Across Japan, land prices are on the rise. Yet nowhere is this rise more dramatic than in the northern reaches of the country. Benefitting from its fame as a first-class ski destination, in recent years Hokkaido property has seen considerable interest from domestic and international investors alike. All this publicity has driven up the average price of commercial land by an astonishing 58.8% in 2018, while residential land prices lagged only slightly behind at 50%.
Yet for anyone familiar with this area, these statistics will come as no surprise. With rising numbers of tourists each year, ski resorts such as Niseko have given rise to 5-star hotels, developments, restaurants and luxury facilities emerging around every corner. And this is having a knock-on effect on Niseko property for sale.
What do the figures say?
Each year, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism releases the Chika-Koji report. For 2018, the statistics show that land prices in Japan have continued to rise for the eleventh year in a row.
Nowhere came close to topping Hokkaido in its dramatic rise. So, which factors have contributed to this incredible increase?
Hokkaido Tourism Reaching New Levels
Tourism is a primary stimulus of growth in many countries, and this is particularly apparent when it comes to the Hokkaido region of Japan.
In 2018, tourism numbers in the country reached an astonishing 31 million and in 2020, the Japanese government is aiming for over 40 million with the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics. For Hokkaido, there were 2.7 million in January 2018 alone. Niseko, one of the most popular resorts in the area, saw over 811,000 visitors for the season!
Based in the northern part of the country, Hokkaido benefits from its proximity to the nearby cold climates of Russia and China that sweep across the Sea of Japan. These three factors, when working together, push incredible amounts of snow into the area each winter – making it one of the best backcountry ski destinations in the world.
Join this with the unique culture and stunning landscape, and it’s no wonder Hokkaido has become a tourist hotspot for powder hounds from the Americas, Australasia, Europe, and Asia. In fact, the area is rapidly becoming one of the top destinations for winter tourists each year, and as the ‘Aspen of Asia’, Niseko has become a must-do destination for skiers and luxury travellers alike. With such interest from tourists globally, it’s no wonder investment and corresponding land prices are rising at such a rate!
High Profile Niseko Property Investors & Luxury Developments
Rising numbers of tourists go hand in hand with property development. In Niseko, there has been an influx of investors building the area out with high-end condominiums and hotels. You’ll find them in the centre, scattered at the base of the ski slopes and all across the town.
Thanks to some high-profile investments from the likes of W hotel, Hilton, and Ritz Carlton as well as other upmarket hoteliers, the resort has gained a reputation for luxury accommodation. Some of the pricier new developments include Sky Niseko, a condominium hotel where a four-bed condo is priced roughly around $7.17 million USD. Singapore’s luxury property developer SC Global is opening its first project, Setsu Niseko, in a prime location in Grand Hirafu.
Richard Li’s Pacific Century Premium Developments will have its opening this year, and condos will be priced between $900,000 and $10 million USD. And topping this will be the 31 new luxury residences forming part of Aman Resort’s first foray into the Niseko market. At the base of Mount Moiwa, these 800 sqm properties are expected to be among the largest in the market, with prices reaching USD 25,000 per sqm.
Billionaires across Asia are flocking to Niseko. Other notable developments include the Red Bull heir, Chalerm Yoovidhya building his very own “Red Bull House”, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma reportedly building an enormous property at Annupuri Garden.
With all this interest from luxury powerhouses, it’s little wonder land prices in the region have witnessed such a dramatic rise. Yet, this does not mean the resort is unaffordable; compared to resorts such as Aspen, Courchevel, or St. Moritz, Niseko still has average prices below €14,000 a square metre.
Other more affordable investments can be found outside of Niseko Grand Hirafu itself, with the main resort separated into 4 key areas. Properties such as Snow Dog Village offer the accessibility and comfort of first-class accommodation just outside the centre of the town. And despite raising prices earlier this year due to strong demand, the prices at Niseko Annupuri Residences still offer among the best value premium land in the Niseko area.
Investment in Infrastructure
The regional leaders in Hokkaido decided early on to model the ski resorts in the area on their western counterparts – Niseko in particular. Seijo Ohsaka, Mayor of Niseko from 1994 to 2005, sent staff across the globe to learn from the best, as well as spread the word on the unique culture and incredible snowfall of the resort. He invested heavily in the infrastructure, with state-of-the-art lifts as well as free shuttles that transport guests from Grand Hirafu to Annupuri. Heated roads and footpaths have also made the resort far more accessible in recent years.
The national government has also helped to draw tourists from across the country and is installing a new line on the bullet train from nearby Kutchan to Tokyo by 2031.
Helped by its rise in popularity, airlines from Europe have started to cash-in on its fame too. Recent examples include the announcement of direct routes from Helsinki to Hokkaido’s largest city, Sapporo with Finnair.
These investments from governments and improved accessibility have helped to boost resorts in the area from small regional destinations to somewhere people from across the world want to both travel and invest in. In fact, the dramatic rise in land prices come as no surprise when you look at the investment that has gone into making this area so accessible to foreign and domestic travellers in recent years. The recent growth that Hokkaido has experienced is astounding. Nowhere in Japan has experienced such a rapid rise as this premium destination for skiers and luxury tourists the world over.
Thanks to the area’s access to incredible amounts of snowfall, unique culture, and luxury developments, growth in the area doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. However, property in the area still ranks competitively against its western neighbours. Given its projected rise to the top of the global stage and increasing investment in both property and infrastructure, Niseko property is an ideal choice for those looking to invest.
This is the latest in a series of articles about property investment in Hokkaido. You may also be interested in reading our other posts.