Niseko Hirafu businesses respond responsibly to Covid cluster

niseko night
Hirafu, Niseko. Photo: Shutterstock/CJMac

It’s not all mammoth powder snow and glory for those in Niseko right now, though it sure looks like it on social media with huge snow falls and no crowds this season.

The Hirafu area of Kutchan Town in Niseko has recorded a cluster of Covid cases this past week with an infection in the Shiribeshi region. On January 7, there were officially 8 people that tested positive with Covid in a cluster of cases confirmed in various restaurants, and on January 9 a further 23 infections were announced.

Many Niseko businesses are doing “the right thing” and voluntarily announcing infections, closures, detailed cleaning and staff testing. Though Japan does not mandate Covid reporting or tracing.

The Niseko Kutchan tourism website is updating news regularly on all local businesses impacted, and their Covid measures in place to ensure a safe reopening. Local businesses are encouraged to add their details should staff members or customers test positive.

Restaurant Kamimura has temporarily closed after positive staff testing, Green Farm Cafe is also closing for a short time after one team member tested positive and REN Kitchen are doing the same.

Rhythm Japan had staff test positive and on January 6 they responsibly closed their Rhythm Hirafu, Zaka and the Odin Place Burton stores for cleaning and further team testing. As of Friday January 8, no further staff tested positive and they have since released appropriate statements with clear communication.

No one wants the lifts to close or the cluster to spread and many businesses are closing temporarily just in case. Bar Gyu closed on January 8 as a precaution and a deep clean, despite no positive test results. They reopened a day later ready to roll.

With all the snow currently on offer and no lift lines, the safest place may be in the white room skiing and riding with your bubble in the bottomless Japan powder while the cluster is nipped in the bud.

The Hokkaido Prefecture has also launched “the new Hokkaido Style” that Niseko businesses will be supporting when those that have temporarily closed reopen.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.