Top athletes to open accommodation offering outdoor sports thrills

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Taro Ando, left, Yoshiki Kuremoto, second from left, and others use a map to help them find suitable places for outdoor activities in Nagiso, Nagano Prefecture, on April 13.

The Yomiuri ShimbunNAGANO — Former Olympic and national champion athletes will open a luxurious accommodation facility this autumn where visitors can experience a range of outdoor sports and enjoy meals made from local produce.

The facility in Nagiso, Nagano Prefecture, will draw on the area’s abundant nature through programs designed by these athletes, in a bid to tap the growth in foreign travelers who visit the local Kisoji area ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The project is being spearheaded by MENEX, an outdoor tourism development company that has operated since last year in Nagiso and the town of Iijima, also in the prefecture.

Established by people including Taro Ando, 40 — a canoeist who competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics — MENEX aims to expand and solidify outdoor sports culture and revitalize the region.

The company has helped host events and conduct local surveys in Iijima, which hopes to enliven the town through adventure sports.

The accommodation facility will be in Nagiso’s Tadachi district. The operators plan to offer a program in which visitors go canyoning down ravines known for their beautiful emerald-green water, ride mountain bikes or stroll along old roads near the Kisoji historic route, as well as try canoeing, paragliding and other activities.

Programs including the sites for these activities were selected by such athletes as Raita Suzuki, 45, a mountain biker who competed at the 2000 Olympics; and Tadayoshi Chabara, 51, who won the 2004 All Japan Snowboard Technical Championships. These athletes also plan to guide tours for visitors to the facility.

MENEX bought a two-story, 150-year-old house and renovated it into a luxurious accommodation facility with three rooms for guests to stay in.

Each room has a bathtub made from kiso hinoki cypress that cost more than ¥2 million, and is equipped with furniture and tableware jointly developed with companies in the prefecture. Visitors will be served meals created by a chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy and featuring rice and vegetables from Nagiso and freshwater fish from local rivers.

A one-night stay that includes two meals and sports activities is expected to cost about from ¥50,000 to ¥80,000 per person.

“A growing number of foreign visitors are coming to see the Tsumago-juku post town in Nagiso,” said Yoshiki Kuremoto, a 39-year-old paraglider who represented Japan and is from Ina, Nagano Prefecture. “These visitors want to enjoy both traditional Japanese culture and the abundant nature. We want to unleash the Kiso region’s potential as a venue for outdoor sports.”

Nagiso Mayor Hiroaki Mukai also is hopeful about the new facility. “I’m grateful that [the facility] will be a place to let people from Japan and overseas become more familiar with the town’s nature and farm and marine produce,” Mukai said.

Public invited to chip in funds

MENEX will raise some of the capital needed to launch the accommodation facility by issuing new stock offered to the public.

The company is eligible to use the “angel tax system” that gives preferential treatment to individuals who invest in a start-up company. MENEX will issue 3,000 nonvoting shares, which cost ¥10,000 each, and will seek investors willing to buy at least 50 shares.

According to the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency, an aggregate 45 companies in the prefecture used the angel tax system over the five years from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2016 — the second-highest figure in the nation after Tokyo.

Other Nagano enterprises that have used the angel tax system include Kusunoki Winery Co. in Suzaka and Shinshu Sports Spirit Inc., the Chikuma-based company.

“Unlike crowdfunding, which requires hefty fees, the angel tax system is an easy way for start-ups to get capital,” said Masashi Miyakoshi, 73, head of a Nagano-based firm that provided business support to these companies. “If more entrepreneurs and investors become familiar with this system, it could help reinvigorate local economies.”Speech

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