You know when you get lost down an internet time hole, you start researching a new light for your bike, and suddenly you are watching a video on how to DIY convert your car to electric power, its 10pm and you forgot to eat dinner? Welcome to my evenings when I play ‘find the next Niseko/Hakuba/Myoko/Madarao’.
You can cheat and just go direct to PowderHounds, or you can analyse the entire country of Japan via Satellite Imagery, FatMap and Gaia. Every time I do this I surprise myself with how many places I have skied, but I always find new areas of interest. Finding a new ski resort that looks like a fun place to ride is one thing, but find a resort that is fun to ride and meets all your criteria is a whole other challenge.
When it comes to the real detail, and looking for individual properties of interest, Google Street View is the first stop. It is a fantastic tool for exploring your usual concrete jungle, and has impressive coverage in small mountain towns, but trying to look around a mountain village that one season is buried in meters of snow, and another with a mask of green foliage has its limitations.
When it comes to buying property in Japan, being on the ground is critical. The extent of the useful internet research you can do is limited. We are looking to buy into a market that has seen massive decline, and it is fair to say that the local residents and businesses that remain have not seen the internet as a priority. And even with the best information available online, we have had a few towns and buildings that got our hopes up, and then failed to deliver once we were physically there.
I recognise that researching ski resorts, towns and properties is just step one. The real work starts once we make a purchase! We can make inroads in learning the language and researching Japanese business laws now, but the reality is these are areas that we will focus on once we really need them. Hopefully soon…