Is Furano the next Niseko?

As land values in Niseko skyrocket, investors have been shifting their attention to more affordable ski locations around Hokkaido. One of those destinations is Furano which is seeing an influx in foreign investment and foreign tourists. Located 110 kilometers north-east of Sapporo, or a 2-hour drive, the city is becoming increasingly known for its high-quality powder snow.

In 2017, foreign tourists spent 131,637 nights in Furano, up 270% from 2012, and up 2200% from 2003.

It wasn’t that long ago that the city’s high season was summer when its famous lavender fields are in full bloom. But, with the growth of foreign ski tourists the high season has switched to winter. Unlike other ski towns, Furano attracts tourists all-year-round.  A TV drama called Kita-no-kuni-kara set in Furano that aired from 1981 to 2002 helped cement its appeal both in Japan and in other countries where the program aired.

A search of property titles showed as many as 50 lots in the Kitanominecho district near the ski slopes are owned by foreigners. This neighborhood is mostly smaller lots filled with pensions and private homes. As the original pension owners and operators reach retirement age, they are selling off their operations creating opportunities for new, enterprising owners. This is a similar phenomenon to what Niseko went through in the 1990s.

Hong Kong developer Zekkei Properties is building a 33-unit ski-in-ski-out condo in this district. Completion is expected in 2020. A 72 sqm apartment in this development is priced at approximately 121 million Yen (around 1.1 million USD), which is not too different from apartment prices in central Tokyo.

Source: Nikkei Style, June 4, 2019.