The Myoko lodge owner says his experience through the pandemic has been "nothing short of life changing", and cautions that when Japan reopens to tourists it's going to be "an absolute shit show ... but in a good way".

Myokoite Jamie Majewski has called the area home for the past few turbulent years. He opened his self-contained, large group-style accommodation, Good’en Inn, in early winter 2019. Like the rest of Earth’s inhabitants, the West Australian couldn’t know the changes the tourism industry would soon see.

Jamie, Good'en Inn

Good’en Inn owner Jamie Majewski

Despite the unfortunate timing, Jamie says his hands-on approach to Good’en Inn afforded brief validation, being met with a “great response from guests”. His business enjoyed a “fantastic early season,” an ever-positive Jamie insists.

Soon things changed.

“After the pandemic struck and borders closed, tourism for large group bookings just stopped,” Jamie recalls. “I had to change tact and supply rooms individually. Future investment plans were put on hold.”

Spotting a unique chance to “enjoy Japan during the unusual time” (read “share the mountain with far fewer people”) Jamie says he “was happy to just stay and wait out the storm”. That same storm provided further opportunities. More specifically, literal storms. Huge snow storms.

Many Myoko businesses were at the mercy of Mother Nature. The infamous 2021/22 winter season, or “Snowmaggedon” as Jamie calls it, left many buildings vulnerable to damage. While a quick survey of Myoko reveals a handful of casualties, the number would be greater without this in-demand handyman.

“Snow clearing and basic property repairs were in high demand,” Jamie recalls. He puts it down to both the lack of hands ordinarily provided by working holidaymakers and “business owners stuck abroad not being able to reach their properties for basic seasonal maintenance”.

“I can recall times where I would finish the rounds, go inside and have a coffee just to go back out and start all over again because 50cm had already fallen.”

“The magic of Myoko is the constant fight against nature and the elements, be it the forest trying to reclaim the mountain by growing 30 cm a day or the snow trying to crash all existence with a metre overnight.”

Snow clearing in Myoko

“Around the same time as the walls had reached six metres at my front door my snow blower engine exploded. I made a retreat and abandoned the front access to the house.”

Jamie continues: “The daily snow forecast check became that of an addiction to predict my future suffering. Never before have I heard of people not going riding on a powder day because it was impossible to move even on the steepest runs.”

At his property, Jamie recalls his regular one-hour snow-clearing routine suddenly taking a few more hours off the clock. “I can recall times where I would finish the rounds, go inside and have a coffee just to go back out and start all over again because 50cm had already fallen,” he says.

“My property is usually an easy job but the walls become so high I was unable to displace the snow over the top,” Jamie explains. “Around the same time as the walls had reached six metres at my front door my snow blower engine exploded. I made a retreat and abandoned the front access to the house. A tunnel formed and eventually swallowed the whole area which included both my front door and my gas bottles”.

“Unfortunately, a week after this I would discover that those LP gas bottles that supplied my heaters and hot water required changing. And so began the ten-hour expedition to reclaim the front of the house with a shovel, beer and some lessons learned”.

Before the reader goes feeling too sympathetic, it should be pointed out that this few-month period had its upsides. Resilience requires optimism but for Jamie, this didn’t require him to work too hard to find it. Of course, silver linings appeared on the mountain.

The last few seasons have been unimaginable and unexplainable,” enthuses Jamie. “The pandemic time gave me an unbelievable opportunity. Endless powder runs where the only track you could see was the last one you laid. Getting to the lift ten minutes before opening and the only people there chasing first tracks with you are some of your best mates from the local community.

Myoko backcountry

“The riding was like nothing I had ever experienced”

“The riding was like nothing I had ever experienced,” he continues. “I was able to ride terrain I’d never discovered and really explore and appreciate Myoko-san without the crowds. That coupled with my work obligations has been nothing short of life-changing”.

He goes on to mention similar scenes during mid-week day trips to places like Lotte Arai, Madarao and Nozawa. Prefectural government subsidy promotions helped locals get around to different resorts, easing financial burdens without sacrificing too much fun during such tough times.

There’s no proof that Jamie’s fondest covid-era mountain memory actually happened. As he recalls, “My most memorable moment from the pandemic seasons would be dropping the cornice at Suginohara — the one directly under the top chair as it goes over the gully. It was the biggest drop of my life. Only to find out old mate’s finger was covering the camera the whole time”. Sure thing, mate.

Jamie cites variable conditions and the mountain’s variety as to why the ideal Myoko mountain experience depends upon the day one embarks on it. “I don’t think you can have a favourite run, hike or experience once you know the mountain and resorts well enough,” he asserts. “Depending on conditions there is always somewhere amazing on offer to explore. And if not, you pack a rice ball and a one-cup nihonshu and hike up just to see the view that so few others get to see”.

What’s ahead, both for Jamie and Myoko in general? He speaks with what many fellow Myoko business owners would like to call realistic optimism when envisaging a brightening future.

Jamie during the off-season

The Myoko area has so much more to offer,” says Jamie. “Whether it’s surfing forty minutes away in the Japan Sea or enjoying the lake life ten minutes away at Lake Nojiri.”

“Initially I just wanted to open an accommodation where people in large groups could come stay and enjoy the winter,” Jamie explains in relation to his plans prior to more recent consideration. “But now I have such a greater appreciation for the area and I would be hard pressed to tell you which season I like better”.

“The Myoko area has so much more to offer,” says Jamie. “Whether it’s surfing forty minutes away in the Japan Sea or enjoying the lake life ten minutes away at Lake Nojiri. Hiking through the autumn leaves or sitting by Takada Castle taking in the cherry blossoms. Eating Japanese traditional street food or barbecuing by a waterfall.

“I’ve been here three years and I’m always finding a new place to go or being told of another secret local gem. This is where I would like to focus my business and help people experience all I have experienced for themselves. I’d like to have guests return in the so-called ‘off-season’ and see how ‘on’ it actually is.”

Of matters related to the ski season, Jamie sees a thunderous return. It will be “an absolute shit show. A weak yen and snow-hungry powder fiends tearing the place apart …but in a good way”.

Jamie is as pragmatic as he is enthusiastic when it comes to the challenges involved in Myoko life. “Language and culture are always difficult no matter where you are in the world. But I think that here in Myoko if you’re willing to try, learn, respect and appreciate these things, the support you receive from the local community is overwhelmingly positive”. True.

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