Myoko Vista Lodge in thriving Akakura village at the base of magnificent Mount Myoko is the life-changing business of Wollongong couple Louise Wellington & Warrick O’brien.
Just how hard is it to own a ski lodge in Japan and live the powder dream? What could go wrong?
Well plenty apparently, we talked to several people who had taken the plunge and done just that in the Snow Japan Mega Guide.
They include Wollongong couple Louise Wellington & Warrick O’brien. They gave up careers – Warrick was an Environmental Scientist, Louise worked for Local Government, and still consults, after they fell in love with Myoko, buying what’s now the new Myoko Vista lodge.
They spent their first 2 months of ownership essentially camping – with a portaloo outside and barbecue to cook on – while they waited for essential services to get reconnected. That’s in Myoko, which is one of the snowiest places in Japan, renowned for getting even more snow than Niseko some years. Despite those early dramas they renovated their purchase into the latest addition to Myoko’s growing boutique accommodation options, which are likely the next best thing if you can’t afford the magnificent Akakura Kanko Spa Hotel there.
So it’s not that easy, but also not that hard to own a ski lodge in Japan.
How did you get into owning a ski lodge in Myoko?
Warrick decided to chase the snow and became a Ski Patroller at Thredbo. Considering what we could do in the off-season, we decided to take on chasing the snow in Japan. We’ve travelled the world snowboarding and always come back to Japan because of its culture and its amazing snow.
We’ve been coming to Japan sine 2005, and recently started distributing Japanese snowstick brand Moss in Australia. Having friends in Japan, and a business associate, it seemed appropriate to consider investing here. We visited Myoko in 2014 and fell in love with the small town and its relatively un-Westernised character, as well as it being easy to get to from Tokyo, not to mention its record snow falls!
We also felt there was not a great deal of higher-end, self-catering accommodation, or boutique accommodation in Myoko, and we are hoping to fill that gap.
Did friends/family tell you were crazy?
The usual reaction when we tell people we have bought a ski lodge in Japan is met with wide eyes and the response being, “You whaaaat?”
Did you have any Japanese language skills/background to help?
We have virtually no Japanese language skills, which is probably the most difficult part about setting up a business here. Luckily we have a close friend and business associate who is Australian but lives here and has been a huge help to us. But it’s incredible how easily you can get by in Japan only speaking the basics. Everything is so logical, from the train system, to the menus in restaurants with lots of pictures on them. Everything can be forgiven with a “kudasai” and a “arigato gozaimus!”
What’s been the hardest thing?
Not being able to read Kanji and having to chose DIY products by guessing and looking at pictures whilst perusing the local hardware store. And when we first got the keys there was no power, water, gas, anything! We had to live February and March 2016 like we were camping out inside. We had to have a portaloo on site because we couldn’t flush with water. We also had to cook on a campfire outside.
The most rewarding – not financially speaking?
It’s still really early days. We are still putting the finishing touches on our brand new boutique lodge. We really hope we can share this amazing town and the mountain resorts with people who are looking for something outside of Niseko or Hakuba.
Would you recommend it to others, any tips from what you’ve learnt?
Of course we would! Try to learn some basic Japanese and be polite. Respect is huge here in Japan and its one of the reasons why we love being here so much. As long as you can show respect and kindness it’s easy to get by.
Anything new for this season?
All of us! We are brand new and are offering special launch season rates. We are offering self-contained accommodation which is rare to find in Myoko, as well as private bathrooms, and all the comforts of home. We are also offering transfers and organised trips to neighbouring resorts. We want to be guided by the guests and what they want most out of their Japow holiday.
Check them out at and the debut season specials at www.myokovista.com
For more Ski Change own a ski lodge in Japan stories check the #SnowJapanMegaGuide issue.