From Slopes to Second Homes:
Japan's Ski Resorts Attract Foreign Investors
From the blue sea and white sandy beaches of Okinawa to the snow-covered slopes of Hokkaido, Japan’s resort destinations can surely cater to every traveller’s need for relaxation, adventure, and cultural immersion. Other travellers have also transitioned from being mere tourists to becoming proud holiday home owners. In this article, we’ll focus on the most popular ski resort locations – namely Niseko, Hakuba and Myoko, where many foreigners have been purchasing holiday homes in recent years.
Located on the northern island Hokkaido, Niseko is a haven for winter sports enthusiasts as it is famous for its powdery snow – considered one of the best in the world. The region comprises several interconnected ski areas, including Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri, and Hanazono, providing variety of courses attracting both beginners and experts. Visitors can also visit an onsen (natural hot spring) after a day on the slopes, to relax with a picturesque view. Other activities such as rafting, trekking, and hot springs can also be enjoyed during summer season.
The amount of foreigners living in Niseko has been increasing, from 1% to 2% of the total population to as high as 7% before the pandemic, but as Japan opens its borders again, there might be a potential increase in the number of foreign residents in Niseko over the upcoming years.
There are also many foreigners owning real estate for personal or investment purposes, as there are a lot of developments in the area – many of them in Kutchan, a neighbouring town situated to the north of Niseko. In an interview on NHK with Nicole Tan, Director of Rooftop Ventures and Rooftop RE (Japan) – a property development company, shared that their company are currently building condominiums in Niseko, and consider the town to be an attractive investment location, due to real estate prices currently half those of overseas ski resorts, yet equally popular with tourists all over the world.
Real estate prices in Niseko range from 54 million yen for a 2-bedroom guest house, living, dining and kitchen area, to 600 million yen for a penthouse with 3 bedrooms, living, dining, kitchen and additional guest/maid room.
Located in the Northern Alps of Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba is one of Japan’s most popular ski areas. It hosted several international events such as the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Free Ride World Tour and Snowmachine Music Festival, gaining popularity from people around the globe. There are 10 resorts to choose from and 200 runs that will make your ski day exciting. Hakuba Valley is also a perfect place for hiking and trekking during the warmer season. Just like Myoko, day trips are also possible, as it takes only about three hours from Tokyo downtown – but overnight stays are encouraged when visiting these ski resorts.
In Japan’s Tourism Statistics, Hakuba ranked first place for Oceanians for both daytrips and overnight stays. With the town’s increasing popularity, property purchases by foreigners have also expanded. The local government, with the help of district leaders and real estate companies, are even planning to create a local database of properties owned by foreigners, to help owners with maintenance challenges and timely payment of property taxes.
Real estate prices in Hakuba range from 42 million yen for brand new, 2-bedroom apartments, and 55 million yen for three rooms. A quick search also reveals other properties, listed as low as 3.7 million yen for a detached house and even an apartment unit for 6.8 million yen.
Located in Niigata Prefecture, Japan and its ski resort – Myoko Kogen – is located 2.5 hours drive/train ride from Tokyo, making a day trip possible. It is one of the oldest and largest ski areas in Japan, famous for having the steepest and longest runs. It was built in 1911, and is now made up of three main resorts – Myoko Akakura, Myoko Suginohara and Ikenotaira Onsen. While Myoko is not as popular as Niseko and Hakuba internationally, few tourists, remarkable terrain and heavy snowfall makes it an ideal vacation destination.
During green season, other activities are available, such as trekking, flower viewing, water sports, cherry blossom viewing, mountain climbing, and temple visits. Myoko is also known for the Joetsu-Myoko Luxury Train ride and Kubiki Cycling Route, a coastal biking route for cyclists.
During peak season, resort owners hire for English speaker workers, to accommodate foreign tourists which helped Myoko’s reputation to continuously grow. Kogakuro, an inn located in Akakura Onsen town, is fully booked with foreigners, especially in the winter, due to the owner’s ability to speak fluently with international guests. Foreign owners of inns have been increasing, and real estate prices are likely to increase in coming years – however, current prices are still very affordable, as low as 3.2 million yen, to around 10 million yen for a detached house.
The surge in foreigners purchasing holiday homes in Japanese ski resorts is evidence of the country’s growing popularity as a global destination for both leisure and investment. With its stunning natural beauty, cultural richness and affordable property prices compared with overseas ski resorts, the prospect of owning a holiday home in Japan’s serene and scenic locales is indeed appealing. The potential for capital appreciation, as well as the option to generate rental income during peak tourist seasons, adds to their investment appeal.