Aoraki: Sustainable Luxury Glamping in Japan
Dunedin and Minakami are not officially sister cities, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they were. There are a number of businesses in Gunma’s famous adventure town owned and operated by a group of friends from the university town on New Zealand’s South Island.
Mike Burke and Mike Harris grew up together in Dunedin. Burke worked in construction since 1991 before first coming to Japan in 1996.
“I was lured by Harry’s stories of whitewater rafting and the promise of some renovation work; he had painted a pretty picture of the adventures to be had, so I decided to come have a look for myself,” says Burke. “We’ve both always had a passion for the outdoors, sports and adventures—as well as some other less healthy activities,” he jokes.
While Harris pursued his calling in tourism and the outdoor adventure industry, Burke continued to focus on construction, particularly residential and light commercial, but always gravitating towards the second house market in resort towns and rural areas so as to remain immersed in nature.
In 2008 he founded K.K. Aoraki Venture, a fully-licensed general contractor and architectural design and build construction company. Since then his company has designed and built new houses and renovations in Minakami, Tokyo and other parts of Japan, while also working with clients and projects around the world.
“Our goal has been to create comfortable living spaces as economically and efficiently as possible and I’ve always looked to locally sourced products, materials and suppliers first while also utilizing connections and resources in other parts of the world to provide the best options for our clients,” he says.
While the custom nature of the work has been satisfying for Burke and his team, there has been a limit to how many projects they could accept and he wondered how they could improve the quality of life for a greater number of people—especially over the last year as times have become difficult for so many.
During this time Harris had started a basic “glamping” area at Canyons, his tour company and lodge on the banks of the Yubiso River. Canyons put up some bell tents they found online but within the year these tents had turned black with mold from the humidity of the Japanese summer and they no longer could be used for guests.
This began a search for better quality materials. A survey of the domestic industry revealed a huge gap in the Japanese market for top quality luxury lodges suited to the local environment. Harris reached out to his old friend Burke to help find a way to introduce more people to spaces where they could get away, relax and refresh in natural surroundings—with all the comforts of home.
Their search led to a partnership with Europe’s top manufacturer of high-quality luxury canvas lodges perfectly suited for Japan’s seasons and customizable for clients’ needs. The luxury lodges are made from unique, industry-leading fire, mold and mildew resistant canvas, with additional strong PVC roof canopies that protect from solar damage, rain, wind and can handle a certain amount of snow.
Aoraki’s range includes everything from the best bell tent on the market to 95-square-meter lodges that can be fully equipped with kitchen, shower, toilets and furnishings. They also have a Beaufort Wind rating of 10-11, meaning they can handle high wind conditions. Canyons invested in ten luxury lodges and the results have been tremendous. They also tested snow load over the winter and air conditioning that created a cozy atmosphere for winter glamping that will also be great for keeping cool in summer.
Aoraki Glamping+Design works with clients to come up with the best luxury lodge for their specific needs, or with developers to plan and execute large scale glamping operations.
“Not only glamping—there are endless other applications such as event spaces, rooftops, workspaces, restaurants, catering, pop-up shops or extra accommodation for hotels or even at home,” Burke says.
“What I love about luxury glamping lodges is you can’t help but come away refreshed and recharged after an experience. They are low-impact on the environment, durable and thus cost effective, removable and create a fantastic return on investment. Good for the environment, good for business and good for customers,” he adds.
Where: Yubara 101-3, Minakami-machi, Tone-gun, Gunma-ken 379-1617
Phone: (0278) 72-6130
Aoraki: Sustainable Luxury Glamping in Japan