Travel | G20 host cities special

Kutchan, Hokkaido Prefecture

Picturesque nature on and off the slopes

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Breathtaking scenery, world-class ski resorts and thrilling seasonal activities have made Kutchan, Hokkaido Prefecture, a top destination for travelers. It’s thus fitting that from Oct. 25 to 26, Kutchan will host the Tourism Ministers’ Meeting.

With this year’s meeting placing Kutchan in the spotlight, there’s no better time to highlight the town’s many sights and activities.

Kutchan is well-known for its close proximity to Niseko, a mountain setting where high-quality snow has made it a world-renowned mecca for skiers and snowboarders. The town is home to two notable ski areas, Grand Hirafu and Hanazono, both attracting throngs of travelers from around the world.

Grand Hirafu, the largest resort area in Niseko, has a wide array of slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels to choose from. Off the slopes, visitors can unwind at the international resort at the base of the mountain and explore restaurants, bars and shops while mingling with other travelers from around the world.

Kutchan’s other stand-out resort, Hanazono, will delight winter sports enthusiasts with its extra dry snow. The resort has off-piste areas, tree runs and terrain parks, in addition to a variety of slopes for all. Those looking for adventure can book backcountry guides and snowmobile tours at Hanazono 308, the resort’s ski center, and relax at the center’s large restaurant and cafe. Hanazono offers lessons for people of all ages, making it a great place for families to spend time together.

Tessa Stomski, an Australian living in Kutchan, adores Hanazono. “My child and I spend most weekends there and we usually finish the day by listening to acoustic music at the ski center,” the founder and managing director of Niseko Gourmet said.

With world-class resorts and high-quality snow, it’s no mystery why travelers around the world laud Kutchan as a skier’s paradise. But travelers shouldn’t miss out on the region’s other offerings. As the seasons change, Kutchan’s snow gives way to lush vegetation, pristine lakes and beautiful hiking trails begging to be explored.

One way to experience Kutchan’s natural splendor is the hiking trails surrounding Mount Yotei. Nicknamed Ezo Fuji for its resemblance to Mount Fuji, Mount Yotei has an awe-inspiring oval crater approximately 2 kilometers in circumference at its peak. Along the trails, hikers can visit the mountain’s gorgeous alpine zone, a designated national treasure with 100 varieties of alpine flowers, where trekkers may come across red foxes, Russian flying squirrels, mountain hares and other wildlife.

For a leisurely stroll through nature, look no further than the area surrounding Lake Hangetsu. A designated national monument situated in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, the picturesque Lake Hangetsu captivates year-round, changing with the seasons to accentuate the region’s natural beauty. Filled with seasonal flora and fauna, the area is an ideal place to watch the leaves change in autumn and a popular swimming spot in the summer.

Kutchan’s abundant camping sites, hiking trails and seasonal activities make it a spectacular place to spend the summer and appreciate Hokkaido’s nature. Running through Kutchan is Japan’s clearest waterway, the Shiribetsu River, which becomes a hotbed for seasonal activities such as kayaking and dynamic river rafting in the summer.

For a more leisurely time on the water, visitors can enjoy relaxed canoeing and rafting while treating their eyes to scenic views of Mount Yotei. Cycling is another popular activity in the summer, and the lush green rice fields, clear blue sky and quaint Japanese homes across Kutchan’s farmland give visitors the chance to appreciate Hokkaido’s countryside scenery.

Kutchan has made great efforts to ensure visitors have access to high-quality amenities and accommodation, including condominiums ideal for extended stays. Kutchan’s foreign language services at its general hospital, guidance signs and enhanced Wi-Fi coverage further exemplify the town’s hospitality. Dining options are also diverse and include handmade udon (thick wheat noodles), yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers), scrumptious confections and dishes prepared with potatoes and root vegetables raised in the region’s fertile, nutrient-rich soil. All of this makes it clear why Kutchan captivates visitors and continues to attract international investment.

Kutchan will likely continue to prosper and share its wonders with travelers from across the globe.

“Kutchan offers the perfect mix of nature, recreation, design and relaxed tradition. While the colder months offer its famed champagne winter, summer is also spectacular, with the milder days offering perfect conditions for hiking, cycling (and other activities),” said Stomski.

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