JAPAN SNOWSPORTS – #2 DEMOLITION
The first period after moving into the lodge we were confronted with a few unpleasant surprises. Almost every day we discovered something new. Did we expect this? Yes. Did we expect it to this extent? Maybe not…
It appeared the previous owners did a very good job of making things look nice…from the outside. The better we looked, the more we discovered neglected maintenance. Instead of solving problems and attacking the cause of it, they’ve been hiding problems by covering it up. A few examples:
To cover up the moist problems of some of the walls in the downstairs toilet they screwed thin plywood against it with wallpaper on top. The plywood got fully saturated with moist and the wallpaper started to peel off. To solve this, they patched the wall with plastic sheeting. Nothing to see!
Instead of replacing the carpet on the downstairs floor, they just put another carpet on top…and another one…and another one…
When we first viewed the lodge, the owner told us they hadn’t been running the lodge for 3, maybe 4 years. When we started talking to the neighbours, they carefully mentioned it was more likely to be 10 …..Surprise!! During those years they took a smaller boiler that catered just for the couple that still lived there. Of course, they just left the old boiler in the boiler room. Way too much hassle to get that thing out!
Another fun little fact the neighbours told us is, they barely saw a window open. Which makes us suspect that to save energy, ventilation as well as heating was probably only done in their own residential area. One of the causes, we think, that the outside walls on the downstairs floor suffered from moist problems, e.g. condensation on concrete walls and exposed water pipes, and groundwater pushing through the outside walls. Apparently, this is a common problem in buildings built in this area from around the same period.
During this period (1970’s/’80s) the economy of Japan was booming. Ski resorts were built all over Japan and the ski industry skyrocketed in popularity and so did ski accommodation. A remarkable fact, and a result from that period:
Japan comes second in the world when counting ski resorts with more than 4 lifts.
This figure originates from the International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, 2019.
It was obvious that, like many other lodge owners in this region, the previous owners of April Wine were hit by the significant economic downturn that hit Japan during the early ’90s. During this period, real estate was affected hard and many ski resorts had difficulties maintaining their huge facilities. Lodge owners simply didn’t have enough business to keep their facilities running neither did they have the funds to maintain the building. As a result, many of them started gambling, drinking and smoking away their sorrows (the poor guy that owned our lodge was suffering from stage 4 lung cancer). All-in-all, quite a sad story and we see it as our duty to bring back the spirit into their lifework. We basically had to STOP WHINING and start demolishing!
Slowly but surely our plan of attack for the first winter became clear:
- Fully rip out and renovate the downstairs floor with dining room, lounge, playroom and kitchen.
- Update the guest rooms on the first floor and have 7 rooms operating.
- Use the four rooms on the top floor for staff residency.
Below floor plans show how the lodge will become after our renovations this year.
The most radical changes will take place on the downstairs floor. A few major tasks:
- Ripping out all the carpets, floorboards and floor joys.
- Replace all water piping and move them under the new floor instead of over the ceiling.
- Reinsulate all outside walls.
- Removing a few walls to open up the entire space and create an open playroom.
- Install a new heating system.
- Add a boiler for sufficient hot water system.
AKAKURA KANKO RESORT
This week, our activity, as well as our food-related topic, take place at the same location: Akakura Kanko Resort. A hotel, beautifully situated on the middle of the main slope of Akakura Kanko Ski Resort. It has a terrace with amazing views, an in house bakery, good food and one of the most beautiful onsens in the area. Although the onsen is only accessible for guests, they often have a good package deal that combines lunch and an onsen visit. A good suggestion for a lazy afternoon, after a morning of riding powder
Our good friend Nanaco, who provides Yoga lessons for skiers and snowboarders in winter, keeps running her classes in summer too. She always manages to select great locations with awesome mountain views.
The terrace of Kanko Hotel is one of them. Mostly on Sunday mornings, you will be able to enjoy her class here, as well as the great views from the Kanko terrace. For us, this was a great way to recover our bodies during the heavy demolition job.
MYOKO WINE FESTIVAL
Another activity to take our mind off the renovations was the Myoko Wine Festival, where you can taste local and international wines. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Japanese festival if there were food stalls included as well.
Next to a relaxing purpose, we were there to decide on which wines to serve in the lodge. Curious about the ones we picked? Come and join dinner at our lodge and you will find out.
Thanks for making it till the end! Leave your comments or questions below! In the next blog post we will write about one of the least satisfying but oh so important preparation jobs: levelling floors and prepping walls.