The resort, the history, the best hotels and developments, the lifestyle and the investment opportunities in the powder capital of the world.
From humble beginnings as a rural potato farming town, Niseko has quickly grown into a world class ski and resort destination!
Skiing in Niseko has existed in some form since as early as 1912, though the resort was formally founded in 1961. Skiing as a recreation in Japan gained huge popularity in the early 1970’s as Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games, and the first developments in Niseko happened around this time. In the 80’s, the Japanese economic boom and the popularity of a Japanese movie titled ‘Take me to the Snowland’ renewed interest in the sport domestically.
But it wasn’t until the late 1990’s/early 2000’s that significant foreign interest and subsequently foreign investment arrived in Niseko. Primarily, it came from Australia, with intrepid powder hounds discovering Niseko and choosing it for their annual ski holiday over North America and Europe, favouring the shorter journey, better snow, cheaper lift passes, richer cultural experience and the lack of crowds in Niseko at the time.
Growth has continued at a rapid rate until today, with the main investment now coming from mainland Asia and catering to the luxury holiday market.
Niseko is Asia’s premier ski destination attracting huge numbers of ski holiday makers during the winter months every year. The main appeal in Niseko is the powder snow experience, with the sheer abundance and quality of snow basically unmatched anywhere else in the world. An amazing array of restaurants, a buzzing après ski scene, the many mineral-rich onsen and ever-present views of the truly breathtaking Mt Yotei are just the icing on the cake!
The ski season in Niseko runs from late November through to early May, with skiing conditions at their best from mid-December through to the end of February. This aligns with the peak travel period as Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year attract the most guests each winter.
Four Resorts, One Amazing Winter Destination
Hirafu was the first of these areas to develop and has historically been the main hub of accommodation and activity. Here you’ll find the vast majority of independently operated restaurants and bars, as well as many great resort homes and ski-in ski-out hotels such as Skye Niseko, Aya Niseko, Ki Niseko, The Vale Niseko and The Maples. Other condo apartment developments such as Setsu Niseko and Matie Niseko, onsen estates such as Drift Niseko and luxury hotels such as the Six Senses Niseko are on their way to Hirafu soon.
Niseko Village is seeing a lot of development at the moment. The Hilton Niseko Village has been a mainstay over the last decade or so, but has recently been joined by the Ritz Carlton Higashiyama, Hinode Hills and The Green Leaf hotels. Rosewood Hotel Group are bringing the New World La Plume Hotel to the outskirts of Niseko Village in 2023, with units available to purchase off-the-plan already and ground set to break for development in the very near future.
Hanazono is now most famous for the presence of the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono, the huge and incredibly stylish hotel taking pride of place, ski-in ski-out at the resort’s base. This development has triggered a development rush in Hanazono with a range of new estate style developments on the way, such as Hana Creek, Kaba Niseko and Odin Hills, as well as a brand-new hotel from luxury hotel group Capella. Chairlift network upgrades are happening this summer in preparation for the added traffic these developments will bring to the Hanazono slopes.
Annupuri is the western-most resort on the Niseko network and is typically quieter than the other three. A range of impressive resort homes and new estates such as Niseko Annupuri Residences are popping up in the Annupuri area as it becomes increasingly popular for both holidaymakers and those looking for an investment property or family vacation home that’s close-but-not-too-close to the action.
From a skiing perspective, all four resorts are linked by chairlifts and ski runs, and a gate access system allows skiers to ride not just within the resort boundaries, but out in the nearby backcountry as well. This access prevents crowding most of the time and keeps the expert skiers and boarders satisfied. At the same time, in-bounds ‘green’ runs and wide-open groomed ski trails mean that Niseko can capably host beginner skiers, children and families as well. Many ski schools operate lessons in English, Chinese and Japanese for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Niseko in Summer
When spring arrives, visitor numbers drop and the pace of life slows down. In fact, surprising to most, Niseko transforms from international ski resort back into that same rural potato farming town in the summer months – the contrast is amazing!
But summer in Niseko is, according to most locals, just as wonderful as winter... if not more!
There are nine amazing golf courses within 45 minutes of central Hirafu, with Niseko Village Golf Course being previously voted Japan’s Best at the World Golf Awards.
Whitewater rafting is exhilarating in the springtime when the rivers bulge as the winter snow melts, and more relaxing in summer when the rapids are gentler but the views just as amazing. Other activities such as hiking, mountain biking, road cycling, kayaking, onsen and tennis combine with the simple opportunity to just get away from the daily grind and relax in a cool yet sunny summer environment.
It’s for the reasons above that many Niseko locals who came for the winter have stayed for the summer and that each year, the resort welcomes more and more domestic travellers from the big cities of Japan.
Living in Niseko
Either side of the peak season rush, Niseko is a quiet, sunny and altogether very pleasant place to live. The local Japanese community and the foreigner community generally co-exist in harmony, and it would be fair to say that, by comparison to the winter seasonal worker crowd, year-round ‘gaijin’ (foreigners) tend to be more respectful of the Japanese way of life.
Investing in Niseko
It goes without saying that those who invested in Niseko at its very early beginnings have made and continue to make the most substantial gains. The development market in those early days was primarily centred on budget-friendly pensions and shared accommodations catering to the price-sensitive Aussie ski crowd looking for affordable stay options with easy access to the slopes. Many of these accommodations still exist and prosper, and the land on which they sit has increased in value many times over.
However, the dynamic has shifted over time, with the main holiday market now being the luxury-focused mainland Asia crowd. An increase in European and North American visitors has also been recorded over recent years. Consequently, most of the recently developed and soon-to-be developed accommodations in Niseko are designed to cater to the high end of the market. A quick drive around town and you’ll immediately notice many truly stunning modern ski homes on almost every street. And this race to create Niseko’s most eye-catching property is set to continue for many years to come as the market for developments and investments in Niseko has not reached full maturity yet.
Land values continue to rise and the arrival of big brand-name hotels such as the Park Hyatt and the Ritz Carlton has further strengthened Niseko’s credibility as a place to own, live, invest and develop. The collective efforts of the Niseko Promotion Board, Niseko United and the individual businesses operating in Niseko have developed a highly sought after and aspirational brand that stands to remain as Asia’s most popular ski destination for many years to come.
The strength of the holiday market is such that rental yield returns can usually be expected for buyers leasing their property to holiday-makers. Be it owning a condo apartment within a larger hotel complex, or a detached ski home made available to private renters, there are certainly opportunities to not only cover your running expenses, but to generate a positive yearly return on your holiday-home-in-the-snow while you’re not occupying it. This to complement the more reliable land value and capital gains to be expected from owning a home in a growing market, of course.
By comparison to other, less-developed resort destinations in Japan, Niseko benefits from well-established resort infrastructure and a great range of on-the-ground project management companies, property management companies, real estate agencies and consultants available to make the process of buying and selling, building and renovating, marketing and managing much easier than most foreigners expect it to be.
Finally, another factor driving market growth in Niseko is the upcoming extension of the Shinkansen (bullet-train) line which will connect Niseko to Hakodate in the south of Hokkaido, though northern Honshu and all the way to Tokyo. This will mean that a train ride from Tokyo to Niseko will take about 4 hours, enabling quicker and cheaper access to the resort for the huge domestic traveller market based in Japan’s big cities and also for international tourists looking to conveniently connect a fun-filled Tokyo visit with their Niseko ski trip. The Shinkansen extension is scheduled for completion in 2030.
Properties for sale in Niseko
Makkari Bargain Land
- 1,322 sqm
Soga: Forest & Yotei Views Land
- 3,228 sqm
Moiwa Development Land
- 27,363 sqm
Kabayama Elevated Land
- 1,523 sqm
Annupuri/Soga Meadows Chalet Site
- 421 sqm
AYA Niseko 2 Bedroom Forest View
- 85.9 sqm
St Moritz Land
- 234 sqm
Intuition Yotei Penthouse
- 362.7 sqm