THE LODGE MOIWA 834
A Grand Opening party in March 2015 featuring fireworks, a buffet and free drinks was where we met Tera Shizuoka – a man on a mission with a Tokyo Hedge Fund and the Lodge Moiwa 834 currently on simmer. The Lodge Moiwa 834 represents a new breed of accommodation in Niseko. Bubble hotels are frequently seen in Tokyo and other major Japanese cities as a cheap short stay hotel for the businessman on the move. At its heart is an efficient shelter system that is cheaper to operate and thereby allows the hotel to offer compelling value packages to customers. Although most business hotels are decorated in a no-frills fashion this hotel has taken a slightly different route.
Beds “rooms” are wider and more spacious than what a businessman sees in the city. The hotel is interior is well designed with subtle details that make it feel both comfortable and chic. The single traveller is a niche not yet catered to in the greater Niseko area where hotels overwhelmingly targets families and to an increasing degree – wealthy tourists. It is welcome news for the 20 to 30 year old demographic, many of whom come from Australia. The affordable fare allows visitors to spend on their priorities – skiing & entertainment – and skimp on the less important additions. The Lodge Moiwa 834 is a collaborative effort between a Tokyo Hedge Fund, London Architect firm Jones Lange Lasalle and a Singapore design firm responsible for interior signage and print/ web graphics.
The airy dining lounge is visible from the outside through the floor to ceiling glass windows is a wide open space with a scandinavian wood stove at one end standing in front of a rising stone tiled wall. A large, low coffee table encircled by a hemisphere of comfy leather couches signals the room’s intent to soothe and relax apres ski. Hip magazines such as Monocle encourage a lingering atmosphere. At the opposite end of the room rich, amber-stained tables, chairs and barstools in vintage English pub style add a feeling of comfort. The furniture lends an otherwise cold room a warm presence. This is the most apparent link to Jones Lange Lasalle’s London links. Clearly the furniture feels as though it belongs in the a natural setting of Moiwa with birch tree forests rhythmically climbing the mountainsides. Wood as a design building block feels at home here. The heart of the room features materials of rich character radiating feelings of warmth and belonging.
As is often the case with public institutions great focus is given to the architecture and business functions while the food program remains a work in progress. Curry and spaghetti would seem to have little to do with an area such as Niseko. Here in the heart of the Japanese Alpine cuisine exists but its presence is not yet felt here. Perhaps it is a stretch to ask for better food given the value proposition on offer. The target clientele may indeed be satisfied with the buffet course offered during the evening dinner hours. It does feel more like a house party than a hotel gathering which may be the thinking behind it. It certainly encourages mingling and conversation is probably just what the youthful clientele desire.
Moiwa ski runs attract those who place a higher priority on space and privacy than grade or length although coming new developments in the area may eventually change this. It remains the only resort area in Niseko that that does not fall under the Niseko United umbrella. Here, less compact powder snow comes paired with less ski traffic. Depending on the day a good variety of options are available to please all types of skiers. On a February day during Chinese New Year a wide range of skiers were visible on the ski runs. Tourists, professionals and even military personnel were present on the mountain. Weekends tend to bring more Japanese skiers together with the steady flow of foreign tourists. This creates more hill congestion than weekdays which have a quiet, less rushed atmosphere on the slopes.
For those visiting Niseko for the first time The Lodge Moiwa 834 offers a highly desirable advisory service. Qualified North Face Adventure Specialists are on hand to help guests plan a complete range of outdoor activities. From cycling and mountain trail-biking adventures in the summer to ski treks exploring Niseko’s Powder Snow in the Winter – guests are well-taken care of.
The recent opening of a run that links Moiwa to Mount Annupuri in 2015 is sure to add snow traffic. This may be a blessing in disguise as the choices and accessibility to all of Mount Annupuri’s run is one of the main draws of Niseko. Having the ability to effortlessly access Hirafu, Annupuri, Niseko Village and Annupuri is highly desirable for those skiers staying more than a few days. Given The Lodge Moiwa 834’s location, those without vehicles or less enthusiastic about buses will benefit from this new openness. If the Moiwa tickets could be included under the Niseko United umbrella pass then the resort would become the easy choice for single skiers looking for a great value proposition with and enjoyable night life and social activities.
Not surprisingly a resort sponsored by NORTH FACE only features products branded by that company . The same can be said of the small shop tucked inside the first floor of the Moiwa resort which was purchased prior to building The Lodge Moiwa 834. Adding further to the brands representation is the presence of TOMOKI TAKAKU , himself a North Face ambassador, living just down the street. The shop is small but presents a well-organized and clean image. A large part of this success comes down to the clever modern branding. A Singapore-based design firm covered the stores branding and also much of The Lodge Moiwa 834 branding as well. The result is a seamless and complete image of hip and smart design. The store stocks most of the the North Face products as well as many accessories. A black and white theme accented by unvarnished natural wood is at the core of the store’s design.
FUTURE IS BRIGHT
If The Lodge Moiwa 834 represents a value proposition then the next project will surprise by veering to the opposite end of the spectrum with a high profile hotelier partnership currently being discussed. One of the financiers of the Moiwa expansion let slip that a partnership with an established alpine luxury hotel is in the works. The planned development will sit adjacent to the current Moiwa 834 Lodge in a currently unoccupied parcel of land just below the ski lifts. The story at Moiwa has only just begun so an evolution towards a complete ski package not only remains possible but probable. Moiwa will not look back.