Our friends who have stayed with us before are aware of the importance MnK places on hiring friendly and professional seasonal staff. “Seasonals” as they are known around town are lured here for the same reason as our guests– to experience the snow and lifestyle that is unique to a Japanese snow town. It isn’t all fun and games as the seasonal workers are vital to the smooth operation of our three sites and work hard to juggle check ins, guest requests and shuttle services on a daily basis.
Throughout this winter we will use the blog to introduce you to some of our 2015-16 seasonal staff. This month Luke sat down for a chat with Ben West.
Geraldton, Western Australia
Hi Ben, so tell us, how did you come to work here at MnK Niseko?
Since childhood I have been a huge fan of Japanese art and culture. I knew I had to visit this country, and when I came to Niseko for a snowboarding holiday with my family, I fell in love. We stayed at The Chalets at Country Resort, and I met a few of the staff, who I talked to about working for the season with MnK. I’ve been here for over a year now, and it’s been an incredible experience.
What do you love the most about living and working here?
The list is long, but the powder is definitely my top reason. Second is Japan itself: incredible food, people, culture, and art. This country is such a safe yet quirky place, and the feeling is liberating. Working for MnK has been great; the team is really fun, and I enjoy living with a huge group of seasonal staff in the winter!
What are your favourite places that you have visited in Japan?
Tokyo is just insane, full of possibilities. Osaka is an amazing city, so cool and plenty of takoyaki. Kyoto is the place to be for an even blend of historic culture and modern convenience.
I went on a road trip around Hokkaido last spring and my favourite place was a little town on the east coast called Rausu; their seafood was the best I’ve ever had, especially the urchin, crab, and hokke fish.
What are some of your favourite foods or places to eat?
My favourite place to eat in Hirafu for lunch is the Japanese restaurant Sessa. They have a well priced lunch set where you get multiple courses of delicious and beautifully prepared local seasonal food.
For dinner and a drink, I love Mina Mina. It’s an izakaya (Japanese pub with tapas style food) that has a great collection of dishes, drinks, and nabe. Definitely get the gobo (burdock root) chips!
Where is your favourite local resort and ski-run(s)?
My favourite run on our mountain is Gate 8 at Annupuri. There are so many good runs everywhere, but I like Gate 8 for how accessible it is and the mix of an awesome powdery tree section followed by a long valley.
My favourite other mountain close by is Rusutsu. The Mt. Isola side has some amazing tree sections; anyone who likes Strawberry Fields in Hanazono needs to check this place out.
Having lived here for a while now do you have any locals tips for visitors?
Try the onsen. After a day of riding, relaxing in the natural hot springs eases so much of the soreness you would wake up with the next day. It’s also one of my favourite Japanese cultural experiences. Sitting in a hot spring while snow is falling on me is perhaps my fondest memory of being here so far. There a few really nice onsens in Hirafu, but venture out towards Annupuri and Konbu for something less busy.
Q) What are your plans after this winter?
Nothing is set in stone yet! I’ll return home to Australia to see family and friends, and then plan my next adventure. Maybe Canada or Switzerland. I will definitely return to Japan after I see some more of the world!