Every year, Simon Cheong visits Niseko with his family. This annual ritual began in 2008, just after the global financial crisis. Niseko was a quiet town back then. There were few international standard hotel accommodations, and the eateries were tiny; sometimes Cheong’s group of 10 would take up all the spaces in the joint.
But Cheong noticed Niseko’s potential. The town had the finest powder snow in the world, which attracted a lot of serious skiers and snowboarders, and the founder of SC Global felt that the town could become a recreational family holiday experience. After all, Japan’s culinary prowess was already reaching fever pitch, the Japanese had perfected the onsen experience and Niseko was bilingual. Many locals could speak English, thanks to the Australians and Canadians who had made their way there in previous decades and settled down.
More than a decade later, Cheong’s vision is coming to fruition. The Setsu Niseko is SC Global’s first luxury resort residence in the town and “probably the largest project in the Hirafu area”.
Planning for Setsu Niseko began at the end of 2016. Then, three years later, Cheong started putting together the management team. “I am always a firm believer that software is a key component of any project. We started interviewing two years ago to get the right team; we wanted a Japanese one,” he says.
Michiko Tamoto answered the call. The hotel manager of Setsu Niseko is a native of Hokkaido and has worked in multiple luxury resorts around the world.
While putting the team in place, Cheong concurrently refined the look and feel of Setsu Niseko. Interior design is the cornerstone of many of SC Global’s projects, and Cheong wanted to make sure his latest reflected the town’s sensibilities. “One thing I remember when I first went to Niseko was the hotel. To be honest, it felt like it could have been anywhere in the world, so it was disappointing,” he recalls.
“When you stay at Setsu Niseko, we want you to experience Japan. There is a lot of wood and several Japanese elements in the interior design, the shoji screens, the washi paper on the walls and authentic tatami rooms. We have spared no effort to make sure that we get it right.”
For Cheong, the view is critical. He doesn’t want people to stay in their rooms but instead, be inspired to get out and experience the beauty of Niseko’s mountains.
Food is another pillar of Setsu Niseko’s approach. There are six different restaurants, including two helmed by Michelin-starred chefs, within the resort and includes many Japanese and Western delights.
As Tamoto says, “Our focus is truly the guest experience. We envisage that Setsu Niseko will be a destination for everyone, where they can enjoy, relax and get everything they need without taking one step away from the hotel. We are here to ensure the experience is unique, memorable and personable.”
Beyond the food and ski options, the wellness facilities in the resort will be one of the largest in the Grand Hirafu area.
One decision Cheong made for Setsu Niseko is to make the apartments available to investors. Each comes with full professional management and leasing services. It’s an interesting move, but Cheong has always made bold decisions in the past 25 years. Most pan out, but the business veteran readily admits that some have failed, mostly when he “bets on the wrong people”.
Still, Cheong notes that even real estate projects that might have been written off as failures in the beginning recover, as long as there is no fraud and corruption. “Integrity is the mother of all success,” he says. It’s the common thread that underlines all of his achievements. Combine that with his unparalleled eye for detail and you get the remarkable track record that Cheong and his team have managed to garner. As he wisely notes, there is no limit in the market for quality and with Setsu Niseko, it looks like yet another home run for SC Global.
Setsu Niseko will receive its first guests in August 2022.