Niseko—The Perfect Place To Raise Kids
Having spent so much of her life living abroad, Experience Niseko's Japanese editor Yuko Miyake explains why Niseko is perfect for raising a family!
Where I'm from
I am originally from Kyoto and I have also lived in many different cities outside of Japan since I left my hometown at the age of 15. It seems like fate that I ended up arriving in the small town of Niseko, living as one of the outsiders!
Many residents in this area are from other places originally, showing that this unique little international community is a great place, not only to visit, but also to settle down in; especially for people who have or are thinking of starting a family.
I moved to Sapporo a couple of years ago during the winter season. That winter, I took a day trip to Niseko and that was my first "Niseko experience". When I was in the Hirafu area for the first time, I was almost overwhelmed hearing English being spoken all over the village, in hotels and restaurants, and seeing the sheer number of visitors from abroad. It made me wonder if visitors here felt like I had felt when I was in Waikiki beach in Hawaii, where for a Japanese person you could end up feeling like you had never left Japan.
It was surprising to learn that there are such places here in Japan that have become so international. I bet that most of the Japanese people who visit and live in the area feel the same way. What I felt that winter when I first visited Niseko and discovered this unique and special community will always be engraved in my memory.
As a mother of two young boys, I feel that Niseko is the perfect place to raise children—especially younger ones. If you have ever thought you would rather your children grow up surrounded by nature as opposed to in the big city, then Niseko is the perfect choice.
It can be a bit nerve-wracking moving to a different country, especially one where you don't speak the native language. Truth be told, it usually is pretty hard to overcome a big language barrier and to get comfortably involved with the community as you settle down. Due to Niseko's status as an international resort, this issue is actually softened quite a bit. You might be surprised to discover how supportive the community is and how many resources there are to ease the frustrations caused by language barriers.
You might be concerned about the education system and what kind of schooling your children might receive. Despite being a small town, there is a branch of Sapporo's Hokkaido International School in Niseko Town which offers IB-standard education at the elementary level. Kutchan Town's Kabayama Elementary School is also well known for having an incredible mix of students with varied backgrounds and is possibly one of the most unique schools in all of Japan for this reason.
Many families who move to the Niseko area choose to send their children to local schools. Their children can learn the Japanese language naturally in school and during everyday life. They also get the chance to pick up Japanese mannerisms and to be exposed to different Japanese traditions and values. By doing so, young children can grow up learning multiple languages, cultures, and customs picking up both those from being in Japan and those from their parents.
This is now our second year living in Niseko and my kids are both enjoying their time in and out of school. My older son has been able to experience both public and international schools and is currently attending a local elementary school. My younger son goes to a local Niseko Town kindergarten.
Niseko is a great environment for kids to pick up winter activities out on the mountains, of course, but in the other three seasons there are so many things to try as well! Both of my boys are taking full advantage of the seasonal activities available to them. They are out snowboarding almost every day during the winter months. In the summer, we spend our days cycling and mountain biking and the evenings barbecuing.
Hokkaido's climate is drier and milder than most other parts of Japan over the summer months and for that reason alone a lot of Japanese people (and visitors from across Asia) come to Niseko to avoid the heat and humidity of the mainland. The pleasant summer climate makes it perfect for all the summer camps and programs for children in the Niseko area. Many of them are designed and run for English speakers, but it isn't uncommon to see non-native participants, too. Both of my sons have been lucky enough to attend camps aimed at English-speakers and at Japanese-speakers here in the area.
With all of these amazing experiences to be had here in Niseko, you might wonder whether there is anything negative about living in the area? I guess if I had to choose something, you and your family and friends back home might miss each other... and you would likely put on a bit of weight eating all of the amazing and delicious food here in Niseko!