Lake Nojiri is situated in the highlands of northern Nagano Prefecture surrounded by Mt. Madarao, Mt. Kurohime, and Mt. Myoko. By the lakeside stands the guest house Lamp, where Yu Yoshiwara is an outdoor instructor and guide. The site was originally Yoshiwara’s family home. His father, Yoshikatsu, migrated here from Tokyo some 45 years ago. Discovering kayaking had changed his life.
“Kayaking wasn’t all. Skiing, edible wild plant gathering, mushroom picking… My father searched for a location that rolled all of these activities into one, and this was it. He founded what is probably the oldest year-round outdoor school in Japan.”
In 2014, the family renovated the school’s lodgings into a guest house. Yoshiwara had received special education in the outdoors since the age of three. Working as a guide comes close to boasting about the home ground where he was born and raised.
“Take, for example, a hike in the mountain. At first, most visitors see only a blurry outline of the forest. Then I give them a plant’s name, describe its growth stages, and talk about the characteristics of the season and the location, and they gather more and more details from the same view. I love seeing this process of coming into focus.”
Lamp offers a variety of activities, but Yoshiwara believes there are more ways to enjoy nature that a guide or local might not recognize.
“This scenery that is familiar to us has the power to move visitors from the city. When joining an activity is the priority, it limits the possibility for new adventures. I want to keep the possibilities wide open. To do that, I’d like to give outdoor novices their first taste of nature, and then leave them with the freedom to move on to more advanced activities.”
Every day, Yoshiwara feels he was made for this job of helping people connect with nature.