Niseko, Japan

Zaborin

Rates from (ex tax)$1,190.61

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (JPY144,000.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Ravishing ryokan

Setting

Hanazono Forest haven

With all the meadows and mountains you could wish for, Zaborin on Japan’s Hokkaido island is a series of secluded villas, each with two onsen baths, filled with the purest, mineral-rich volcanic water. Dinner is an 11-course ritual of organic, locally foraged food, with fish from a nearby lake and produce from the surrounding countryside. The serene hotel is a peaceful place to retreat – but if it’s adventure you’re after, Japan’s best ski resort is 20 minutes away.

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A bottle of local sake from Niseko brewery

Facilities

Photos Zaborin facilities

Need to know

Rooms

15 suites.

Check–Out

11am, but flexible for a fee. Earliest check-in, 2pm, but flexible for free, if your room’s ready.

Rates

Double rooms from $1190.61 (JPY133,333), excluding tax at 8 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of JPY150.00 per person per night on check-out.

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (JPY144,000.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

More details

Rates include breakfast and dinner.

Also

Helping the chef with his foraging is Sato, a septuagenarian who has been studying what is and isn’t safe to eat from the wild since he was 20; he also helps out with hotel flower arrangements from his haul.

Hotel closed

Occasionally in low season.

At the hotel

Free WiFi throughout, spring-water onsen baths, valet parking. In rooms: Apple TV, iPod dock, Bose sound system, Nespresso machine, locally made bath products and underfloor heating.

Our favourite rooms

For a traditional Japanese experience, book a Washitsu room, which come with typical futons, as opposed to Western-style beds. Some villas come with an extra tatami-mat room and can sleep four. The other major dilemma is whether you want to look out to the Hanazono forest or the nearby meadow…

Spa

There’s no spa, but each villa comes with two onsen baths (one inside, one out), filled with the purest, mineral-rich volcanic spring water.

Packing tips

The region is famous for its ski resorts; since it snows every day for six months of the year, thermals will probably come in handy. Don’t forget your ski gear if you want to hit the slopes of Niseko, Japan’s most-prized piste.

Also

The villas have steps and so are not suited to wheelchair users.

Children

Free cots can be provided for under-twos, for three to six-year-olds, it's JPY6,480 a night for stays with breakfast and JPY10,800 a night for breakfast and a futon; daily half kaiseki course and a futon mat are JPY16,200 for seven to 12-year-olds.

Eco‐friendly

Mountain spring water is used to keep the cellars cool and volcanic water heats the hotel in winter.

Food and Drink

Photos Zaborin food and drink

Top Table

Each table is private and intimate, with views of the forest, but ask to sit closest to the window so you can watch the local wildlife frolicking as you breakfast. Or book the private dining room, where screens with holes in them give you a taste of what’

Dress Code

Guests don’t have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses; a yukata robe is left in your room and you are strongly encouraged to wear it.

Hotel restaurant

The chef cut his teeth at Japanese restaurants in Tokyo and New York, before returning to Hokkaido to helm the kitchen at Zaborin. Using ingredients from the forest and nearby lake that he’s picked and caught himself, a traditional kita kaiseki meal is served nightly – essentially a set menu, 11 courses long and changing with the local harvest. Breakfast is a similar affair, with vegetables picked that morning, fresh eggs and grilled fish.

Hotel bar

There’s a candlelit library and lounge where pudding and tea is served post-kaiseki dinner. Settle by the fireplace and enjoy a local wine or sake from the cellar; or head back to your villa to raid your minibar’s Nikka whisky and Japanese craft beer selection.

Last orders

Breakfast is served between 8am and 10am, and dinner between 6pm and 9pm. The bar opens at 6pm and calls time at 11pm.

Location

Photos Zaborin location
Address
Zaborin
76-4 Hanazono, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun
Hokkaido
044-0084
Hokkaido
Japan

Planes

The New Chitose International Airport is a two-hour drive from the hotel. For international travellers, connections are available through both of Tokyo’s airports (Haneda and Narita).

Trains

Kutchan station is closest, 20 minutes away by car; hotel transfers to and from this station are free. JR Rail operates services to this station from other Japanese cities, including Sapporo and Otaru on the coast.

Automobiles

Niseko is the nearest town, a 20-minute drive away. From the city of Sapporo, the drive will take around two hours. There’s free parking at the hotel and detailed driving instructions can be provided on request.

Worth getting out of bed for

Japan’s most impressive piste is 20 minutes away by car in Niseko. Non-skiers can trek through the Hanazono forest, visit the Yoichi distillery to learn about all things Nikka whisky, or just stay at the hotel for a wine and sake tasting in its cellar or a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Local restaurants

For excellent homemade udon in Kutchan, head to Homemade Udon Gokoro (the clue’s in the name). For local classics such as yakitori (charcoal-grilled skewers of meat), king crab and plum wine in a typical izakaya (an informal Japanese pub), visit Izakaya Jisaku in Niseko. If you’ve filled up on all the sushi and sashimi you can stomach, try L’Ocanda, a family-owned, mountain-facing Italian restaurant also in Niseko.

Reviews

Photos Zaborin reviews
Amelia Mularz

Anonymous review

Throughout the years, I’ve found a number of reasons to travel: weddings, a honeymoon (not even my own), a cacti festival, a one-year-old’s birthday party, an olive harvest… But never has ‘taking a bath’ been a top reason to book a hotel room. That is, however, until I heard about luxury hotel Zaborin.

Let me preface this by saying, I am whole-heartedly a shower person. I’ve always admired people who enjoy a soak and genuinely wish I could partake in the sudsy fun. The thing is, I’ve never sat in soapy water for more than three minutes before thinking, ‘Okay, what now?’ But then, everything changed when I spent two glorious, water-filled nights at Zaborin. If you’ve never been to Japan, it’s worth mentioning that the Japanese take their baths seriously. Visiting an onsen – or natural hot spring – is a time-honored tradition among the locals that dates back to at least the eighth century (so it’s more historic than just a Jacuzzi craze). Like any age-old ritual, there are rules: swimwear is generally not allowed (nope, not even in public baths), you’re expected to wash your entire body before hitting the thermal H2O, and you can bring a hand towel with you, which you’ll then place on top of your head while you soak.

After discovering what a big deal hot-spring culture is in Japan, I  realised how special it is to stay at Zaborin, where each room has two private onsens – one inside and one outdoors. For once, a tub (or two, in this case) piqued my interest.

 When I first arrived at the hotel, I had plenty to do. I took a tour, met the onsite matcha master (who taught me the proper way to mix the frothy green tea), and, perusing the library and DVD collection, figured I’d hole up for the night and watch a couple of movies. However, I never made it to Blade Runner or Memoirs of a Geisha (a cliché pick, I know) because once I put one leg in my patio onsen, I knew I wasn’t getting out for a while – bath time had superseded all my other plans.

The tub itself looked as if it had been carved out of volcanic rock – appropriate, as I could spot Mount Yotei, an active volcano, from my patio. Sitting on the ledge of the bath, there was an oversized copper ladle, which I’d been told should be used to stir the water and mix up its natural mineral content. It’s said that this this geothermal elixir can heal aches and pains, speed up the metabolism and help treat chronic skin diseases. Personally, I’d add jet lag cure to that list, too. After steeping for about 20 minutes, I felt the stress of 15 hours of travel melt away as I stared out at the snow-covered forest surrounding the hotel.  

The only thing that could tempt me away from my tub that night was the 11-course dinner included with my stay. I clung to the factoid about mineral water ramping up the metabolism as I devoured every morsel of that feast. The menu was written by hand in both Japanese and English, and was pretty enough to frame as artwork. My meal included innovative dishes such as red miso soup with leek; wagyu beef roasted over local pine-tree wood; and a sashimi platter with tuna, flounder, sea urchin, squid and horse-hair crab. I polished off my dessert (jelly made of white-birch sap, wild-grape water and ice cream with white-miso apple sauce), then hightailed it back to the room. Tub-time part two!

I did go skiing on my second afternoon, and a driver from the hotel dropped me at the Hanazono Resort, which is just five minutes from Zaborin. I spent about two hours on the slopes and then popped into the lodge to slurp ramen and enjoy a bottle of Kirin while a guitarist played live. After lunch, I headed back out for a couple more runs, but at the first sign of soreness in my legs, I decided I’d need to seek treatment immediately. I prescribed myself an hour of bouncing back and forth between my indoor and outdoor onsens, followed by another 11-course banquet and a glass of sake. Low and behold, that was exactly what I needed.

Before leaving Japan entirely, I stopped in Tokyo for 48 hours and spent an afternoon stocking up on bath accessories. A tub-time convert, I knew the capital city would have the goods to fuel my new obsession. I found exactly what I needed at Tokyu Hands, a store with eight floors of home supplies and beauty products, including the most impressive selection of bath salts I have ever seen. I grabbed a dozen envelopes filled with scented soaks and decorated with cartoon characters, sumo wrestlers and cherry blossoms. My humble bath tub at home has nothing on a volcanic spring, but at least I’ll think of Zaborin each time I take a dip.

The Guestbook

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