By Chris Barnes
Japan Tourist is a wealth of information for anyone living in or visiting Japan, and exists largely due to the difficulty of obtaining such information about local regions. The Niseko region in Hokkaido has boomed in the past 15 years. It's gone from a sleepy little local ski village to one of the most famous powder snow regions in the world, and one that's growing at a scary rate each year. Although there are a large number of foreign residents in the region, quality English information is still hard to come by.
The Kutchan Information Center "Plat" is located on Kutchan Ekimae Dori and is a great place to visit if you want quick, quality information about the Niseko region. The majority of people visit Niseko to enjoy some of the worlds best powder snow, and to be honest, that's also why I first visited the region. I knew nothing about what the region had to offer during the summer and now that I've finally made it here in the summer season, I'm nothing short of amazed at all of the opportunities to explore. One of my first stops back in town was to this information center as I knew it would be the most reliable place to research what I might enjoy during my stay.
I also found the Information Center very handy during the winter when I wanted to hire a car and do a road trip around beautiful Hokkaido. Located inside the office is a Toyota rental office, which caters to foreign visitors a little better than its competitors thanks to its English speaking staff. The friendly staff assisted me with the type of car I wanted, and gave me a plethora of information in regards to Japanese driving rules and safety precautions.
The office stocks a huge range of English and Japanese information brochures and maps on the local region with the English speaking staff able to assist you on their personal recommendations. The center provides internet access on its rental computers which are also equipped with printers, which may come in handy for those wanting to print out travel documents or selected information not available in the office. There are also rental bicycles available on site from 500 yen.
The information center is also a hub for handcrafted goods, local foods and drinks, and a small range of souvenirs and apparel. The locally crafted goods range from postcards to stickers, to immaculate leather goods and other quirky Japanese style accessories. There is a small range of hand made gosetsu udon noodles, sweets and of course local sakes and wines. The apparel range is limited to "I Love Niseko" t-shirts.
Whether you're in town on holiday or lucky enough to be spending an extended period of time in the region, I highly recommend the Kutchan Information Center as your one-stop information hub for everything Niseko. The center is open 10:00 ~ 19:00 Tuesday to Sunday and is a two minute walk from Kutchan Station.
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