Niseko wasn’t always the ski Mecca it is today. When Satoshi and Toshiko Makabe moved to Niseko from Sapporo and built Cliffside Pension they had to pick bamboo shoots in summer and sell them to the local factory so they could afford to eat. This was in the middle of the infamous Japanese economic bubble and despite the fact there still weren’t so many people coming to Niseko, its potential was obvious. There was a pension building boom going on in Hirafu. Cliffside, now in what is regarded as the premium location in lower Hirafu Village, on the cliff overlooking the rice paddies below towards Mt Yotei, was barely accessible as the roads weren’t bitumen so the roads were too slushy or muddy to get there by car. On top of that, marketing of Niseko accommodation was still nearly non existent. Fortunes changed for the Makabes when a tour company listed their pension. These days you’ll have to book in advance if you want to stay there!