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Hakuba vs Niseko - A 37 year old Australian Snowboarders opinion


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Frankly Jynxx maybe you've been away from Japan too long and can only recall the good old days. Most Japanese ski resorts are struggling financially. Few have upgraded any infrastructure since the 80's and many have chairlifts so old that they can't even source parts if they break down except by scavenging from other resorts that are no longer open. Many ski resorts are only able to remain open purely because of local government subsidies. This is not a thriving, growth industry with many resorts closing each year and very few making any decent profits.

 

So the industry can just keep limping along changing nothing or they can do all they can to look at ways to increase their market. The foreign market is so good because they stay for much longer than the average local skier. Most Japanese will get away for only a weekend whereas most foreign tourists will stay at least 6 nights. It's not about changing everything but it's about good business sense, seeing a new opportunity to expand your market base and doing all you can to cater to this market (this doesn't mean at the expense of the local market). I can't see anything wrong with developing an international standard ski resort in this country. I can assure you that there's no ski resort in Japan currently that even comes close in terms of services, lifts, accommodation, etc to some of the great international resorts of the world. And from my observation of current management (at least in Niseko) they wouldn't even know where to start. This is why I suggest that they should be at least consulting with management of some of the worlds best resorts.

 

Or of course they can do nothing and slowly but surely go out of business which seems to be what most are currently doing.

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Well said GN. Though in (at least) partial defense of the resorts many are stuck in a double bind. Even when they recognize that innovation is required they suffer from a lack of funds to make the changes or can ill afford to risk spending money on speculative initiatives.

 

It is also important not to under estimate the impact the end of the economic bubble at the end of the 1980's had on the Japanese business community's mindset. I think it has deeply scared a generation of Japanese people. The Niseko boom and (maybe) bust taking place now will help to validate the concerns about spending money on resort development. Add to that some heavy duty cultural reticence to accommodate foreigners and a general cultural reluctance to change (the nail that stick up gets hit) and it is little wonder the resorts all work to maintain the status quo, particularly while government handouts keep things ticking over.

 

Even if all of these impediments are over come by the oh so rare visionary, the resort is just as likely to be a pokey little place with no real appeal or hemmed in national parks which they can't use. It is an industry immobilized by forces from without and within and, sadly, suffers as a result.

 

When I was up there recently I was struck by Moiwa’s particularly cruel dilemma - it's only real appeal is that no one goes there so for the few that do, the long lasting fresh snow is wonderful. But increase it's clientele to sustainable numbers and you lose the snow and the appeal of an otherwise unremarkable resort and people stay away. I suspect the naturally sustainable numbers for Moiwa is less than the minimum required to keep the place solvent.

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Originally Posted By: The Gimp
. Add to that some heavy duty cultural reticence to accommodate foreigners and a general cultural reluctance to change (the nail that stick up gets hit) and it is little wonder the resorts all work to maintain the status quo, particularly while government handouts keep things ticking over.



A book title "Dogs and Demons,The Fall of Modern Japan" by Alex Kerr will give a good explanation of how and why things happen in Japan.

It is true that in general the Japanese people are xenophobic, BUT, i have found that if you take the initiative to build relations with them you will indeed have some wonderful friends. They will rarely make the first move, just a cultural thing.
It is up to us to be good ambassadors for our countries, or bad ones.
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Gimp, Thank you for explaining. You got it boiled down.

Birdman, So true. That was what my Dad said to me when we moved to London when I was 5. Only 3 ethnic families in Wimbledon then..

Subsidies are a way of life in Japanese agriculture and tourism. Before privatization, the only profitable JR line was said to be the Yamanote line.

Then you can also look at it this way, Japanese skiers are subsidized by the government.

Cool...

 

I also like to add for the benefit of Ma'bear and JA.

When Japanese want to spend, They go to Italy (for shopping etc) and Hawaii. There are the places where they want to drop a lot of dollars. You probably aware of the success story of UniCro.. No frills brands. They do like shopping, but if it's worth it. Time has changed, and for a while.

Japanese likes to go to Resorts. There are two types they like. One a 5 star hotel in the middle of Nature. No shopping. LIzard Island or somewhere like that. The other, Basic but has atmosphere, in the middle of nature. No shopping again. Rottnest Island.

 

(Rottnest Island is very highly rated by people who are in the know. I have heard compliments like, True Resort. That was '88 when I was coordinating an Japanese Magazine special on Australian Resorts and the America's Cup. Haven't been back since then so I don't no now. I hope it hasn't changed. I got married in Perth in 86 and we went there for our honeymoon.)

 

You guys have a fixed Image of what YOU like or what a resort is for you and is best described by St.Anton or Swiss.

Really, the only place that cater for Japanese is Japan. After a week overseas, all they want is Japanese food and a bath. Me too.

Niseko will be an interesting example for the future. No point in spreading all the Gaijin skiers all over the place, might as well keep it at a few places. That is efficiency.

We will see how the High Yen will effect the tourist and we can discuss if it was worth spending so many billion Yen in infrastructure. If they do, it is largely for the benefit of the General Construction sector which has powers in the government. But Japan has made mistakes there. I would see introduction and conversion to CAT ski/boarding as an alternative method.

 

You guys keep on telling me I am out of touch. Be it in Japan or Australia. Perhaps so.

But I would like to tell you I went to High School in Japan. 800 students in one year (grade) from all over Japan. Most of these people (except me) are in a position to change things. They are now the core of the social fabric, like their dads before. Politicians, Academics, Industry, Tourism, investments, Yakuza..

You guys keep on saying they don't know what they are doing, I say you don't know what's really going on. Outsider speculation.

Also, when you have worked as an interpreter you get to go places and talk to people who most of you ever will.

But, hey, I am just semi-retired. I look after my girl and horses.

I just like to get out there on the snow. I'll say g'day when I see you.

 

 

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Originally Posted By: Jynxx
Also, when you have worked as an interpreter you get to go places and talk to people who most of you ever will.

Preaching to the converted there Jynxx.
I am an interpreter.
Not a Japanese Interpreter, but I hear your point. As an interpreter you get to be 'in' many situations that you might otherwise never experience - gaining lots of extra knowledge.

JA and I have not really made any different points than GN, I am not sure why we are the targets here? Strange.

Rotto is about the same with some progress - some better shops, cafes and a chemist (thank God!), and attempts being made to build better accomodation. I wouldnt call it a resort though!
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Originally Posted By: Birdman

A book title "Dogs and Demons,The Fall of Modern Japan" by Alex Kerr will give a good explanation of how and why things happen in Japan.

Dude, that book is just a rant full of half-truths and dodgy research. Alex Kerr thumbsdown
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Originally Posted By: Jynxx
You guys keep on saying they don't know what they are doing, I say you don't know what's really going on. Outsider speculation.


After living here for the last 4 years I think I've gained a little knowledge of what's going on. I started coming here before there was any western accommodation or development and have seen Niseko grow to what it is today.

I've seen millions of dollars flood in from foreign investment and seen plenty of people become very rich in a very short time. Very few of these people were Japanese though.

So what is going on Jynxx? Have the Japanese forgotten how to take advantage of business opportunities? Have they become so ridiculously cautious in everything they do that they are blinded to opportunity knocking on their door?

You would think that a country that has had such a stagnant economy for so long would jump at the chance to develop the tourism potential that Niseko has offered. We are already seeing the flow on effects of Niseko's popularity as people look elsewhere to ski in Japan like Nagano resorts. Show me though any substantial marketing or promotional material from the local, prefectural or national government to promote skiing in Japan internationally. Almost all of it has been done by foreign owned companies and business interests (including this great website).

International ski tourism has the potential to reinvigorate the ski industry here which as everyone knows has been continually declining since the bubble burst all those many years ago. I would love to see Japanese companies being at the forefront of developing this potential but that is not occurring.

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GN, some people are there at the right time.

You are talking Niseko, Hokkaido. Hokkaido has heaps of developing potential, land is cheaper, one of the reasons some Japanese people go there to open up a farm or alternitive lifestyle.

It just happened because of the Aussie factor. It wouldn't have happened any other way. Sure Niseko was one of these places some people who were really into pow went in the late 70's. One hotel in Annupuri and a few Minshuku was enough to cater for those.

Probably no one saw it was going to happen in a big way for Aussies. Still small population. Local effect.

Some people in Oz invested in Brazil, some in Niseko. That's the way I see it. For those who went in when it was cheap reap the rewards. It's not a typical Japanese development and I say over again it's a niche market. A new example that happened in Hokkaido.

You said it yourself that the foreign market is fickle. You make it sound like big business oppotunities in skiing, but again it's hype. That's gone. It might happen Again, but when?

 

You should compare it to how Naeba was developed. That is an international resort. But not only that. There was a bigger picture there the development wanted to cash in on.

I can understand you getting hyped about the place when your investment is tied to the place. People like to cash in on the "ride the band waggon" effect. Fringe benefit from the big developers. Doesn't mean you have the insight or the workings of what is at stake.

4 years in Japan isn't that long to make you an expert on anything in that country. Low on Nen-Koh-Jyo-Retsu. Say 20 years and you are in your 50's people might listen. It will just sound like a sales pitch to the Japanese.

 

I am not targeting you or ma'bear or JA. I don't know how to put it now. You see tourism or Resorts or business in a different way to what is at work in Japan. For that matter I don't know myself. But I will say this. 4 years in Uni or business or international experience means very little to a Japanese if you are a foreigner. That will give you an entry level English teaching job.

In Japanese terms, International means a Japanese person who speaks a foreign language, usually English, who has some overseas experience working for a Japanese or Gaishi-Kei company. Japan has its own Major problems and probably wouldn't care a toss about some ski development. There is already enough. THat is the message you are not getting.

Man, It's a job for off season local Agriculture population at minimum.

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OK, so if the resorts/ski hills disappear because of falling local numbers, they will just accept that and go do nothing?

 

If that is the case, I am sooo glad I have been able to go while there is still choice, because what will end up is a large conglomerate (you mentioned the Prince group) which owns all the snow resorts and can then charge what they damn well like. That adds up to a virtual monopoly and will be the death of tourist skiing in Japan.

 

Originally Posted By: Jynxx
In Japanese terms, International means a Japanese person who speaks a foreign language, usually English, who has some overseas experience working for a Japanese or Gaishi-Kei company.
OK, so now I get it! Jynxx has 3 degrees, has lived and been in schools in Japan and Australia so his knowledge is complete and no-one else has any idea. I feel sorry for you, if that is what you think, I feel sorry for you because your mind is closed to any ideas that were not your own. So ... bye wave
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JA, you clearly have issues.

It is clear that you are the one that is judge-mental.

well, well.. you seem to be having problems digesting new pictures presented by me and because it's out of you box, is that what you can come back with ?! Piss poor.

Have you been smoking too much weed or do you need some counseling? And keep your sorry for your own arse.

I've got my own problems trying to learn high German and Bavarian language.

Mind your own business... Or are you finding verbal jabbing with me therapeutic?

 

Hey, Japan IS a huge multinational conglomerate. It's Japan Corp.

What did MacArthur do right after the war? He tried but still remains as such.

 

 

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Jynxx your thoughts on here are very revealing about the insular, closed minded thinking of the Japanese. Believe me that I've come up against it continually during my time here. The fact that you believe I have to be here for 20 years or more to be able to have any sort of insight into the industry just shows how ridiculously opposed Japanese are to change and innovaiton. This is an ailing industry, it needs new thinking and fresh ideas to reinvigorate itself but whilst the Japanese think they know best about everything then this will never happen because new thinking and fresh ideas is hardly part of their culture.

I'm certainly starting to understand more and more why Japan was about the only developed nation that didn't have a boom after the last recession. The rest of the world moved on and will continue to do so and Japan will find itself falling further and further behind becoming an anachronistic reminder of a bygone era.

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This is a very good read, from my point of view, as I have never been to Japan and am planning a trip in Jan 2010.

Whether everyone agrees with the info is not really an issue for me. Just good to read all the comments.

 

Anyone else with similar comparisons of other resorts?

John.

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Quote:
Even when they recognize that innovation is required they suffer from a lack of funds to make the changes or can ill afford to risk spending money on speculative initiatives.


Totally agree with this comment.
Lack of funds - and less each year - surely has a huge crippling effect on what they can do.
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Originally Posted By: Go Native
Jynxx your thoughts on here are very revealing about the insular, closed minded thinking of the Japanese. Believe me that I've come up against it continually during my time here. The fact that you believe I have to be here for 20 years or more to be able to have any sort of insight into the industry just shows how ridiculously opposed Japanese are to change and innovaiton. This is an ailing industry, it needs new thinking and fresh ideas to reinvigorate itself but whilst the Japanese think they know best about everything then this will never happen because new thinking and fresh ideas is hardly part of their culture.
I'm certainly starting to understand more and more why Japan was about the only developed nation that didn't have a boom after the last recession. The rest of the world moved on and will continue to do so and Japan will find itself falling further and further behind becoming an anachronistic reminder of a bygone era.



It is sad to read this, but it is the way Japan seems, though i think not opposed to change and innovation it just takes time.

BTW Ski Mapple is a Japanese ski bible for all resorts in Japan. A few years ago, they put out an open letter to all ski companies in Japan, so there are fresh ideas there, just need to act on them.
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I understand where GN is coming from. But I will point out he is mixing issues. There is the local level Japanese culture, different in every prefecture. And in the multinational corporation level. Too simplistic but a good example.

hey, most Japanese oversea posting is about 4 to 5 years at one place. My dad was a GM for one of these companies and I was being groomed to take part in the inside strategic meeting of how to to business in the agricultural, coal, steel, finance in Australia. I didn't go down that path, but I can tell you these gentlemen knew very well about their business, they didn't know a whole lot about Aussies though. I consider your comments about Japanese, insubstantial due to your lack of the language. You can have your opinions after 4 years in Japan as a temporary resident. Like anyone who has stayed in a foreign country for 4 years. But that is your experience. Frankly, even you were a graduate of Japanese at Uni level, That is year 6 in Japanese level. Pretty fancy getting a B.A for doing primary school Japanese, don't you say?

 

I can make comments about WA people being insular always comparing with the East coasters... boasting they have the biggest state in OZ.

Or Queensland or pick anywhere. I don't make it an issue because it is just superficial and it's just people.

I've worked in Ashland, Kentucky population 3500. And I wouldn't call them insular. I call it culture.

 

One thing about this international business opportunities you talk about in the ski scene.

You are only talking from Aussie perspective.

Being here in Munich with and with a hours drive I can go to a lot of places in Tirol.

If I had a lot of money I'll go Swiss, or am one of these hang-with-the -stars people, I can go to St.Anton, I am going to Italy for a week next week. There is no need for me to go to a Euro-resort like place in Japan. I like Japan like it is.

Any North American's on this forum? what do you say? Maybe more decent hamburger joints? I can go with that.

Japanese skiers dream about going to Europe or Canada for a week. And they will do it taking advantage of the high Yen.

If the Japanese wants to tap in to the so called lucrative foreign market, It won't be what you are imagining.

It would be the Chinese and Korean market. More Chinese and Korean food at these resorts. Chinese and Korean speaking employees.

You have failed to take notice the boom in learning these language in Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

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I see little point in comparing Japan to Aus. Some parts of Aus are insular as well, um so what? There is a world of difference though how the federal governments of each country view immigration and muticulturalism.

 

Yes I can only comment on my own experiences. All I know is that there is huge potential here and some are taking full advantage of that but very few of them are Japanese. The company I work for manages properties for about 200 owners and only 2 of them are Japanese. And I am not only talking from an Aussie perspective. A very high percentage of our new owners are from SE Asia. Hong Kong investors especially are making their presence felt here.

 

Personally I don't see how staying here longer and developing my language skills is going to make any difference to my opinions. So far the longer I've stayed here and the more I've discussed the issues with Japanese locals the more frustrated I have become. Even the younger Japanese who agree with much of the points I've raised here and have helped me to understand how things are, just can't see any way to really change things. They too are frustrated by the views of the old school reosrt management here.

 

The company that manages Hirafu is part of a huge conglomerate and the people who run it have normally risen up through the ranks of the parent company. Many have no prior experience whatsoever of running a ski resort. The marketing manager has no experience in marketing. In fact most have just been promoted due to age and not skills. It seems to me they are just hoping to last out their final years before retirement without actually having to do anything.

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GN, We are not talking about immigration or multiculturalism here.

I have just pointed out that your comment about "insular" is not a significant issue. It happens everywhere.

I am pointing out that your view of international tourism is biased. Australia and English speaking background tourism.

You don't speak the language and live in a skiing village in Hokkaido that caters for Aussies and yet you have the galls to generalize the Japanese.

Hey, Hokkaido is like the Northern Territory of Australia. It's part of Japan for sure, but do you get my drift.. It's like a Japanese who doesn't speak the language saying, I work at Kakadu and I've got Australia and the Aborigines sussed out.

 

You don't understand Nen-koh-JyoRetsu and Honne-to-Tatemae.

When one does not understand the language, one does not understand and appreciate the culture. A token existence.

When I was a kid, my sister and I looked at our parents like they are aliens and disbelief that they had been in UK for 5 years and couldn't understand English. I am trying hard not to be like that and get laughed at when my girlfriend and I have kids here. I feel like an idiot lot of the times. It is a gift in disguise when one is confronted by a different culture.

You are at THAT point. Long way to understanding, I am afraid.

Anyways, we are not going to agree on this, so be it. no worries.

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Originally Posted By: Jynxx
GN, We are not talking about immigration or multiculturalism here.
I have just pointed out that your comment about "insular" is not a significant issue. It happens everywhere.
I am pointing out that your view of international tourism is biased. Australia and English speaking background tourism.
You don't speak the language and live in a skiing village in Hokkaido that caters for Aussies and yet you have the galls to generalize the Japanese.
Hey, Hokkaido is like the Northern Territory of Australia. It's part of Japan for sure, but do you get my drift.. It's like a Japanese who doesn't speak the language saying, I work at Kakadu and I've got Australia and the Aborigines sussed out.

You don't understand Nen-koh-JyoRetsu and Honne-to-Tatemae.
When one does not understand the language, one does not understand and appreciate the culture. A token existence.
When I was a kid, my sister and I looked at our parents like they are aliens and disbelief that they had been in UK for 5 years and couldn't understand English. I am trying hard not to be like that and get laughed at when my girlfriend and I have kids here. I feel like an idiot lot of the times. It is a gift in disguise when one is confronted by a different culture.
You are at THAT point. Long way to understanding, I am afraid.
Anyways, we are not going to agree on this, so be it. no worries.


And Jynxx would know all these things about GN, just exactly how? I wonder!

FFS, Gn lives there, is married to a local, has worked there for some years - You think he doesn't know the language? Perhaps he knows the local situation far, far better than someone who (by their own admission) has not lived there for a while.

Methinks Jynxx, ole mate, it's time to call it quits, admit defeat and retire gracefully from the field of battle.
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Actually I'm married to an Aussie and yes my language skills are well below what you might expect from someone who's been here for a number of years (Niseko isn't the best place to learn and practice Japanese). And I do get what Jynxx is trying to say. The thing is I think I do understand the culture (especially the business culture) here reasonably well and I just don't particularly like it.

 

I think things could be greatly improved here and I would love to see the Japanese being integral in driving that improvement and future development. I really don't think this place will succeed in the long term until the Japanese really get behind it. Currently though Japanese involvement in the development of this resort and it's future direction is extremely minimal besides a few pension owners complaining about losing their Youtei views. Where is the short, medium and long term development plans for the resort from Tokyu? What is their vision for the future? If they have one they haven't exactly made it public. Finding this sort of information from other ski resorts around the world is not that difficult, usually accessible from the front page of their websites.

 

The Niseko Promotion Board has been a step in the right direction to help facilitate dialogue between foreign and local business interests but most involved are finding it very frustrating. Businesses pay significant amounts of money to be part of NPB but I know for a fact that many seriously question whether it's worth it.

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I'm a simple bloke, and don't really understand business culture of any persuasion, but the front page of the newspaper every day tells me the J economy is f***ed at the present time, as are all their export markets, and I'd be surprised if any leisure-based enterprises can see past next season, let alone have a long term development plan in place.

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