travel and tourism

Don’t want ‘overtourism’ in Japan? Try Hokkaido

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Don’t want ‘overtourism’ in Japan? Try Hokkaido

A mother and child play on the grass in the Niseko Takahashi Dairy Farm with Mt. Yotei in the background, in the town of Niseko, Hokkaido prefecture, Japan, on September 23, 2023.

Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler

Filipinos can now own a piece of Japan by investing in Mang Inasal founder Injap Sia's Hotel101 Niseko project in the town of Kutchan

NISEKO, Japan – “Overtourism” is again a major concern in Japan, as tourists continue revenge traveling after the reopening of borders worldwide in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

It’s a problem mainly in places like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka whose tourist attractions are well-known and promoted by travel agencies via package tours. 

But if you visit the less famous cities and prefectures, you probably won’t experience jampacked trains and crowded tourist attractions. A recent editorial by the Japanese broadsheet, Yomiuri Shimbun, thus urged the Japanese government to promote these lesser-known areas instead to help address congestion and, in some cases, damage to tourist sites.  

Japan says swarms of tourists defiling sacred Mount Fuji

Japan says swarms of tourists defiling sacred Mount Fuji

“It is desirable to disperse visiting tourists to different parts of the nation. The central and local governments should make efforts to highlight tourism resources that are relatively unknown overseas and work even harder to promote such places,” Yomiuru Shimbun suggested. 

Don’t want ‘overtourism’ in Japan? Try Hokkaido

One of these quiet and picturesque places to visit is the town of Niseko in Hokkaido prefecture, northern Japan. Hokkaido became a sightseeing wish for many Filipinos after the indie film Kita Kita became a phenomenal hit back in 2017. The most successful Philippine indie movie, which grossed over P300 million for producer Spring Films, was filmed in Hokkaido, including in the cities of Sapporo and Otaru. 

Two months ago, DoubleDragon Corporation chairman Edgar “Injap” Sia II, founder of fast-food chain Mang Inasal, and DoubleDragon co-chair Tony Tan Caktiong, broke ground for the construction of the seven-story, 482-room Hotel101 in a 1.17 hectare property in the town of Kutchan next to Niseko. The rooms will have views of Mt. Yotei, also called the Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido.  

Niseko is a world-renowned ski resort. Also known as the “Aspen of Asia,” the town is famous for its powder-like snow. It gets lots of tourists during winter, from December to April, but is a relatively quiet and peaceful place from spring, summer, and autumn, given that its population is only over 5,000.

The hotel is being built beside Midtown Niseko, where one night for two adults costs around P4,000, if you go this month of October, and around P15,000 per night if you stay there in mid-January 2024 during the ski season. 

Just like what his DoubleDragon partner, Caktiong, has done to Jollibee, Sia is on a mission to make Hotel101 a global Filipino brand, and Hotel101 Niseko, a project of DoubleDragon subsidiary, Hotel101 Global Pte. Ltd., is their first international hotel development project. The second will be in Madrid, Spain, and the third in California, USA.

“Wouldn’t it be great for all of us to eventually be able to see and actually check-in a truly Filipino hotel brand in over 100 countries around the world?” Sia said in 2022, after publicly listed DoubleDragon paid for the property. “We strongly believe that Filipinos have what it takes to export their own Filipino brand all over the world too.”

Filipinos who want to help Sia achieve this dream can do so by investing in his condotel project via a partnership deal. Investors can buy a 21-square-meter room for ¥37,660,000 per unit or around P15.9 million, Beth Batoon, a Senior Property Specialist of Hotel101 Global told Rappler.

DoubleDragon said it expects to generate around P8.1 billion in pre-selling sales from its Niseko project. 

Hotel101 Niseko is set to be finished by 2027, Batoon said, after which DoubleDragon will be operating it as a hotel. Under the partnership, investors will just buy a unit and Hotel101 Global will take care of the rest.

The unit owner gets the perpetual individual condominium title to the unit, while Hotel101 shoulders hotel operating expenses, unit repairs and maintenance, as well as cost of unit renovations. 

Batoon said one option is a 25% downpayment of P3.74 million and an option to pay the next 25% in two years or P160,600.39 monthly. The remaining 49%, amounting to P7.5 million, is to be paid on the 25th month plus a closing fee of P571,023.62. Two other payment options are available, and those interested can reach out to her, she added.

Under the partnership, the unit owner will have 30% share of Hotel101 Niseko’s gross room revenue (excluding taxes); Hotel101 Global will get 70% of gross room revenue share (excluding taxes). The investor also gets 10 free-stay vouchers annually. If the investor wants to stay longer, he or she will have to pay for the room. The free-stay is limited, Batoon said, “because our goal is to maximize their income as an investor.”

Hotel101 said it will adopt “dynamic pricing” on the room rates “similar to airline tickets where the room price moves up and down depending on the real time supply and demand on the chosen date of booking.”

Batoon said Hotel101 Niseko is “one of the cheapest properties” a person can own in Japan, as she urged investors to take advantage of the low exchange rate of the yen.

There is, however, no investor visa linked to the purchase. “Japan has a business visa but it is only for individuals doing business there which is not connected to our offered property,” Batoon said.

Getting a Japanese visa, however, has been relatively easy after Japan liberalized its visa requirements to Filipinos 10 years ago, especially for those who can present financial capability.

Year-round tourism

The key to Hotel101 Niseko being a good investment is if Japan as well as Philippine travel agencies succeed in promoting tourism in Hokkaido year-round, and not just during winter.

Christie’s International Real Estate, the sole principal sales and marketing agent of DoubleDragon for its Hotel101 Niseko project, recognized this in a message to investors. Sia signed the agency agreement with Christie’s International Real Estate team in Hokkaido on July 12.

“Although the summer tourism market is still relatively undeveloped, we firmly believe that it’s only a matter of time before the region’s natural treasures are transformed into tourism assets that benefit us all,” said the real estate team of Christie’s International Real Estate, noting the construction of mountain bike trails in the greater Hirafu area famous for skiing. 

“With these signficant developments in the summer tourism infrastructure led by the community for the community, we anticipate a growing year-round holiday market in the next decade, attracting outdoor enthusiasts who are drawn to Niseko for its pleasant summer climate and an abundance of exciting activities,” the team added in its Summer 2023 Niseko Property Guide.

Aside from hiking and cycling, there are hundreds of other activities and sightseeing options in Hokkaido prefecture, such as camping, lake cruising, zip-lining, and visiting world world heritage sites and zoos.

Don’t want ‘overtourism’ in Japan? Try Hokkaido

Hotel101 Niseko can also be a traveler’s base to visit other cities in Japan. Foreign tourists can purchase a JR Pass for 7, 14, or 21 days which they can use for unlimited travel in Japan.

Another development that will spur tourism in Hokkaido is the extension of the Shinkansen bullet train to Niseko and Sapporo expected to be completed in 2030. Currently, the Shinkansen goes from Tokyo to Hakodate, a city in the southern tip of Hokkaido, in over four hours, after which travelers have to transfer to slower trains to Sapporo City, the capital of Hokkaido, a trip that lasts over three hours.

With the extension of the Shinkansen, Hotel101 Niseko will then be just 25 minutes away from Sapporo, said Batoon. 

Currently, among local airlines, Philippine Air Lines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia have regular flights to Hokkaido (Chitose or Sapporo) via Tokyo or Narita. Several other international airlines also fly from Manila to Hokkaido. –

Revenge travel is here – so where do Filipinos go?

Revenge travel is here – so where do Filipinos go?

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.