“I dubbed the project ‘Project Freedom’ before I had even started - the idea came from wanting to build a place that allowed me to break away from the 9-5 lifestyle I was in, in Tokyo. A place that allowed me to be more connected with nature and the mountains, somewhere I could enjoy a slower pace of life, and most importantly a place that I could offer to others who are also looking to escape the city every once in a while for similar reasons” – Justin of Onpoint Madarao
Onpoint Madarao is a newly opened (February 2020) guesthouse and community space close to Madarao Ski Resort on the border of Nagano and Niigata prefectures. It is owned and operated by a family of three – Justin of British and Italian heritage, his wife Kaori who comes from Tohoku in the north of Japan, and their rescue dog Tito, who just turned one!
Tucked away in a forest thick with trees and other wildlife sits Onpoint Madarao, surrounded by brilliant white snow in the winter and luscious green vegetation during the summer
Justin, his wife Kaori and their dog Tito outside Onpoint Madarao
Hailing from Tohoku, in Northern Japan, Kaori is no stranger to the great outdoors, heavy snow and cold temperatures!
After spending almost a decade living and working in central Tokyo, Justin who is a graphic designer by trade, and Kaori who comes from a background in sales decided to live out their wildest dreams by upping sticks, leaving the city and heading to the mountains for a more peaceful life in the countryside. They set about making their lofty dream a reality by searching high and low for a suitable place to set up shop. Their criteria were pretty simple – they were looking for somewhere quiet, surrounded by nature, yet within easy access of mountain activities and also accessible for guests from out of town.
They eventually found the ideal spot in Madarao, a disused hotel built towards the end of the bubble era in the mid-nineties, that had been constantly occupied but out of business for over two decades. Within months they secured the property and got to work on renovating it from the ground up by themselves. Everything was given an extensive make-over from the entire exterior to every last fixture in all of the rooms. The once dilapidated shell of a hotel was given a complete facelift and a whole new lease of life.
Having worked in the home-renovation industry before, Justin jumped at the chance to take on such an ambitious project as renovating his own guesthouse from the ground up
Kaori at the reception of Onpoint Madarao
Having worked for a spell as a home-renovator back in England in his early twenties, Justin was no stranger to DIY, but this project was much bigger than anything he had embarked on before. With the help of a few locals and a handful of friends though, Justin and Kaori slowly saw their grand ideas come to fruition in the form of a new home, a new business venture and a new place in Madarao for people to gather at, stay at and engage in a variety of fun and educational activities.
Justin and Tito
“Building this place has been challenging at times, but I can say for sure that this is the biggest and proudest achievement of my life so far” - Justin on the completion of Onpoint Madarao days before it opened to the public.
Now, after months of hard work the guest house has finally opened its doors to the public. It boasts eight spacious private rooms, all en-suite, a sizeable living room with an open fireplace, a large dining room and even a karaoke room for any guests that fancy testing their karaoke skills during their stay (when in Rome and all that). A dormitory style room with six beds is also available for bigger groups or individuals looking to keep costs low.
There are a total of eight bedrooms, each one has been designed and rebuilt to suit both Japanese and Western tastes, with comfortable and stylish trimmings. The views from the windows all look out towards a deep forest too, adding that extra something to help you relax and enjoy your stay
The bedrooms are made up of both double and twin beds, with others also having sofas that can be pulled out into extra beds for families. There is also a six bed dormitory available for larger groups or for individuals who are looking to keep costs low
The living room has a well-stocked bar and an open fireplace making the space warm and cozy
The Karaoke and Entertainment Room features a wide screen TV equipped with Netflix and a stack of classic video games!
All food is prepared on the day using fresh, local ingredients. The menu changes daily, with vegetarian options also available
A freshly prepared Japanese style “teishoku” dinner course
Breakfast is served
More than just a Guesthouse
The idea behind Onpoint Madarao, is that over time the place becomes much more than just a guesthouse. It will also be a space for people looking to temporarily escape their everyday routines - be that from any one of Japan’s bigger towns or cities, or from overseas - and engage in various activities related to nature, the mountains and sustainable living. It is a place for people to come, relax and socialize, while de-stressing and recharging in the beautiful surroundings of Japan’s Northern Alps.
The surrounding area offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities like snowshoe hiking in the winter, and regular hiking during the rest of the year
Lake Nozomi is a short walk from the guesthouse, it offers excellent scenery throughout the year
The quiet, peaceful surroundings of Onpoint Madarao Guesthouse
Plans are firmly in place to start a range of activities and workshops for guests who are interested in learning about life in the countryside, as well as sustainable food preparation. These include foraging in the mountains for wild vegetables during the summer months, snowshoe hiking during the winter months and also workshops in making homemade breads, pastas and other meals throughout the year, all using locally sourced ingredients, often by the guests themselves. There will also be workshops geared towards those interested in yoga and printmaking, meaning there is plenty on offer for all guests.
Kaori will be running a host of workshops from Onpoint Madarao where guests can learn all about sustainable cooking using local produce, as well as making pasta from scratch, and home bread baking methods. She also prepares all meals at Onpoint Madarao using fresh ingredients, so even if you don’t partake in the workshops you can still enjoy the delicious food!
Having been a keen baker since her teenage years Kaori has lots of experience making a range of breads, which will make up part of the workshops on offer at Onpoint Madarao
Oven-baked Italian style focaccia bread handmade by Kaori, served with homemade soup and local eggs
Justin who has been working as a self-employed graphic designer for over a decade will continue to run his design studio from Madarao, which he is also opening up to the public. The open-office will be available for anybody looking to relocate for a period of time to work on work assignments or personal projects in the peace of the countryside. The idea here, again, is to have a space that people can relax in and work to their full potential while being surrounded by the mountains and nature. A place that allows them to focus on whatever project they are working on with minimum disturbance.
One of the reasons Justin and Kaori settled on Madarao as a place to live was its close proximity to large forests that are home to a range of flora and fauna. Their relationship with trees doesn’t end there either as they have decided to donate a single tree to OneTreePlanted for every guest that stays with them
Finally, for every guest that stays at Onpoint Madarao, one tree will be donated by Justin and Kaori to the good people at OneTreePlanted – an environmental charity that is on a mission to help save the environment through large scale reforestation throughout Asia, Africa and South America.
This decision came from wanting to give back to the nature and the environment after Justin and Kaori learnt how big of an impact the tourism industry is having on our world and the everchanging climate. This means each and every guest at Onpoint Madarao also plays a part in helping offset the huge carbon footprint that national and international travel and tourism creates. A wholly admirable and inspiring decision indeed.
To learn more about Onpoint Madarao or to enquire about bookings, head over to their website at www.onpointmadarao.com