Guest Houses in Niigata
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- “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 MadaraoOnpoint 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 ©NAVITIME JAPAN. Travel Info Check out our travel tips to make your trip better!
2020 March Best Events in Japan
- March heralds in the start of spring, with peach blossoms igniting towns and cities across Japan. This is marked by Hinamatsuri (Girls Day), which is also called the Momo no Sekku (Peach festival) and is held throughout the country. But Japan also hosts a number of other festivals and celebrations to look forward to. In this guide, we’ve selected some of the most popular events that take place in Japan during March and the scenic landscapes that you can only see at this time of the year. Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day / ひな祭り) Hanging Hina Doll in Inatori Onsen of Izu Celebrated every year on March 3, Hinamatsuri (which is also known as Girls’ Day or Doll’s Day) marks the start of spring and has long been associated with the flowering of peach trees. It sees ornamental dolls representing the Emperor and Empress dressed in Heian period outfits being displayed on platforms covered by red carpets. ― Ibaraki: Makabe’s Hinamatsuri Makabe’s Hinamatsuri While the festival is held across Japan, the celebrations in the Makabe District of Ibaraki Prefecture (真壁のひなまつり) have become particularly popular. People come from across the country to wander through the historic streets and see precious dolls displayed by locals while enjoying the local hospitality and cuisine. Also popular are the celebrations in Yuki City where old stores and sake breweries are transformed into doll exhibition spaces. Read more: Makabe’s Hina MatsuriDate: 4 February to 3 March, 2020Website: https://www.ibarakiguide.jp/seasons/hina.html ― Izu: Hanging Hina Doll Festival in Inatori Onsen Hanging Hina Doll Festival in Inatori Onsen In the hot spring town of Inatori Onsen, the rare and expensive handmade dolls known as Hina are displayed during the Hanging Hina Doll Decoration Festival (伊豆稲取温泉 雛のつるし飾りまつり). The tradition of hanging these beautifully designed dolls is said to bring good health to young girls, with flowering cherry blossoms only adding to the stunning scene. Date: 20 January to 31 March, 2020Website: http://www.inatorionsen.or.jp/hina_sp/index.html ― Tokyo: Meguro Gajoen Hyakudan Hinamatsuri Hyakudan Hinamatsuri Every year, historic ornamental dolls from various Japanese prefectures are showcased as part of the Hyakudan Hinamatsuri (百段雛まつり) exhibit at the Hotel Gajoen Tokyo. “Hina dolls stories of Izumo, Inaba, Hagi” as the main theme, this year will see dolls from Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi prefectures. Date: 24 January - 15 March, 2020Website:https://www.hotelgajoen-tokyo.com/en/hyakudankaidan/ ― Sakuramochi Sakuramochi The traditional food of Hinamatsuri is the sakuramochi, a sweet, pink-colored rice cake that’s stuffed with red bean paste and wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf. You can find sakuramochi at department stores and Japanese-style confectionary shops throughout the spring season and they’re an essential treat to eat during hanami (cherry blossom-viewing parties). Niigata: Tsunan Snow Festival (つなん雪まつり) Tsunan Snow Festival Niigata Prefecture’s town of Tsunan experiences some of the heaviest snowfalls in Japan. The resilience of local people to coexist with the snow is celebrated each year during the Tsunan Snow Festival. Among the events that take place are a snowboard straight-jumping competition known as Snow Wave, which sees skilled snowboarders show off their skills, and the Sky Lantern launch when hundreds of illuminated lanterns are released into the sky. Aside from being a magical sight, it’s an opportunity for people to deliver prayers or send messages for the health and happiness of their family and friends before letting the lanterns float towards the heavens. Tsunan Snow Festival Tsunan Snow Festival Nara: Todaiji TempleOmizutori (東大寺 お水取り) Todaiji Temple Omizutori Shunie is the name for a series of Buddhist repentance rituals that have been taking place at the Todaiji Temple in Nara prefecture for more than 1,250 years. The most famous and spectacular event is Omizutori, which begins just after sunset each night and sees giant torches being carried to the balcony of Nigatsudo Hall (a sub-complex of Todaiji Temple). Here their burning embers shower down and bestow onlookers with a safe year ahead. On the night of March 12, the torches are larger and more numerous, attracting the biggest crowds. Between 1:30 and 2:30 am, priests descend repeatedly to draw water from the well at the base of the temple hall in a ritual known as Omizutori (“water drawing”). It’s believed that the well’s water only flows once a year and has restorative properties. This is followed by the Dattan ceremony that’s performed inside Nigatsudo Hall and features the ringing of bells, blowing of horns and swinging of burning torches. Date: 1 - 14 March, 2020Website: http://www.todaiji.or.jp/contents/function/02-03syunie1.html Shiga: Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival (近江八幡 左義長祭り) Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival One of Japan’s most colorful historic festivals is the Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival, which takes place on the third weekend in March each year in Shiga prefecture. The origins of the festival are unclear, with some believing it was started in the 16th century by the warlord Oda Nobunaga and others saying it celebrated his death and the burning down of the castle. Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival Today, the neighborhoods that surround the old castle spend months building impressive floats featuring the year’s lunar calendar animals and a tall pine torch decorated with strips of red paper. Men dressed up as women carry the floats through the street and play “fight” with one another before burning the floats to the ground amidst much dancing in the firelight. Date: 14 - 15 March, 2020Website: https://www.sagicho.net/ Tokyo: AnimeJapan 2020 The state of Anime Japan 2019 If you’re a fan of anime, then you won’t want to miss one of the world’s biggest and most exciting anime conventions. AnimeJapan will be taking place from 21 - 22 March in 2020 and centered around the theme of JAPAN. It’s being held at the Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center), with anime-themed exhibitions and a range of manga and anime goods for sale, as well as stage performances from some of the industry’s biggest names. It’s a fantastic opportunity to dress up in cosplay and meet like-minded anime fans, with a Cosplayer’s World where you can have your photo taken against various manga and anime backdrops. Date: 21 - 22 March, 2020Website: https://www.anime-japan.jp/en/ Cherry blossoms Nakameguro Sakura in Tokyo While you can view cherry blossoms at numerous locations across Japan, one that you must see is the famous Nakameguro Sakura in Tokyo. The Meguro River becomes a cherry blossom wonderland during spring when trees draped in pink blossoms hang over the canal. Shops and stalls created especially for the occasion line the waterway selling everything from spring-themed foods to pink champagne. Along the Meguro River Nakameguro is the best place in Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms, which tend to flower around late March to early April. Aside from picnicking beneath the trees with the locals and strolling along the river walk, you shouldn’t miss a visit at night when the cherry blossoms are beautifully illuminated.Click here to see more information about conditions.Read more:From earliest to latest, follow the blooming flowers of cherry blossom 2020Date: late March - early April (depending on the cherry blossoms) ©NAVITIME JAPAN. Travel Info Check out our travel tips to make your trip better!
Nuttari Terrace Street Guest House
- Only a 15-minute walk from Niigata station, Nuttari Terrace Street is a renovated avenue of a retro market street. Originally used for local neighborhood shopping and then abandoned, the street is now modernized with local cafes, restaurants, craft shops, and bookstores. While the storefronts are now filled with contemporary goods, the street still has a nostalgic atmosphere. Not only is Nuttari perfect for finding one of a kind souvenirs that were handmade in Niigata, it is also a stopping point for the small and friendly nightlife scene. Nuttari Terrace Street Guesthouse, or NARI, is well known for its cozy bar and chatty locals. Nuttari Terrace Street Guest House Nari’s peaceful wooden design is inspired by nature and hopes to create a welcoming atmosphere for weary travelers or those willing to make new friends. The guesthouse not only offers accommodation but it is also well known around town as the place to meet locals and travelers. The bar is fully stocked with the best Niigata sake and the patrons are friendly. Rooms Nari offers female and mixed dorms and two private rooms. The female dormitory, called Kochi, is inspired by spring. The dorm beds are made from sakura trees and the decor creates a warm spring ambiance. The mixed dorms, called Hae, is inspired by summer. The dormitory is larger than the female dorms and is illuminated with natural light. Each bed in both dormitories are equipped with a power outlet, locker, and reading lamp. There are two choices for the private rooms, one western styled and the other tatami styled. The autumnal western-style room, Ogi, has a double bed and desk – one or two people can stay in the room. The tatami room, Ibuki, gives wintertime vibes through the decor made from the wood of the persimmon tree – up to three people can stay in the room. Fluffy futons are provided for sleeping on the tatami. Ibuki is recommended for families. Bar Bar Nari’s bar is fully stocked with seasonal cocktails, draft beer, and, of course, a variety of local Niigata sake. The drinks are all affordable, 600 yen or under, and can be enjoyed in the lounge area. The lounge is a tatami-style living room with plenty of space to relax and have a friendly chat. Both the bar and lounge area are decorated in an industrial, rustic-meets-traditional style. The lighting is low and warm and the tables invite travelers to mingle with locals. The lounge and bar are open from early in the evening until the late hours, which make it the perfect stopping and ending point from bar hopping along the street. Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast costs 500 yen and can be ordered the night before or upon making the reservation. The meal is traditionally Japanese, served with two rice balls and seasonal miso soup. The breakfast is eaten in the lounge area where diners can converse with other travelers. There is also a shared kitchen on the premises where travelers can bring in their own groceries to cook their own meals. The breakfast is traditional, filling, and the perfect way to start off the day shopping along Nuttari or moving on to Niigata’s countryside. Nuttari Terrace Street Guest House ©NAVITIME JAPAN. Travel Info Check out our travel tips to make your trip better!
Found along the northwestern coast of Japan, Niigata prefecture is celebrated for its high-quality rice and breathtaking nature, most notably its spectacular mountains, whose white peaks draw in snow sports lovers from far and wide over the winter months. Hit the slopes at Yuzawa, pick out your favourite modern artist at Echigo Tsumari, or take a ferry over to Sado Island for an extra adventure.
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