NISEKO, Japan – A new language can be heard on the slopes of this popular ski resort in northern Japan: Chinese.
Foreign tourists and investors have flocked to scenic Niseko in recent years, giving this rural region a badly needed economic jolt. It is a rare success story that, if replicated, could help lead Japan out of two decades of stagnation.
Australians were the first to arrive in the early 2000s, followed by skiers from Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere in Asia. Mainland Chinese, while still relatively few, are the latest — and potentially the biggest — wave.
"This place has so much potential. It’s such a nice break from the chaotic situation in China," Guy Cui, a 48-year-old Beijing resident in the financial industry, said as he stepped out of a spacious, modern cabin and squinted in the sunlight.
Last year, he came with 25 friends and relatives over the Lunar New Year holiday. This year, the group swelled to 52. "This is the trend of the future," Cui predicted, prompting a friend to joke that Niseko will be overrun with Chinese in 10 years.
Read the rest of the story: China’s growing sway felt in north Japan ski towns.