|Prefecture||Hokkaido (Shiribeshi Subprefecture)|
|• Mayor||Kenya Katayama|
|• Total||197.13 km2 (76.11 sq mi)|
(30 September 2016)
|• Density||25/km2 (65/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+09:00 (JST)|
|City hall address||47, Aza Fujimi, Niseko-chō, Abuta-gun, Hokkaidō|
|Bird||Great spotted woodpecker|
|Mascot||Nicky (ニッキー) and Anicky (アニッキー)|
|Tree||Japanese white birch|
Niseko (Japanese: ニセコ町, Niseko-chō, [ɲ̟iseko tɕoː]) is a town located in Shiribeshi Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan. To Japanese people, Niseko principally refers to a mountain range and a municipal area. However, overseas the name has come to refer to a wider area of ski resorts encompassing Hokkaido's Mount Yōtei, often referred to as the "Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido", and Annupuri ranges. The name Niseko derives from the Ainu language, and it means "a cliff jutting over a riverbank deep in the mountains". The Niseko town's main industries are agriculture and tourism. The resort itself, Niseko United, is part of the Mountain Collective. Moreover, the town is renowned for its quality powder snow and world-class facilities, including traditional onsen and restaurants.
The town had an estimated population of 4,938 as of 30 September 2017, and a density of 25/km2 (65 inhabitants per square mile). The total number of visitors during the 2009 winter season was 201,000. The total area is 197.13 km2 (76.11 square miles).
Niseko is composed of seven ski areas, in order of size:
- Niseko Hirafu
- Niseko Village (formerly known as Niseko Higashiyama)
- Niseko Annupuri
- Niseko Hanazono
- Niseko Moiwa
- Niseko Weiss
- Park Hyatt
Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu, refers to the combined areas of Hirafu and Hanazono. Both of these and Weiss are within the municipality of nearby Kutchan. The other three resorts are within the adjacent municipality of Niseko.
Of these six ski areas, the main four (Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, and Hanazono) are sequentially interconnected and may be skied on one ski pass. The lift systems are owned respectively by the Chuo Bus company, YTL Resorts (which purchased Niseko Village from Citigroup in 2010), Tokyu Corporation and Pacific Century Premium Developments. Together they form 8.87 km2 (2,191 acres) skiable of what is known as the Niseko United. The lift system comprises 38 gondolas and lifts connecting 61 ski runs and 12 terrain parks. Kutchan's sister city is St. Moritz in a relationship established in 1964. Niseko Moiwa, adjacent to Annupuri, can be skied to from Annupuri but is not currently connected by the lift system. Niseko Weiss has not operated its lifts for decades, but people can still ski in this area, being taken uphill by snowcats.
Niseko also has backcountry ski-courses that are unofficially on the maps. To the furthest right of Annupuri lies Sannozaka, an area prone to avalanche but with high quality snow. To the far right of Hirafu lies Higashi One, also prone to avalanche but with challenging backcountry terrain. Near the lower half of Hanazono is a forest route called Strawberry Fields, which is perhaps the most famous run in Niseko. Mount Yōtei is also a popular mountain for backcountry skiing expeditions.
For the first time, in March 2008, Niseko was voted into the world's top 10 ski resorts. Coming in at No. 6 it was the highest ranked of the new entries in the poll.
Originally known primarily for winter sports, Niseko has gradually gained a reputation as a center for a wide variety of summer activities, including golf, tennis, fishing, horseback riding, sea kayaking, white water rafting, trekking, and bicycling.
Because of its northern location, Niseko is fed more by weather fronts that come from Siberia than from Eastern Japan, although all of Japan, especially the west coast of the main island (see Yukiguni), experiences northwest-to-southeast Siberian winds in the winter. The resort is internationally renowned for its consistently good falls of light powder snow and its long ski season which runs from late November until early May. The snow is not as dry as other areas in Hokkaido, but the volume is high, with the average snow depth in March reaching 351 cm (138 inches).
Niseko was named as the world's No. 2 snowiest resort in December 2007 with annual average snow fall of 15.1 m (595 inches). First place went to the Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington State with 16.3 m (641 inches).
Infrastructure and development
Niseko, although a growing area, does lack public and private infrastructure in certain areas. Simple public items such as street lighting and winter footpath clearing are left wanting in comparison to other international ski resorts (though this is common in rural Japan). Private infrastructure includes shopping and retail areas from which both are still in growth phase. These facilities are now available in Shiki building in central Hirafu where there is a supermarket, restaurants, a cafe and tour desk. Significant infrastructure development – initially focused on the road heating and redevelopment of the main street "Hirafu-zaka" – has now been completed as well as removing the overhead power lines and relocating them underground.
Counteracting this lack of infrastructure is the high demand for real estate. Foreign-owned companies are developing in the area along with Japanese companies. Purchase demand has expanded from Australian markets to include Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China.
Nightlife and accommodation can be found across the district, Niseko Village/Annupuri/Moiwa is home to many of the established hotel properties, such as the Hilton Niseko Village and The Green Leaf Hotel, Northern Resort Annupuri, Hotel Ikoi no mura and Hotel Kanronomori, Grand Hotel and Hotel Ashiri Niseko. In Hanazono the all new Mountain Center was just finished and the extensive Hyat Hotel is near completion. The Hirafu area is home to established and newer hotels as well as much of the district's condominium style accommodation.
Niseko is located in the southwestern part of Hokkaido. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport. Japan Rail Hokkaido, taxis, limousines and rental vehicles are some of the options to get to Niseko. The journey from the airport takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. Niseko has day trips to many of the surrounding areas.
The Hokkaidō Shinkansen (bullet train) linking Kutchan (倶知安) with Tokyo and Sapporo is scheduled to open in March 2031.
Niseko Town completely renovated and reopened its Community Hall as a conference center in January 2012.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2014)
Hokkaido International School (HIS) in Niseko is a private, coeducational day school that offers a western-style education from pre-school through 6th grade for students of all nationalities. English is the language of instruction. The school was established in 2011 and is a branch of Hokkaido International School in Sapporo. HIS Niseko and HIS Sapporo are the only international schools on the island of Hokkaido.
- Snow Place Like Home – Monocle, 10 February 2010
- "Top 20 Snowiest Ski Resorts in the World – ForbesTraveler.com". Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
- Yoshino, Michiru, "Hirafu-Niseko's powder melts hearts", Japan Times, 17 November 2006, p. 24.
- O'Grady, Janet (13 February 2020). "36 Hours in Niseko". The New York Times.
- "Hokkaido International School: About HIS Niseko". home.his.ac.jp. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
- his.ac.jp, Hokkaido International School in Niseko
- Official Website (in Japanese)