To get to Niseko, I had pre-booked a spot on the White Liner shuttle bus that will bring me from New Chitose Airport to the Grand Hirafu Welcome Center. My friend who will booked the lodge at Kimamaya has mentioned to the receptionist of my late arrival which is expected to be around 12 midnight. The fare for the one-way service booked through the website was 2,070 Yen and takes about 2 hours or so. Upon arriving at Sapporo, I headed out to the arrival hall and managed to find a shuttle bus counter who directed me to the White Liner bus service counter. I had to wait for a while before they called for the boarding of the shuttle bus but it was pretty empty at this time of the night and there were lots of seating available.
The bus ride was comfortable and I was able to do some photo editing for half of the journey since I was not feeling sleepy, and managed to catch a nice nap for the next hour. Upon reaching the welcome center, there was a representative from the Kimamaya Lodge who picked me up. It was really great for the hotel to pick me up in the middle of the night and I really appreciated the gesture since I was the only guest arriving at this small lodge. From the short drive to the lodge, I got to know the rep’s name who I shall refer to as Taka. He is actually also the housekeeper and the youngest member of the staff in the lodge. Another staff I will meet often is Peter who also works as the receptionist and driver in the day.
Unlike many hotels, Kimamaya is more of a ski lodge since it has only 9 rooms. Thus the personal service made a whole lot of difference. First of all, upon arrival, guests place their shoes on a rack and are provided with slippers. Meanwhile, Taka helped me to unload my luggage and even showed me the area to store skis and snowboards at the basement. It felt like home and the whole lodge was very nicely done.
Though the room I was booked in (Alpine 1) was the smallest, it was adequate for 2 persons. There was hooks to hang the jackets on the entrance and by the windows. Along the corner are ledges where one can place their phones and they have an iPhone/iPod dock with alarm clock too. The bathroom was also very nicely renovated with a walk-in shower and towel warmers which was useful to hang all our gloves too from a day out in the slopes.
The other amenities in the lodge includes a living room lounge where one can lie beside the fireplace to read or borrow DVDs to watch in the room. All rooms are equipped with DVD players and LCD TVs hung on the wall. There is also a small bar at the end of the living room with a microwave should guests like to buy pizzas from the convenience store just a short walk away. Location wise, there is a shuttle bus stop outside the lodge, but Taka or Peter is always kind enough to provide us with a ride on the hotel’s van to the Mountain or Welcome Center. So this was a perk of staying here as well!
However the best part of the facilities was the hot stone or wooden spa bath tubs that guests can book. I ended up showering in these baths most of the time since they were really amazing to soak in after a day at the slopes. The wooden baths has a strong scent of the wood and is really nice to relax in, while the stone bath might be more suitable for those who do not like the scent, but both were really great to soak in!
Breakfast was included in our room rate and it was served in The Barn, a barn that was renovated to become a restaurant and bar. The access was via the basement and it is definitely a delight having breakfast here with the sunlight illuminating the space on sunny days. Breakfast was served ala carte and we can order from the menu, with the French Toast being highly recommended! There was also a self-serve pastry counter with yogurts for guests to munch on while waiting for their main course. Coffee and juices are also included and they do use coffee by illy’s which is one of my favourite coffee!
There were more perks though as the owners of the lodge was in town as well and thus they had a happy hour kind of thing in the evening which allowed guests to mingle. In addition, they also provided drinks coupon to have cocktails at night in the bar at The Barn. At the last day of our stay, we were presented with gifts which included some chocolates and a notepad as well as a handwritten card to thank us for the stay.
While the room might be small, what the lodge offers is amazing service and a feeling of comfort at the end of the day after a tiring day of snowboarding. It offers personality and a level of service that is unmatched in hospitality as it feels like you’re invited as guests in a country home. This is one of the places that I yearn to return to, and I would probably choose to stay with them again when I am back in Niseko. Highly recommended when looking for a place to stay while skiing in Niseko!