Hailing from Hachioji in western Tokyo, our very own advertising manager Katsumi Jojo settled in Niseko 15 years ago after three winters. Now working with SkiJapan.com and Niseko.com magazine, Jojo is married to a Kutchan local and raises 2 children in one of Hokkaido’s most beautiful regions.
We sat down to get the low-down on some of Jojo’s favourite activities and foods in Niseko.
Hi Jojo, please tell us about how you came to live in Niseko.
A couple of decades ago I was living in Western Tokyo where I worked weekends at a beach bar and weekdays with black cat postal service. I also assisted at a skateboard shop.
A friend of mine from Niseko contacted me and advised that Niseko was going to be the next big thing; the area was getting really interesting with a growing winter scene so I decided to head up and see for myself. I had previously lived in Canada where I really enjoyed the outdoor lifestyle there so Niseko seemed like a great local option.
I started off working three winter seasons before I met my now wife, and we decided to live together here permanently. Niseko offered a very unique environment with lots of foreigners and languages, beautiful nature and surroundings; nice mountains, nice beaches, nice rivers, nice food, and a relaxed countryside vibe.
There was the option to possibly move together to Tokyo instead but Niseko was too attractive, plus my feet were getting tired from standing at the beach bar all day during the weekends! That had been a fun time but it was time to make a permanent change and give my feet a rest.
What are your favourite summer activities?
I really enjoy motorcycling around the region; unfortunately, I’ve been so busy doing repairs on my bike that I haven’t had a chance to get on the road this summer, but it’s a great feeling when you’re riding!
I’m also a big fan of water activities; SUP (Stand Up Paddle boarding) is growing very popular in Niseko and it’s a fun and challenging activity. There’s a lot of rivers, lakes and beaches around here so plenty of SUP opportunities available.
What are your favourite local dishes?
The pork in Niseko is beautiful; tonkatsu is definitely one of my favourites and IchiFuji in Makari town is a great location to try it.
There’s also a great spot in front of Kutchan station called J’s Corner Grill; one of the town’s first restaurants. They have a very casual atmosphere which I really enjoy.
Are there any locations you would recommend for travellers to explore?
The whole area surrounding Mt. Yotei is beautiful, and behind Kutchan station there is a local ski area called Asahigoaka which is much quieter than Grand Hirafu, it’s a good place to hike and enjoy the view.
The rest house there is definitely worth a visit – they have delicious soba noodles available.
How do your family enjoy Niseko?
Niseko is definitely a good place to raise a family – the location and people here are very nice.
My kids joined the local kids jazz school so they both learn instruments. My son also joined the Bouken program which is a great outdoor kids program and he loves it. Because it’s a smaller town it’s easy to join these programs and there’s easy communication with the community.
Do you have any goals for summer?
Last summer I started running, and this year I entered the Hakodate half marathon (21km).
Next year I want to do the Niseko Marathon! The last 5km was really tough but I hope next year I will be fitter and complete it easier.
Any recommendations for things to do?
Niseko has a lot of air activities such as hot balloon, skydiving, paragliding – if I get a chance I would like to try these. Some of our summer guests have tried the paragliding activity and recommended it.