Until the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, Hokkaido’s Niseko and the surrounding area enjoyed an unprecedented building boom. New international luxury hotels sprang up, and wealthy private investors from Japan and abroad purchased forested land surrounding Mount Yotei and nearby farmland, where they built their own winter chalets and private resort complexes.

With tourism to Japan having resumed in October, developers are once again looking at the Niseko area as a place to invest and build. But that growth also comes with a problem familiar to resort areas worldwide: How can the area balance economic growth with sustainability?

The town of Kutchan, a 15-minute train ride from Niseko Station, had originally considered limiting a resorts’ floor areas to a maximum of 1,000 square meters in principle, with exceptions granted to developers wishing to build 3,000 square-meter facilities under certain conditions, such as at locations a set distance away from a main road in order to avoid traffic jams.