All-Season Glamping Resort Offers the Allure of the Great Outdoors

Nestled in the mountains of Nagano, GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen offers upscale glamping and is working with the town to reinvent the tourism industry using the SDGs.

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Iizuna Higashi Kogen, a highland area in Iizuna Town of Nagano Prefecture surrounded by high mountains, now boasts a glamping resort. Once a popular skiing spot, the resort town suffered a financial crisis after skiers declined in number alongside diversification of leisure activities.

The town then decided to abolish its system of outsourcing management of the resort and privatize it completely. Now a private company has taken on the challenge. It transformed the resort's former golf course into a glamping facility and is working to make the resort environmentally friendly.

Glamping with Easy Access by Train

Iizuna Higashi Kogen in northern Nagano Prefecture is about a 30-minute drive from the Hokuriku Shinkansen's Nagano Station. Upon approach, one is greeted by a landscape dotted with pure white domes. The domed tents set up on the green grass stand in striking contrast with the blue sky. The name of the resort is GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen.

The resort was created based on the concept of "spending an elegant moment in the great outdoors." With no need to bring camping equipment, guests can enjoy their time in furnished tents situated amidst the scenic nature, just as if they were staying at a comfortable luxury hotel.

The twin-dome tents provided by Glamping Japan, a nationwide glamping operator, are 42 square meters in size. They have a bedroom and living room and offer views of Lake Reisenji and the Five Mountains of Northern Shinshu (Mt. Myoko, Mt. Madarao, Mt. Kurohime, Mt. Togakushi, and Mt. lizuna) from their windows.

A chic bedroom in one of the tents (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura).

"Our tents are fully air-conditioned. Guests can enjoy an extraordinary experience away from the city in comfort and with no need to bring anything with them. Since there are no lights around, they can also appreciate a star-filled sky at night," says Ayako Murata, PR & Advertising Team Manager of Silverbacks Principal Inc., the company that manages GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen.

Relax and enjoy the magnificent view from the hot springs (Photo courtesy of GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen).

You can also hear birds chirping. When this author visited in August 2022, the weather was beautiful and clear. Particularly enticing during the summer season was the chance to encounter rhinoceros beetles up close.

You can even catch rhinoceros beetles in summer (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura).

A Golf Course Transformed for Glamping

The 400,000 square-meter site of the glamping grounds used to be a nine-hole town-run golf course that opened in 1979.

Looking back at the history, operation of the golf course, ski resort, and hot spring facilities were outsourced by the town to a semi-public organization, Iizuna Resort Development (dissolved in 2009). A decline in skiing customers made continued management of the resort difficult. After being transferred to Iizuna Higashi Kogen Kaihatsu, it was sold to the investment firm First Pacific Capital in 2018. Since then it has been managed by Silverbacks Principal (SBP).

You can also enjoy night skiing (Photo courtesy of GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen).

The number of golf courses in Japan spiked during the 'bubble economy' and peaked in 2004. They have been on the decline ever since, as has the number of ski resorts. Looking at the number of visitors alone, the public golf course in Iizuna Higashi Kogen had a certain number of guests due to its low rental fees. But the ski resort was facing financial difficulties and unable to maintain its facilities.

Thus, the golf course was transformed into a glamping resort aimed at bringing in families, who typically don't play golf, in the summer. Meanwhile, the ski resort is being maintained as a winter attraction.

Living room inside one of the tents, with an open deck (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura).

The year-round resort now offers overnight facilities and a number of outdoor activities.

The use of pesticides, once essential for maintaining the golf course turf, was also eliminated. This has had the added benefit of reducing the environmental impact of the resort.

Creating an Environmentally-Friendly Resort

A major feature of the Iizuna Higashi Kogen resort is its active implementation of the SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals) and its aim to become a zero-carbon facility.

Fishing for wakasagi (Japanese smelt) on the frozen lake (Photo courtesy of GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen).

First, the resort conducted composting on a trial basis. It began separating food scraps and other food residues from other waste. These were then fermented with the help of microorganisms to create compost which could be used as fertilizer. The experiment was completed in 2022. In the spring of 2023, a new composting unit is scheduled to be installed and put into full-scale operation.

At the composting test facility (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura).

The resort is putting the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – into practice to reduce the amount of waste generated. In so doing, it aims to contribute to achieving SDG12 on Responsible Consumption and Production.

The resort also offers hands-on learning about the environment and the SDGs. It organized a group of local junior high school students to participate in pruning of the hydrangeas planted around Reisenji Lake and the composting of the pruning waste.

Working Together with the Town

Iizuna Town declared its commitment to the SDGs in its Comprehensive Plan, compiled in December 2021 for the five-year period ending in 2026. It is noteworthy that each of the plan's individual goals are aligned with the SDGs.

The basic principle of the town's Comprehensive Plan is "Bountiful Nature, Creating Lifestyles of Abundance Together." For town residents, 'bountiful nature' is a common sight in their daily lives. Likewise, disasters caused by global warming-induced abnormal weather are no stranger to them.

Wooden deck and hammock chairs in common spaces for dozing off (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura).

The massive Typhoon Hagibis that hit Japan in October 2019 brought record-breaking rainfall to many locations across the country. In Iizuna, severe damage to the apple crop was a blow to one of the town's major industries.

As climate change progresses, even more severe disasters will become unavoidable in the future. In order to prepare for such disasters, the town is now doing whatever possible to implement the SDGs.

GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen and the neighboring Tengu no Yakata hot springs resort, form the core of tourism in Iizuna Higashi Kogen. The two resorts are planning a partnership with the town to work on future responses to disasters.

Spring: A spectacular view of cherry blossoms in full bloom (Photo courtesy of GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen).

SDGs Are a Must

According to Yoichi Hino, CEO of Silverbacks Principal Inc.: "In the present day, resorts must be environmentally friendly, and implementing the SDGs is now a requirement. We would like to work hand in hand with the town to develop tourism, provide workplaces amidst a depopulation trend, respond to disasters, and cooperate in regional development through environmentally-friendly tourism."

Autumn: The beautiful autumn leaves herald the coming of winter (Photo courtesy of GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen).

Iizuna Mayor Katsumori Minemura remarks, "We look forward to the integrated development of the fully privatized ski resort, golf course (now glamping grounds), and a hot spring resort managed by a contractor, which is the Iizuna Higashi Kogen sightseeing resort. The town plans to systematically improve and enhance our tourism resources by incorporating outside perspectives. We would like to promote stay-and-experience activities by enhancing the town's unique experience programs that take advantage of its abundant resources, including its beautiful nature, history, and culture."

See the GLAMPROOK Iizuna Kogen website for more information.

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