Niseko holds the title of most famous ski resort in Japan, and with good reason. The sweeping slopes of Mt. Niseko-Annupuri offer skiers everything from pristine wide open courses to miles of untouched backcountry. At the base of the mountain, vibrant towns welcome visitors with world-class dining and accommodation, while in the background the stunning silhouette of Mount Yotei, the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido, looms tall.
The Niseko Ski Resort is actually a cluster of different resorts all located on Mount Niseko-Annupuri, with several towns and cities providing convenient bases around the area. Once a quiet corner of rural Japan, Niseko's 15,000 residents welcomed a staggering 400,000 visitors in 2018, all drawn to the booming ski resort's powdery slopes, long winter season and breath-taking scenery.
All of these visitors mean the area is exceptionally foreigner-friendly. It's not uncommon to hear conversations in English, and street signs and restaurant menus also cater to non-Japanese speakers. It's easy to feel at home in Hirafu or Kutchan, and there's so much to do across the huge resort that even after the long winter season ends, you'll be happy to stick around.
Living in Niseko and Things To Do
As you would imagine, life in Niseko is dominated by skiing. If you're thinking of buying property in Hirafu Town, one of the most popular settlements in the area, you'll be living at the foot of one of the best ski resorts in the world. But Niseko isn't just for thrill-seekers. Hirafu Town has a burgeoning nightlife and quirky shopping scene, while the larger city of Kutchan offers department stores and supermarkets appealing to anyone in need of some retail therapy.
Niseko is also a haven for foodies. In the mood for an authentic local speciality? Try the Hokkaido king crab from the aptly named Crab Shack. Or perhaps you're in the mood for something a little more haute cuisine? Then you'll want to head to Hirafu's Kamimura, where Michelin starred chef Yuichi Kamimura serves up a stunning Japanese-French dining experience.
After a few days on the slopes of Mount Niseko-Annupuri, you'll no doubt be suffering a few aches and pains. Luckily, the area is studded with onsens (Japanese hot springs) where you can soak your weary body while gazing out over breath-taking views of Mount Yotei. For something a bit more hands-on, there are also numerous spas and massage centres in the area.
If you're looking for a taste of Japanese art and culture, Niseko has you covered in that department, too. The Natural History Museum Kutchan is a must-visit if you're wanting to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the Niseko area, while collections at the Arai Memorial Museum of Art will please any art aficionados.
The Future of Niseko
If you're thinking of buying a property in Niseko, you'd better do so quickly. As the resort grows in popularity year-on-year, investment in Niseko is booming. But with a shortage of premium housing available in prime spots like Hirafu Town, competition for properties is fierce.
Of course, the influx of investors also makes Niseko an even more appealing place to live. International developers have snapped-up available land, and stunning apartment developments can now be found just minutes away from ski-lifts for the maximum in convenient living. Meanwhile, international hotel chains like Hilton have brought new facilities such as spas and business centres with them.
Niseko's future looks even brighter. The Tokyo Olympic Games will bring a huge influx of visitor attention to the whole of Japan, Niseko included, and the area's athletic facilities will also appeal to the professional athletes visiting the country. Looking further into the future, Niseko is proposed as Japan's venue for Alpine sports in their 2026 bid for the Winter Olympic Games. And in 2030, it is expected that the Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train) will be completed, connecting Sapporo to Tokyo and placing Niseko within minutes of a shinkansen station.
Weather Conditions in Niseko
Ski season in Niseko is one of the longest in the world. Winter runs from early-November to early-May, during which time an incredible 15 metres of snow will fall, blanketing the resort in perfect, ski-ready powder.
Snow and weather reports for Niseko show consistent snowfall throughout winter, with almost guaranteed sub-zero temperatures making the resort exceptionally snow-sure. Visibility tends to be variable, but bright and sunny days are not too uncommon, though it is recommended all visitors check the latest updates.
Transport to Niseko
There are plenty of options to get to Niseko. The closest international airport to Niseko is the New Chitose International Airport, near Sapporo. From there, you can rent a car or catch a train to Niseko. You can also use Japan's extensive rail system to make your way from any large city to Niseko via Kutchan.