Niseko Hirafu Welcomes Change in National Park Building Regulations

  • Taiga Staff
  • June 24, 2012
  • Niseko

Niseko – Hirafu Village is about to see a new chapter in the area development, as a result of changes to the national park building regulations. On July 27, Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi granted a special exemption, which will allow the development of strata titled condominium hotels within Hirafu’s section of park. The vast majority of the ski-in, ski-out sites within Hirafu Village fall within this area, and most of these sites have changed into foreign ownership in the past few years. The impact for Hirafu Village, and the Niseko area in general is potentially huge, and I anticipate a large number of new developments, possibly with hundreds of condominium units.

Previously the park was zoned favorably for hotels, but was unclear for the less traditional condominium hotels, which was making it difficult for government to grant approval to new developments. The exemption will essentially extend the current building regulations for Hirafu Upper Village up into the park:

- Maximum height of 22 meters (about 6 stories)
- Building Coverage Ratio (Footprint) of 40% (previously 20% for non-hotels)
- Floor Area Ratio (Volume) of 300% (previously 60% for non-hotels)

The government has chosen to enforce a stricter setback of 10 meters from the road and 5 meters from the neighboring site. Upper Hirafu Village has setbacks of 4 meters from the road, and 2 meters from the neighboring site).

Each condominium will be compelled to provide accommodation services with the inn keeping license, which means that owners will not have the option of a condominium purely for private use. In addition, it is likely that each building will be compelled to reserve the ground floor for common space, for restaurants, onsens, spas, shops, and other commercial area. The purpose of these two rules is the underlying principle that the park is for everyone’s use, and both buildings and individual units should be accessible to the paying public.

The ruling applies to individual sites which currently or previously had hotel accommodation, rather than being a zone based rule. This means that existing parking lots will essentially remain.

Over the past few years, we have seen the demolition of Yamada Onsen, the Scott Hotel, Kogen Hotel, J-First Hotel, Takagi Sansoo, Uranako Lodge, and Ginreisoo. The loss of overnight hotel beds is especially onerous for Japanese tourism numbers, as the Japanese have short holidays and prefer fully serviced accommodation. Since Japanese still account for the majority of lift tickets, Grand Hirafu Resort has been feeling the pinch. The Governor’s special exemption essentially requires these developments to act as hotels, with large common areas and enforced letting, and many locals are hopeful that the needs of the domestic Japanese market will also be met.

Click here to download the special exemption (Japanese only).

The lots indicated in red are the affected areas of the exemption.

Hirafu National Park Exemption Map

Taiga Sells Lower Hirafu Bluff Land

What a fantastic site for a chalet, located on the lower Hirafu Village bluff! Yamada 155-125 falls away, giving breathtaking views across the valley towards Mt. Yotei, and also rice paddies down below. Facing due south, this land benefits from great light all year round. Seizing a golden opportunity, the buyer picked up one of the best housing sites in the village. Sold February, 2012.

Hirafu Village (Niseko) 2011-12 Staff Rental House Available Immediately

Looking for staff rental in Hirafu Village for the 2011-12 Season? Reniant House is located in lower Hirafu Village, meaning your staff don’t need cars to get to and from work. Located on the shuttle bus loop, there is easy access to the Grand Hirafu lifts. Walking distance from restaurants and bars. With 8 Bedrooms and a garage, you certainly won’t be lacking for space!

Check out all the details here:

Radiation Levels Low in Hirafu Village and Around Hokkaido

  • Taiga Staff
  • November 08, 2011
  • Niseko

The Hokkaido Government has begun taking radiation readings in Hirafu Village, in front of the Welcome Center by the Alpen Hotel. The Japanese government says the acceptable national limit is 3.8μSv/h, and radiation levels taken in Hirafu Village show levels of under 0.05μSv/h. This tiny amount is actually lower than residual radiation levels in many major overseas urban centers.

You can see monthly updates on the radiation levels on the Hokkaido Government website, which shows tourism areas around Hokkaido. Hirafu Village in Niseko is listed the third from the top, and the radiation reading for October is 0.036μSv/h:

360Niseko has been doing their own independent radiation readings in Niseko, and you can read them here:

Daily readings from Kutchan Town are available as well:

Part of the reason to publicize these readings was to address a great concerns from overseas tourists. With handheld radiation readers easily available, it is also easy to confirm these readings. With these low radiation levels, hopefully anyone planning a trip to Niseko will feel at ease.

6.2 Hectare Niseko Land Site Sells in Hanazono

A stunning 6.2 Hectare Land site in Hanazono sold recently. Located on a hill top with steep river valleys on both sides, and farms beyond that, this property has total privacy. Walking the site with the buyer gave me a whole new appreciation for how special this land really is… wide open nature, Yotei and Annupuri views, and the sound of the rivers below. Living here year round, it is easy to lose perspective on what a beautiful place Niseko really is.

The sale also points to an interesting trend over the past few years. Buyers are increasingly turning towards large, estate style properties, providing further proof that the Niseko resort market is maturing towards luxury, pure lifestyle investments. Not at all uncommon in places like Jackson Hole, Whistler, or Aspen, this segment of the Niseko market only really started to flourish after the Lehman meltdown. Largely this is because buyers have come back to the original reason that started this whole Niseko property thing… it is first and foremost a lifestyle investment, something to be enjoyed with family over a long period of time.

If you look at houses built by foreigners over the past 3 years, you will see these are almost uniformly quite high end, to a degree much higher than before the Great Recession. And not because these owners are any more well heeled than earlier buyers. Rather, they recognize that this is not a flipping type of market, and if you are going to invest and hold for 5~10 years, then you may as well sink a little more money into the property and really enjoy it.