In Hokkaido for a winter break recently, we booked Villa 688 of HakuVillas, undisputedly the best place to stay in Niseko. It’s minutes from the ski slopes and also just around the corner from the main streets of Niseko, with its stores and restaurants.
However, excellent as this is, location is not the biggest attraction of this building with only five units, that someone has described as “the first place you should book if you win the lottery.” Frankly, the villas are over the top and in a good way.
WHAT IT’S LIKE AT THE TOP
The H2 Group who run HakuVillas have kept ten steps ahead of even the fussiest clients, and so they have thought of every convenience and comfort. There is something for everyone to like and remember; and for me, it was probably the Eames chair in the living room, by the fireplace and with a view of Mount Yotei, and the fact that I could blast all my favorite songs on the speakers in every room I happened to be in.
ABOUT HAKUVILLAS PENTHOUSE
The crown jewel of HakuVillas is Villa 888, which is spread over three floors and it comfortably sleeps sixteen. Frankly, it’s the unit that guests who have “been there and done that” should choose because there is truly nothing like it so far in Niseko. Or in Hokkaido, for that matter. It comes with its own man cave, sauna, and two spa treatment rooms.
The outdoor hot springs pool, created with rocks on the massive terrace with a full-on view of Mount Yotei, will make anyone’s jaw drop. But then so will the price. Last I checked, this penthouse unit was going for 3,000,000 yen per night. So it’s great for the big family trip — or the holiday with nannies and bodyguards in tow as there’s room for everyone — but it’s obviously way too big for a family of four or six.
Thus the other equally enticing options below heaven, and in this case three: Villas 588, 688 and 788, all alike and all furnished in a mixture of contemporary country chic with touches of Asian details and cutting edge design. They’re really mini versions of the penthouse. So regardless of which villa you choose, no expense was obviously spared in creating these, so expect the very best.
WHERE WE STAYED: Villa 688
ROOMS: 2 master bedrooms/ 1 double bedroom / 1 room with four bunkbeds / 1 living room / 1 dining room & kitchen / 1 game room
GOODIES & TREATS: Unlimited supply of caramel popcorn and Snickers, plus freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies and lovely canapés for apres ski. The private butlers bring you tea and coffee whenever you wish, too.
EXTRA PERK: The Eames chair and a massage chair in the living room
RESTAURANT: There’s an intimate steak house on-site. But you can also get your private chef to whip up his specialties. HakuVillas tries to use locally sourced ingredients for its meals, so expect the best Shiraoi beef, free-range eggs from a farm nearby, and yoghurt and bread from the local deli. We highly recommend the Hokkaido beef steaks.
BREAKFAST: You can have a different breakfast everyday. The chef will happily cook you a Japanese breakfast, a Western breakfast and even a Chinese breakfast. If you fancy spaghetti carbonara at 9 AM, I’m sure they will do this too.
SERVICE: A great and energetic international team of chefs, concierge and butlers to pamper you. On our stay, our chef was from Hong Kong, our driver was from Eastern Europe, one of our butlers was from the Philippines and our hospitality team coordinator was a bilingual Japanese who grew up in Borobudur. He taught us how to play shuffleboard.
WIFI: Complimentary, available everywhere, and super high speed
TECH STUFF: 2 large screen televisions connected to Netflix & Apple TV, iPads to curate music for every room, intelligent lighting
FOR THE KIDS: A made-to-order shuffle board and their own game room
POOL / SPA / FITNESS: There’s no pool — but who needs one in Hokkaido when you’ve got the hot springs? We had our own private hot springs with a view of Mount Yotei on the terrace, carved out of rocks and capable of seating eight. There’s also a gym, an indoor driving range and spa treatment rooms on the ground floor.
WHAT TO DO: When you check in here, you’ll just want to sit around enjoying the views and the service all day. But should you manage to pull yourself out of this place, the ski slopes of Mount Annapurna await, just a two-minute drive away. We also recommend snowboarding and the snowmobile. The concierge can arrange everything in advance.
VIBE: Casual but elegant. The type of place Masters of the Universe would book for a birthday weekend. So bring your Moncler winter wear.
PRICE LEVELS: Pretty stratospheric for Hokkaido. One night costs 1.5 million Japanese yen. However prior to the pandemic, HakuVillas had lots of takers and regular guests, and the management says it does not discount. So this should give you an indication of what the UHNW market thinks about these prices.
WHEN TO GO: Winter is peak season just because Niseko has some of the best powder snow in Asia. But all year round is beautiful, especially for those into nature and the great outdoors.
SATISFACTION LEVEL: What can we say? We’re already planning a return trip next winter.