Niseko gears up for a post-COVID era

Amid the pandemic, inbound tourists have vanished from Hokkaido’s Niseko area, which has turned into an internationally popular resort. This is the first story in a series titled Niseko gears up for a post-COVID era, which examines how the local tourism industry, domestic and foreign developers and investors are preparing for the end of the pandemic.

*The original article was posted in Japanese on the Hokkaido Shimbun Press website ( https://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/ ) in late October 2021.

Jan. 11

Special feature

Niseko gears up for a post-COVID era(2) More development taking place in towns and villages near Hokkaido's Niseko area

Christopher Kim renovates an agricultural warehouse on his property in Kyogoku, Hokkaido, into a restaurant with a view of Mount Yotei

This summer, in a residential house surrounded by fields of potatoes and beets in a village called Makkari in Hokkaido’s Shiribeshi region, Henry Blake Turner, a 40-year-old from the U.K., started a real estate company — the only one in the village. The agency deals with properties in the village and the towns of Kyogoku and Rankoshi, as well as other towns in the vicinity of Niseko.

Turner came to Japan in October 2016 and has worked at a foreign real estate company for non-Japanese in the town of Kutchan. As he has started his own company, relatively lower land prices in Makkari village caught his attention.

In the Hirafu district, which is the central part of the Niseko area, the number of suitable land plots for development is decreasing year by year as more hotels and lodgings are constructed. As a result, land prices for the few remaining lots have skyrocketed, which at times go over ¥1 million per 3.3 square meters.
But Turner believes there is more room for growth in Makkari, given its close proximity to both Niseko and Rusutsu ski resorts popular with tourists.

Christopher Kim, 36, an American design company owner, also moved to Kyogoku from Tokyo in May 2020. He spent tens of millions of yen to renovate an agricultural warehouse on his property into a restaurant with a view of Mount Yotei, which is scheduled to open within this year.
“I looked for a suitable site in Niseko, but it was too expensive,” admits Kim. “The view of Mount Yotei from Kyogoku is beautiful and there is a lot of greenery left.”

The growing interest in towns and villages surrounding Niseko has been reflected in their land prices.
According to the Hokkaido government, the average land price in Makkari as of July 1 increased 2.5% compared to the previous year, the first increase since 2001. The average land price in Kyogoku, which had been declining until 2020, increased 1.5% this year, marking the first rise in 31 years.

■ Unexpected villa construction
“These areas used to be little-known, but they have recently been attracting investors,” Takashi Tateno, president of North Base Niseko, a local realtor, said of Makkari and Kyogoku. He added that his firm has been getting inquiries from domestic and overseas investors.
“Honestly, if the lot isn’t located right next to a ski resort, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s a five-minute or a 30-minute drive,” he said, predicting that the areas nearby Niseko will continue to attract more investors.

Real estate agencies in the Hirafu district are selling more land in nearby towns and villages as well.
While the development of the central part of Niseko has been booming, the area is also gaining momentum from firms outside Hokkaido.
Doctor’s Village, a villa complex deep in the woods of Rankoshi located 2 kilometers from the nearby Niseko Moiwa Ski Resort, was first developed by a Tokyo-based company during the bubble economy in the 1980s. Back then, there was a hotel, but now there are roughly 30 villas on the site.

Although nobody was particularly interested in the land for a long time, a Tokyo company suddenly acquired three lots on the site this summer and began construction of more than a dozen vacation rentals.
Katsuo Watanabe, the chairman of an association managing the area — who purchased a villa more than 10 years ago — was surprised to see such a large number of new buildings

While the Niseko ski resort is popular among investors and developers, the surrounding areas are mostly left untouched. Yet with the land prices in the central district of Niseko rising, businesses are seeking nearby places to develop including those villa areas built during the bubble economy some decades ago.

Location

Niseko area located at the foot of Mt. Yotei

Special feature

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