A year to a 10 year old is a duration, two years to a startup is too long, five years to Niseko is but the beginning, 10 years to Powderlife is a story. So too is it a story for NISADE’s 10th anniversary, for myself, my team, our owners and our guests to this little corner of planet earth.

Every year it changes and every year the changes get faster, to the point where I do wonder if Niseko as an area can indeed keep up. Like a teenage boy entering puberty and those potent years of the testosterone rush, Niseko is entering its own puberty. Emotive, non-communicative, easily distracted whilst being totally self absorbed.

As you have read and viewed in this very special edition for Powderlife, life in the powder has indeed changed. With a broad and experienced view of life in Niseko as a developer, a project manager, a hotel operator, a restaurateur, an employer and importantly a foreigner, this area touches so many different facets of my life it’s often a struggle to comprehend what the initial “builders” of Niseko started all those years ago.

Step beyond the glitz and glamour though and its like so many resort destinations that, behind the thin veneer of tourism happiness, lies a world churning and swarming with a multitude of competing and often conflicting issues.

The key to the longevity of Niseko lies in the town planning, the narrow focus firstly on infrastructure – on how to accommodate the ever-growing inbound market, from transport, to sewage to medical facilities. As a developer I often shudder at the responsibility I shoulder onto Kutchan council. Always Niseko is by itself another quantum of litres of water in and out. The connection of Maples is another literal settling pond of raw sewage.

So these core components of input and output must first be addressed. To house and cleanse the populous that disembarks daily at Sapporo is an exponential growth profile. But first we need to get them to Niseko, to Kiroro, to Rusutsu. With a speed limit of only 50k per hour, traffic flow volumes will always be challenging so simply adding more buses to highways is not a long term sustainable, green solution.

Trains, one would think are the answer but not so. Slow, fixed schedule, not ski-tourism friendly. Can we wait until 2030 for the shinkansen connection? So we welcome our guests in resort via road, and as you read this very magazine you can see a world beyond comprehension when you think just about the simple fact of keeping these roads clear of snow. From main arterial roads to the small narrow corridors of Hirafu that snow has to be cleared. Kutchan melts its snow in under-street drains but Hirafu loads it into trucks and relocates it.


Niseko Nisade Development Future
Niseko Nisade Development Future

– Max capacity is 2,925m3 / day
– As of December 2015 we are operating at 73% capacity. In context, in 2018 the openings of Skye and Maples will push that to 80% capacity. Water however is plentiful and expansion easily managed.

– Max capacity is 5,060,000 kw/day
– We are currently using 60-80% of capacity. Expansion is relatively easy to accommodate.

– Max sewage treatment capacity is 6,000m3
– As of December 2015 we were at 80% capacity. No planned upgrades/expansion.

Niseko Nisade Development Future
Niseko Nisade Development Future
Niseko Nisade Development Future

Perhaps the biggest infrastructure change is the one least understood: the community, the very heart and soul of Niseko. The Japanese, perhaps older but born of a love of nature, of snow and of the quiet idyllic Niseko life, are the folk being confronted daily with physical and cultural change on their doorstep. It’s tough on them. Flip the coin though, and it’s equally tough on those that have put Niseko on the map, that have rebirthed her and now got her to puberty.

Opportunistic, driven by profit, insulated, wordly and primarily foreign indeed they are. And more are coming. The divide between Japan and the foreigners is like an ocean fault – it’s always there, it’s just a question of how wide. Right now it’s widening, the pace of change is bubbling issues to the surface – infrastructure, parking, litter and of course the winter horror around behavior and drinking. As developers, we comply with the building laws and the zoning regulations so we are entitled to build, but without comprehensive town planning every new building stresses the system and people.

Sure, the inflow of money has recapitalised the lives of many local Japanese. They have fortuned from worthless assets held since the 1980s to multi-million dollar exits. Kutchan remains the area of highest capital land growth in Japan. Unbelievable. So why the divide? Why the chasm? Relatively uncontrolled progress verse the deep down sensitivity of Japan, the core values of neighbours, of friends, of their Niseko.

The whole before the individual. That’s what survives this country, this place, these people. Much can be said about the ski mountain infrastructure and it will be improved. But the reality is that’s a much easier end game simply driven by commercial interests. The greater challenge is in infrastructure, the ying and yang of a government stretching spending in every direction with an ageing population.

Is it all bad? Not at all. The foundation is strong, the core businesses in the area are all long term. Grand Hirafu has just gone 50 years, so at 10 years NISADE is at 20 per cent of that journey. There remains vested interests by each business shaping the future of the area.

We are far from over development – capacity exists. As in life, the compromise is always there, a few more minutes in a lift line verses enjoying a natural wonderland settled with fresh foods, blessed with clean air and water in world-class accomodations and facilities. The symbiotic nature of development and planning just needs us all to be aware and all to nuture.

So to close, to visitors, to owners, to employees, to the incoming, our piece of winter wonderland is there to be enjoyed. Exploited she can be but with the right collective we can all be part of shaping the next decade in our town and our home.


  • Avatar for Barry Barry says:

    That’s the most thoughtful piece I have read on Niseko.
    Reflective and considered.

  • Avatar for SK SK says:

    This really worries me:
    “As of December 2015 we were at 80% capacity. No planned upgrades/expansion.”
    Has anything been done / planned at least in recent years?
    If not, are we approaching full capacity this coming winter in 2018-2019 season with the openings of the Maples and Skye Niseko?
    I am not a resident in Niseko nor do I own any property there, but I visit Niseko numerous times a year in both winter and summer to enjoy nature. I think I gonna miss the clean and clear water streams.

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