INTERVIEW: The Team Behind Nozawa Onsen's Kawamotoya Apartment Hotel

Jun 23, 2022

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Kawamotoya is officially open and units officially available for purchase. We caught up with key members of the team who have brought this game changing new property to life in Nozawa Onsen.

Nicolas Gioanni (GM of management company kk Nozawa Hospitality), Peter Douglas (President of kk Nozawa Hospitality), Fujiwara Kiyonori (architect), Loubika (commissioned artist for interior art pieces), Kitajima san (construction site director) and Suzuki-sensei (interior design) shared stories about their inspirations, motivations, challenges and just how satisfying it is to open this unique hotel, full of character, in the incredible, traditional village town of Nozawa Onsen.


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Global designer hotel ambition. A traditional Japanese village location. A vibrant, diverse local community. Ancient history lining the streets. Mountain views as far as the eye can see.

Design inspiration can be drawn from so many angles in Nozawa Onsen.

So it's unsurprising to learn that the key makers in the Kawamotoya project came at it from different points of view, landing on one final solution complementary of many diverse inspirations.

For Kawamotoya's lead architect Fujiwara Kiyonori, it was Nozawa Onsen's distinct four seasons that drove his design thinking. "The property is designed to showcase all of the seasons in the village," he shares. "We have created calm, comfortable rooms and views from all windows. The result is a building filled with our thoughts and dreams - I hope it will be much loved for the ages."

From an interior design perspective, designer Suzuki sensei explains, "My joy comes from creating spaces that meld nature, history, climate, and encounters with people. Where better than Nozawa Onsen to combine these four inspirations? It is a rare place where ancient culture, derived from the natural environment, is maintained and cherished. My design reflects that."

French-born Nozawa Onsen-based artist Loubika was responsible for the stunning suite of art pieces throughout Kawamotoya. Explaining the concept, she said, "This collection interprets the boldness and tranquility of Nozawa Onsen. Each piece aims to capture an element of life here, and the energy and emotions stirred up by these experiences."

In such a tight-knit village community as Nozawa Onsen, it was important to create something which the locals would feel proud of. "Kawamotoya is the highest quality accommodation in the village, bar none," says Peter Douglas. "But it was created and will be run in such a way that it continues to blend in with and contribute to the Nozawa Onsen community."


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Designing and building a brand new hotel in the early 2020's... perhaps the challenges are obvious!? But dealing with pandemic-forced supply chain issues was but one of many interesting challenges this team faced in bringing the build to fruition.

"Kawamotoya is in a residential area and we needed the understanding of the neighbours, so I took responsibility for consulting and liaising with them," says Construction Site Director, Kitajima san.

"The site is on a steep hill and narrow street, so access was difficult," he adds. "And we were building through some of the heaviest snowfall in recent years. That’s when I really felt the warmth and connection with the Nozawa Onsen people, seeing how the village manages extraordinary amounts of snow as a united community. It left a deep impression on me."

From a wider perspective, the team dealt with the reality that this development is simply the first of its kind in the area. Kawamotoya is the first and only strata-titled apartment-hotel in not just Nozawa Onsen, but the wider region. So to say the team have blazed a whole new trail would be an understatement.

"I'm so proud of the fact that we pulled it off!" says Douglas. "The look and feel of the place is exactly what we'd hoped for: deep-down build quality of international standard, but an undeniably Japanese aesthetic."

For architect Kiyomori, the modern need for meetings to take place remotely presented a new challenge. "It's hard to make decisions on physical items on a video call," he laughs. "But I'm thrilled with the end result."

And for Nicolas Gioanni, the man in charge of designing and delivering a guest experience equal in quality to the build, the challenge starts now. "To get to a higher level of service, we have opened Kawamotoya with our most experienced team members. Newly written procedures have been implemented and perfected to match Kawamotoya’s guest's requirements, and the high level of physical infrastructure, following the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen - continual change for the better."

Why You Should Buy

It's easy for us here at Uchi Japan to tell you why Kawamotoya presents a lucrative lifestyle and financial investment for those interested in something truly unique in the Japan holiday property market. So we asked the team for their individual points of view on what makes this brand-new property so great.

"Firstly, you'll be part of an incredibly exclusive and small group," says Douglas. "There are only 8 units in Kawamotoya and zero other strata titled apartments in all of Nozawa Onsen."

"If you are all about that mountain life but also travel to enjoy designer hotels, Kawamotoya is for you," adds Gioanni. "With record snowfall in our area this winter and a proven accommodation manager like Nozawa Hospitality, you should get in touch soon."

"I find Kawamotoya inspiring," says Loubika, explaining that it's a feeling rather than rationality which makes her love the property. "It's comfort and peace, a rare chance to admire the mountains while at home in the village."

Kitajima san had the last and most profound word. "Nozawa Onsen's defining characteristic is its people. I hope that buyers can interact with the villagers, with the staff of Kawamotoya, and with other guests, to really experience the rich character of the village," he said.

Nozawa Onsen is more than a resort. It’s a fascinating place, with history, culture, and a vibrant village life. Investors that just want to buy a property with a yield, would be missing out on all that.

Check out the units available in Kawamotoya here.

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