come back Mid Jan and get the deep Hokkaido pow it’s famed for - you’ll be frothing more than your creamy biru!
     
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  12. Ozgirl

    Ozgirl A Local
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    Interesting that you say this. Have been wanting to ask what the Lee side meant for a while. And we head to rusutsu tomorrow! (Sorry to thread hijack!)
     
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  13. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    Ohhh and what the hell is up with people not stopping for an injured person?!?!

    After having to straightline it at peak hour to get ski patrol after my friend and personal trainer hurt herself I have patrols numbers for each of the hills saved in my phone, along with the required nihongo saved for quick reference.

    I am more and more aware that lots of people on the hill are unaware of the mountain code nor even pretty basic common sense and courtesy. Education of the masses will improve the experience for all, but how to achieve it? Volunteer docents? Lift pass discounts or comps for those who donate time to show people around the mountain (whilst also feeding basic information like ski patrol phone numbers and pointing out dangerous and inconsiderate behaviour on the mountain.)???
     
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  14. Olgreg

    Olgreg One of Us
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    Great report. We stayed early Feb near Ebisutei and Nagomi, had a few drinks in the little bar on the corner next to Coto, also a great place. Earlier in the season would get the goods. I had a week of windy weather, lift closures, but good early powder runs down low at Hanazono. We had to leave early on 5 Feb due to family issues at home, and then the next 8 days or so had super cold, dry pow every day. Good luck next time
     
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  15. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Haha thanks mamabear!

    Nagomi was possibly the best meal I've ever had for $50. I don't think we did get the soupy tofu sadly, but I'm not sure I had room for anything else to be honest.

    Would have been great to get some more local knowledge so next time if you're still around and about I'll most definitely pm you and come for a slide (hopefully in the fabled Hokkaido powder I missed out on this time around)

    Yotei-zan in indeed an imposing figure, looming large over Hirafu. I actually know of somebody who messed themselves up pretty badly on it, so I hope your lad is ok. Staring at it all week makes it look pretty enticing though...

    Enjoy Japan, I can see why you spend so much time there
     
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  16. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Lee is opposite to windward.
    Windward is the side of a ridge or sail that faces the wind.
    Lee is the other.
    Leeside is where snow drifts to.
     
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  17. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Yeah it was pretty bizarre to me

    Another thing I couldn't help but notice were the number people filiming themselves on their phone while riding (invariably people who look like they don't need any distraction as it is), daw lots of near misses from the lower chairs as a result. Crazy...
     
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  18. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Chinese?
     
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  19. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local
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    Oooh, have fun!
     
  20. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local
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    What's the red Asahi can?
     
  21. Ozgirl

    Ozgirl A Local
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    No explanation??
    Or any run suggestions?

    Last time was 7yrs ago and we had a guide! PM if easier.
     
  22. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Sakura Happoshu ?
     
  23. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Almost forgot the MVP of the trip, suturongu!!!!

     
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  24. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Yes, almost exclusively so
     
  25. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    I bought it under the assumption it was a limited edition springtime Asahi infused with cherry blossoms.

    Nope, just Asahi
     
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  26. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Looks like Happoshu to me.
     
  27. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Enjoy your trip. Even if you don’t have fresh snow it’s pretty hard not to enjoy life in surroundings like that.
     
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  28. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Chu hi!
     
  29. sara777

    sara777 A Local
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    This is gold :D
     
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  30. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Same at Perisher
     
  31. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    They’re just awesome over ice, not too sweet unlike the alcohols here.

    Would be thoroughly illegal in oz I suspect
     
  32. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Have bought in Sydney.....
     
  33. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Middle aged ski holiday detritus.

    The stopover in Bangkok on the way to Sapporo was a fruitful one in pharmaceutical terms.
     
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  34. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Not way, where, and how much?
     
  35. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Not telling sorry. $26 a sixpack
     
  36. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    Ha!!
    Not my kids!
    They think we are mental climbing/hiking stuff - they are too lazy to walk up the stairs to chat with us most of the time.

    Nah this was the husbands.
    Mine was fine - he had just summitted Aconcagua after all. And YK had the resilience of youth being 20 years younger. It was mainly one hubby who really had no business attempting it fitness or skill wise....but you know...testosterone, manliness, proving you’re not actually old and unfit... :rolleyes:

    Yotei is well worth the effort for the stunning views even if it’s a hella icy gnarly descent, but if you get the day right and have good views and a nice ride down you are one lucky skier! You can always just hike to treeline if the conditions are shite, and avoid the icy descent.

    Yep. Mainly.
    But it’s a millennial thing too.
    Our fostered Spaniard was huge at doing it also.
    Didn’t matter how many times I told him that he needed to WATCH where he was going rather than filming himself riding garlands, he kept doing it.
     
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  37. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    The price was secondary to location for me but I understand
     
  38. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    I told some people.
    They went bought 3 cases
     
  39. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local
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    Oh sorry, Donzah had already given a response re leeward. Leeward is the opposite side of the mountain to wind direction. Re where to ride, I don't know current conditions. But if there is fresh snow head up the gondola to East Mt and hit the trees, or piste if not tracked and head to Mt Isola. My fave areas were around Heavenly and Steamboat
     
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  40. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    Yeah but if they get good turn over of it, they’ll order more. If it’s a big seller then your supply is going to be ongoing. If no one buys it they’ll stop stocking it.
     
  41. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    It's not quite that easy to import alcohol...
     
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  42. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    My money is on West Tiger Chair - but I’m sure @Ozgirl will report back as to what was on and what wasn’t.
     
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  43. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    It’s like telling someone about some sneaky spots you like to ski and getting up there and finding it tracked out.

    It’s like, **** them, but **** your own self for telling them!

    So yeah, I understand why you’d keep that one to yourself!
     
  44. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    This as good a clue.
    *thats my daughters hand BTW. I'm not a midget
     
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  45. Medicine_Shoes

    Medicine_Shoes First Runs

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    Tokyo Hometown in Melbourne sell them for around 5 bux a can. I'm still trying to find Yebisu or Suntory Premium Malts somewhere at a decent price.
     
  46. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    I can get yebisu for $6
     
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  47. Laska Goralska

    Laska Goralska One of Us

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    Yebisu is the business for sure. Best beer I've had out of a can yet
     
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  48. Medicine_Shoes

    Medicine_Shoes First Runs

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    ohh, if in Melbourne, do tell please :)

    First time I had Yebisu was from one of the beer girls at the baseball at Tokyo Dome back in 2015. They pour draft beer from a keg on their back. Don't even need to leave your seat!

    [​IMG]
     
  49. bluestick

    bluestick One of Us
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    Really enjoyed the report, thanks. I can (almost) see the attraction of Niseko if you haven't been to Japan before and it is low season. All over Japan the conbini food and drink options are really something aren't they? Even the 100 yen coffee is OK. The amount of packaging is a little concerning though.Supermarkets are great (better) also. Thanks again.
     
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  50. Olgreg

    Olgreg One of Us
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    Hmmmm. Yebisu... couldn’t find the yebisu black this time.