Derelict kimono factory transformed into coastal lodge

07 Nov 2023

Japan is a land of contrasts that Hamish Pidgeon (10013) has called home for more than two decades.

“Whether it be a beautiful temple next to a rusty shack, or the neat and tidy order of a city street, contrasted with people flicking their cigarette butts in the drain, or littering next to a beautiful river. It’s always a contrast.”

Hamish and his Australian wife, Nora, own a lodge in the tiny fishing village of Asobi, on the Sea of Japan, two hours from Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. It’s a delightful slice of rural Japan that most people don’t know about.

Once a kimono factory, the derelict 100-year-old building had definitely seen better days and its complex restoration took years to complete.

“It was a bit of a tough time to start in 2019, but we got lucky during Covid, as we had a long term guest who was working at the US military base up the road so that was a real bonus,” Hamish recalls.

“2023 is our first year post-Covid, and it has been pretty good. Things are looking very positive, and we expect more and more people to be visiting the Kyoto countryside in the future.

“It’s a beautiful slice of coastline, with amazing sandy beaches, wonderful walking, cycling and driving, and lush, green forest in between.”

Hamish didn’t set out to live in Japan. After leaving College, he headed to Europe for a year, then studied valuation and property management at Lincoln University. He worked for a small Christchurch company, managing a diversified property portfolio but became disillusioned with the work, and so left to spend a year in Japan.

“But each year got better....and I stayed.”

Initially living in Kyoto, and later the coastal town of Tango with Nora and their two daughters, Hamish taught English in a variety of settings and later began exporting Japanese antiques back to New Zealand for several years until 2011 when the earthquakes put a stop to business. Hamish then studied for a Master’s so that he could teach at universities in Kyoto, where he is still working two days a week.

Hamish advises anyone visiting Japan to get off the beaten track.

“Enjoy all that the cities have to offer for sure, but it can be extremely tiring, especially with children. Rent a car and get into the countryside, there is a lot to see, and some outstanding nature. There are loads of short hikes everywhere, which are great for elderly parents or young children.

“The sheer amount of forest is incredible. Crystal clear mountain rivers with massive granite boulders, and in early Spring, the green explosion of the forest is something to behold. Truly beautiful.”

Hamish returns to Christchurch once a year, where the family spends most of its time in Geraldine, which holds special memories of vintage car rallies in earlier years. He bought the old mower repair shed there in 2015, and converted it to an apartment and vintage car storage. The couple’s girls are boarding at Craighead Diocesan School in Timaru and the couple plans to spend almost half of next year in Geraldine.

  • Hamish if offering any Old Boys and their families visiting Japan, and wanting to venture further south than Tokyo, a 20% discount at Asobi Lodge.