Hokkaido, Japan

[dropcap size=small]E[/dropcap]very year for the past 11 years, Grace Chong-Tan and her husband Rex, like most of the well-heeled in Singapore, decamp to Hokkaido, Japan, to don ski boots and feast on fresh seafood. The trips began as a winter retreat for their heat-allergic son, who took to skiing like “a fish to water”. The family explored different slopes in Hokkaido until they fell in love with Niseko.

Grace Chong-Tan, Rex Tan

“It was, is, and increasingly more so, an exciting hot pot of experiences – from the beautiful ski slopes to the vibrant night scene and myriad great restaurants, from aromatic food vans on the streets to Michelin-starred restaurants,” says Chong-Tan.

The regularity of their sojourns convinced the 40 somethings that they needed a base. They did not anticipate that their first property investment – a flat at AYA Niseko – would result in the purchase of a boutique hotel across the street as well. J-Sekka came with nine suites, and combines accommodation with restaurants, a whisky bar and a Japanese massage house.

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Says Chong-Tan: “Our purchase of J-Sekka changed our lives. Overnight, we became associated with hotels and hoteliers. We never thought of ourselves as such, just people who want to make a beautiful development better by offering the amenities of a five-star hotel.”

“Our purchase of J-Sekka changed our lives. Overnight, we became associated with hotels and hoteliers.”

– Grace Chong-Tan

For the well-travelled couple, this means introducing a professional concierge service; English on demand TV, as almost everyone in Niseko speaks the language; children’s TV programmes, since many families are out in full force in winter, free Wi-fi, in-room dining options from J-Sekka’s in-house F&B outlets, and a personalised travel consultancy for guests. J-Sekka earned a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor this year. The recognition takes into account quality, quantity and recency of reviews.

A peek into J-Sekka under its new ownership.

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The couple applies the same principles to running J-Sekka as they do to their clinics here and in Hong Kong. Says Chong-Tan: “It is about providing outstanding value, quality service and exceptional experience.”