Junichiro Matsumoto started traveling in his teens and trekked in the Himalayas and the Andes before settling in Nishiizu for the presence of the mountain, the ocean, and the river, and the absence of any train services. His insight into tourist sites and natural environments across the globe guided him to set up home in this out-of-the-way location. One day, he heard from local elders that the mountain was covered with a network of trails formerly used for charcoal making.
“Tourism in the Izu area revolved around the ocean, and there were hardly any mountain activities. I thought if I cleared a trail where the ocean meets the mountain, it would be a big attraction.”
Relying on an old map and tips from the locals, Matsumoto set out to rebuild the trail buried in fallen trees and dead leaves. The lone efforts of a young outsider expanded into the Nishiizu Ancient Trail Restoration Project and attracted a team of supporters. Today, Matsumoto offers mountain bike tours on a 40-kilometer-long stretch of the ancient trail. Two years ago, he also opened the guest house Lodge Mondo.
“The number of lodgings in Nishiizu had dropped by half in the past ten years. Eventually, visitors would stop coming for the tours alone. They needed a place to stay, too. So we decided to run a style of lodging that felt comfortable for us.”
Matsumoto renovated an old guest house and furnished it with timber from the trees he felled while restoring the ancient trail, creating a space that reflects the warmth of the forest. Recently, he completed the link between the mountain and the ocean by launching kayak fishing tours.
“I spent eight years rehabilitating the mountain. From this mountain flows the river into the ocean—kayak fishing is a symbol of the meeting point. Maintaining the mountain also helps improve the river and the ocean. I feel I’m playing a small part to this end.”