The SpaceThe house is a two-floor, detached house on a side road. There are three tatami-mat rooms available for your use on the ground floor. Bedding is all Japanese style, with futons, and seating is mainly on the floor. However, there is also a small lounge with armchairs looking out onto the forest behind the house.
The toilet is Western-style, with a heated seat. There is a shower and a Japanese-style bathtub. If you want to try a hot spring, the nearest one is about 10 minutes' drive up the valley, and costs 500 yen.
I sleep and work upstairs, so you have the downstairs to yourself except at mealtimes.
I can offer breakfast (basic cooked Japanese breakfast or Western style with cereal, bread, and fruit) for 500 yen per person if you let me know in advance. Guest AccessYou are welcome to use all the rooms on the ground floor except for one box room. If you want to self-cater, this is possible as long as you let me know in advance so that I can clear space in the kitchen! Interaction with GuestsI would love to tell you about all the great places in the neighbourhood! One of my jobs is as a local tour guide, so I can put you in touch with various activities available here. If you like, I can also introduce you to my friendly neighbours. The NeighborhoodMy valley, Nechi, is 20 minutes' drive from the Sea of Japan and 40 - 50 minutes' drive from the famous Hakuba ski slopes. There is a smaller ski slope, and a hot spring, 10 minutes up the valley. In summer, there are various hiking trails, including up Mt Amakazari, one of Japan's "100 most famous mountains". An easier, but still beautiful, hike is to Shiroike Pond, from which you get a great view of the mountains.
This is a quiet country neighbourhood with friendly inhabitants. From my house, you can stroll around the rice paddies, walk to the Fossa Magna (geological faultline), or chat with the neighbours. There are also some unique local festivals which you are very welcome to come and watch if your visit happens to coincide with them.
There are no restaurants in the valley, though there are plenty in central Itoigawa. If you have your own transport, this should not be a problem. If you are using public transport, I recommend either eating in Itoigawa first, buying an obento (lunchbox), or buying ingredients and cooking your own meals here. I can offer breakfast (cooked Japanese breakfast or Western style with cereal, bread, and fruit) for 500 yen per person if you let me know in advance; alternatively, you can bring your own. Getting AroundIf you have your own transport, you can get here in about 15 minutes from the Itoigawa exit of the Hokuriku Expressway: turn south along Route 148. The nearest landmark to my house is the Nechi Otokoyama sake brewery. I have a small garage and a large parking space beside the house.
Important note: if you are coming by car between December and March, you need winter tyres. It's illegal to drive in the snow without them, and the weather can change very quickly in this valley. A 4WD car is best in the snow, but 2WD is OK as long as it has front-wheel drive (with rear-wheel drive, you will skid easily).
By public transport, the nearest major station is Itoigawa, a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line. From there, you can get a JR Oito line train to Nechi station. This is a pleasant 15-minute walk, or I can pick you up for free if you let me know in advance. Alternatively, you can take a bus on the "Bessho" route from the North Exit of Itoigawa station to the Furumachi stop, right outside my door. However, neither of these run very frequently, and the last bus is around 18:00, though there is a later train.
By prior arrangement, I am happy to pick you up in my car from JR Itoigawa station for 300 yen, to cover the petrol. Please note that I can only fit a maximum of three guests in my car. Other Things to NoteThis is a country house, which means that I live close to nature... If creepy crawlies scare you, this is possibly not the best choice for you, since it is an old wooden house and it is impossible to keep them out. If, on the other hand, you want to pick wild spring vegetables (March - April), watch fireflies (usually around June to early July), or hear the frogs croaking as you drop off to sleep (all summer), you've found your place!
Niigata is in Japan's Snow Country, and old houses do not have good insulation or central heating. In winter, I use kerosene stoves for heating. These heat up a room pretty quickly, but you need to turn them off when you go to sleep, and the hallways are not heated. In the summer, on the other hand, the house stays cool inside.