Henry reveals the best spots and activities near his home in Makkari and in the surrounding Niseko, Rusutsu and Lake Toya areas.
Henry Turner is a British national who was born in Singapore, but grew up in Hong Kong and West London. Having worked in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, he chose to leave a career in finance and settle in Makkari with his Japanese wife, two young children and Singapore ‘rescue’ dog.
Henry is no stranger to Ski Asia readers, and has written previously on the wonders of living in Makkari, a place he describes as his “ideal patch of heaven on earth”. He now runs the town’s number one real estate agency, helping place others in their dream Hokkaido home.
“Describing my ‘Perfect Day’ in Hokkaido is strangely difficult”, Henry concedes, “so I’m going to cheat a little bit and jump from one season to another for my utopic day, free of seasonality and travel-time constraints.”
Après-ski, Makkari (Henry’s back garden) ? Henry Turner
Living in Makkari, my ‘go-to’ breakfast spots (on a weekly basis, if truth be told) are twofold:
Base Cafe, Located in central Makkari, does really good, simple, honest food with fantastic coffee and has a trampoline in the back garden for the kids to play around with the most spectacular Mt. Yotei backdrop. There are also lots of books, magazines and kids-toys for the whole family to ‘busy’ themselves with for a couple of hours. The couple who owns and run the cafe are beautiful humans and my family love going there to eat and hang out.
If I am planning a nice breakfast at home, or if I have the ‘itch for a fix’, ‘Boulangerie Jin’ is insanely good. As good, if not better, than any boulangerie I have ever been to in France. My favourite is the ‘Tourte’ loaf and croissants and perhaps unsurprisingly, my kids adore the pain au chocolate and the chocolate bread.
However, if I were to be waking up in Hirafu and not Makkari, my decision would be emphatically Graubünden.
From the first moment I set foot inside this beautiful café back in 2008, through to just a few days ago, this has been and remains one on my absolute favourite places. The food is delicious and notably fresh. The owners and their adult children that all work there, are beautiful in every way. And the look and feel is on point in an effortlessly humble and relaxed way.
Winter: Rusutsu East Mountain is my ideal morning area to ride for a couple of hours. You can literally ski fresh powder the entire time, not covering your tracks or even repeating the same run once. The area is wonderfully vast and varied and never ever seems to be crowded.
Winter in Rusutsu. “You can literally ski fresh powder the entire time, not covering your tracks or even repeating the same run once”, says Henry ? Henry Turner
Spring: Annupuri is where I love to do a few morning-hours spring skiing with my kids. The runs are wide and gentle. The views are fantastic. And the thought of Del Sole for lunch is really the underlying reason.
Annupuri spring skiing ? Henry Turner
Summer & Autumn: Starting the day with a cycle around Makkari and then a long walk with Joey (my dog) is absolutely perfect for taking in the morning air, enjoying the views avoiding the family for a few hours.
Autumn in Makkari ? Henry Turner
This very much depends on where I have spent my morning.
If I were in Annupuri, it would be Del Sole hands-down, no questions asked – I don’t even want to hear of an alternative suggestion. And if they are full, I’d rather go hungry to keep my disappointment company.
Del Sole is family-approved! ? Henry Turner
If I were in Rusutsu, I would happily drive 30mins to Lake Toya for a Hydune burger (I would drive to the ends of the earth for one of their burgers – but I’m not sure it would be lunchtime when I arrived)
If it were during the Summer or Autumn seasons, Le Mantaro is my regular. Simply stunning in every single way! Food, staff, interior, ambiance, views, and more!
Afternoon skiing, I think, is best in Hirafu.
If you are lucky and the skies are clear, Mt Yotei turns an almost hauntingly bright reddy-pink colour which is truly magical.
It also means you are in the belly of the beast for après-ski drinks – which I consider a vital aspect of any skiing experience!
My absolute favourite onsen is the one nobody else is in. So, I will keep this nugget of knowledge to myself thank you.
Le Mantaro is my number one choice for almost all dining decisions.
The casual cafe-feel and ambiance for lunch transforms into a luxurious and intimate fine-dining experience.
“…the most iconic addition to the area since the emergence of Mt Yotei over 10,000 years ago.”
The lunch menu has a delightful charcuterie plate, delicious pastas and pizzas and some decadent sandwiches, along with more traditional plates of locally sourced pork and fish accompanied by locally produced vegetables.
“Le Mantaro is my number one choice for almost all dining decisions”, says Henry ? Henry Turner
The dinner menu changes regularly, and I have never had the same thing twice. The proprietor and maître d, Mr Christopher Kim, certainly knows his stuff and in my humble opinion, has produced the most iconic addition to the area since the emergence of Mt Yotei over 10,000 years ago.
Well worth stopping in one lunch or booking a private-dinning dinner party if you want to impress your guests.
Check out the upstairs area while you are there – you might even get inspired to build your own with help from Mr. Kim’s architectural business, Christopher’s.
Rusutsu for night skiing is purely magical both on the slopes and through the trees. And if you love Christmas like me (obsessively), the festively lit area at the bottom of the slopes and outside the resort is genuinely heart-warming and truly fantastic for the kids.
Although, sadly after night skiing there are literally no fun options available in terms of après-ski – or anything else!
Hirafu night skiing is also truly phenomenal – and very hard to beat with many après-ski options available and FUN.
Night skiing in Niseko Hirafu ? Henry Turner
Toshiro’s Bar is my No.1 favourite trundle-into and stumble-out-of establishment. Classy, classically stylish, yet friendly and relaxed. Again, the owners who run the bar are salt-of-the-earth people and are a large part of why this has been my go-to for so many years.
Try their ‘Ginger Gimlet’, originally known, and forever known to me, as the ‘Incentive G’. It’s rumoured the record for a single sitting is 15 of these delights (then the guy went drinking).
I’m going to go off-piste here and say The Lake House Toya.
Maybe it’s because I have grown older and my wants and needs have changed. But for me, now, The Lake House Toya provides everything I want in a ski-holiday accommodation. And, in fact, is ideal and incredible in ALL seasons!
The Lake House Toya – “ideal and incredible in all seasons” ? Henry Turner
If you are travelling in a larger group – two or more families (or just as a large family or with many friends) – renting out the whole house is the perfect way to do a ski (or other) holiday.
There are plenty of rooms which are all delightfully decorated and give you the genuine feel of being in a ski lodge / forest-cabin. With plenty of play areas for kids to be kids and even a proper ‘Games Room’ with all sorts to keep kids (and adults) busy into the night.
“I’m not an apartment block near the ski run kind of guy.”
The whole of Lake Toya is in full view and in all its stunning glory during winter, and visible from the comfort and warmth of most of the house. In summer months, the mature trees which encircle the property burst into an impressive show of natural life and then turn into a stunning autumn scene.
It really has a very homely and warm feel to it!
In summer you can walk straight out of the house and into the lake for a swim, SUP or kayak. In winter, it has even been arranged for heli ski tours to take off and land back from the property.
I’m not an apartment block near the ski run kind of guy. So, The Lake House Toya is where I would go for a genuinely memorable holiday!