• Exploring Niseko and Gifu! Sustainable snow resorts and alluring traditional crafts

    Sport & Nature_Story

    Exploring Niseko and Gifu! Sustainable snow resorts and alluring traditional crafts


Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), recently broadcasted a live stream focused on sustainable initiatives – celebrating the extraordinary natural surroundings in the town of Niseko, Hokkaido Prefecture, and traditional arts and crafts in the Nagara River Basin, Gifu Prefecture. These two areas were selected as “Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories” by Green Destinations, an international certification body for sustainable tourism destinations.

Hosted by Vaughan, an Australian-born, Tokyo-based promoter, business owner, and media personality, the broadcast highlights ways to enjoy nature and related activities in Niseko with an awareness for environmental conservation; and touching on efforts to celebrate and share the profound cultural heritage of the Nagara River Basin in Gifu, which has flourished thanks to this irreplaceable natural resources.

The livestream covers a number of different attractive features based around Niseko and Gifu, which we have highlighted in the excerpts below.

Niseko, Hokkaido

Mt Yotei or Ezo Fuji, Mt Fuji of the Northeast

These days the term Niseko has become so much more than just the name given to the scenic regional town located in Hokkaido, Japan's rugged north.

Gliding down Mt Niseko Annupuri with a spectacular view of Mt Yotei

Niseko is essentially a brand name synonymous with luxury, incredible natural views, world-class accommodation, clear, crisp sunny winter skies and the one natural feature that kicked it all off; powder snow. The snow in Niseko is so abundant, so pristine, and so pure it's unparalleled.

In recent years, or now decades, Niseko has gone from a well-kept local secret to a world-renowned destination. The growth in popularity is in large part thanks to the international guests – largely Australian– that make the annual pilgrimage here to enjoy the beauty of Japan's more untouched pockets and to explore, meticulously manicured runs, an international ambiance and plenty of off-slope attractions that epitomize the charm of après-ski culture.

Panoramic view of Mt Yotei from Mt Niseko Annupuri

The town's main resorts are all situated on the Niseko Mountain Range; they are Niseko Village, Annupuri and Moiwa. These three big names draw skiers and snowboarders throughout the season.

To make the entire resort more convenient for guests, the Niseko United Shuttle Bus service provides easy access to the various ski resorts. Some buses also connect the town to the mountains.

Given that Niseko's biggest drawcard, its greatest cultural asset, and most vibrant industry is built on the area's incredible natural beauty, it makes sense that this town is passionate about sustainability and ecological awareness.

You can find out all about the latest key attractions and activities in Niseko like skiing, snowboarding and the culinary appeals of the region. The video also goes into detail about JSTS-D (Japan Sustainable Tourism Standard for Destinations) "Model Destinations" and efforts.

Hakobune Niseko

One of the featured local businesses is Hakobune Niseko, a sustainability focused accommodation registered with the “Sustainable Travel” program.

Vaughan speaks with Andrew, who moved to Niseko from Australia and manages Hakobune Niseko, about his life in Niseko as well as his favorite local haunts – so tune in to get local tips on the best places to visit when you're in Niseko! Some key sightseeing spots include Niseko Distillery (Whisky and Gin), Chitose-Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, and National Ainu Museum and Park.

Niseko Distillery is an art piece in itself…

ohoro GIN Standard

Blending some of the best ingredients that Niseko has to offer, Niseko Distillery's very own ohoro GIN Standard was awarded the Country Winners Gold at one of the largest international gin competitions, World Gin Awards 2023 in England. Meaning ‘to continue on’ in the local Ainu dialect, ‘ohoro’ GIN is made with flavourful botanicals, including sweet gale and Japanese peppermint from Niseko with pristine high-quality underground water from Mt Annupuri.

For more information about Niseko Distillery, visit their official website.

Breathtaking Chitose-Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival

For more information about Chitose-Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival:

Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park
Courtesy of The Foundation for Ainu Culture

Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park
Courtesy of The Foundation for Ainu Culture

For more information about Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park:

Nagara River Basin, Gifu

Nagara River Basin

You'll also learn about the local charms of the Nagara River area in Gifu Prefecture during the broadcast. While located on Honshu, quite far from Hokkaido, the regions have a lot in common, including their focus on sustainability – namely, preserving their incredible natural beauty and effort in preserving their traditional legacy.

Mino City's “Mino Washi (traditional Japanese paper)”, Seki City's “Seki Blades” and Gifu City’s “Gifu Wagasa (Japanese umbrella)” are beautiful representative traditional arts and crafts, and cultures of the "Traditional Cultural Inheritance" in Nagara River Basin. They are excellent examples of Japan's rich cultural heritage and another element of sustainable tourism.

Mino Washi making with finesse

Mino Washi is the name given to the finely crafted washi paper made in Gifu's Mino City. This ancient craft has a history of over 1,300 years and documents made of Mino Washi are said to be the oldest paper in Japan.

Thin but strong and resilient, the paper is of such a high quality, it's featured in museums across the world – including the Louvre Museum in Paris that uses Mino Washi to repair ancient documents and paintings.

If you're lucky enough to spend some time in the well-preserved traditional town and paper hub Mino, be sure to experience the finesse art of Mino Washi paper making at Mino-Washi no Sato Museum; it's a popular activity for visitors from all over and a great way to experience traditional crafts!

Seki City’s master swordsmiths

Seki’s swords, sharpest blades

Seki City is known as the "City of Blades," and once you spend some time here, you'll understand why. This is the home of some of the best swordsmiths in the world, making it one of the "world's three major production centers of blades," along with Solingen in Germany and Sheffield in England.

While over time, Seki's blade industry evolved into making scissors, kitchen knives, and other cutlery used in daily life, the city still keeps its sword crafting legacy alive. The city continues to offer a valuable cultural experience where guests can observe Japanese swordsmiths at work. It's one of very few places you'll be able to experience such a craft.

Gifu’s traditional Wagasa

Wagasa (Japanese umbrellas) are iconic symbols of traditional Japan, and Gifu City is home to some of the best wagasa artisans in the world. Gifu City is actually the largest producer of wagasa, with many of these delicate works still meticulously crafted by hand.

While some of Japan's more traditional crafts are in danger of extinction, Gifu is inviting guests to come and experience their local cultures as a way to keep them alive for future generations.

For more information about sustainability and cultural experiences in Gifu, please visit the website:

Be sure to check out the virtual tour, exploring the extraordinary natural surroundings in the town of Niseko, and the profound cultural heritage of the Nagara River Basin. We hope the tour will be an inspiration in planning your next visit to Japan!

The original video was broadcasted on 5th February, 2023, you can watch the archived stream from below:

This article is supported by Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)

Contact TARO for more information and exclusive offers.

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