I am currently having a house built at the foot of the mountains in Nagano Prefecture. The work is nearly completed and I'm really looking forward to it. I thought I would write a bit about why I decided to build this mountain lodge now.
I will turn 40 this year (2002). Up until now, I have devoted myself to managing GLOBIS and have not had much leeway in terms of spending time with my family. When I stop and think about it, it sinks in that three children have been born and they all turned out to be boys.
When I look around at the environment these boys are growing up in, I sometimes feel a little depressed. They are in the middle of Tokyo, living in a concrete jungle with no greenery. The air is polluted with exhaust and smog. Cars zoom up and down the roads, making it too scary to even ride a bike. It would be awful if their time is completely consumed by just going back and forth to school, cram schools and home once they start school.
For someone like me who was born and bred in the countryside, I cannot help feeling sorry for the children growing up in this kind of environment.
I have had some room to maneuver lately, both financially and mentally, so I decided to do something about it.
Having said that, even though I now have some leeway, you never know what will happen next. Until now, I have reinvested all my savings into GLOBIS. There was a time when our financial situation was really tight (I can say now that the time has passed, but at one point I was seriously worried about if we would have enough to cover childbirth expenses).
Therefore, it was necessary to draw up a list of investment priorities for my money. Concretely, this meant: Do I buy a house or condominium in Tokyo? Or do I continue renting the house in Tokyo and have a house built in the mountains in Nagano? These were my choices.
I did consider the option of buying a house or condominium in Tokyo, but although the real estate bubble had burst, I still felt that prices were high. Even if I bought a place in Tokyo, it would not help the lifestyle of my children to be close to nature. In the end, the decision was easy. I would continue renting the house in Tokyo for the time being and go ahead with having a place built in the mountains.
The reasons were simple:
(1) The mountains are just so much cheaper (land is 1/100th of the prices in Tokyo)
(2) The rented house is OK in Tokyo, but I couldn't find any good properties to rent in the mountains.
So without putting any more money into Tokyo, I decided to make an investment in a mountain location. Now, we needed to select the place. I wanted to build a house right in the middle of nature, such as in Yatsugatake in Nagano Prefecture, but there was a strong "resistance force" within the family, who wanted a place more steeped in culture and more convenient for friends to easily come together, so we could not agree on one place. Eventually I was the one who compromised, and we decided on the foothills of Mount Asama, which has a fair bit of culture. Well, it is at least in the mountains at the end of the day.
I was taking a break in the mountains last year and checking out a few places. Land with a good view was going for fairly cheap. Without hesitation, I put in a bid. Apparently within 25 minutes, two others also made offers. Speed is certainly the key. I also got the builders in quickly. All of the lumber was imported directly from Canada. There was one point after the 9/11 terrorist events when the exchange rate swung in favor of the yen, and with the rate at 115 yen to the dollar, I ordered the lumber without delay.
And so, everything has been going great, and it will finally be finished in mid-March. It will be awesome.
The kids can ride around on their bikes, catch insects in nets, hike around the mountains, and get to know nature better. In the winter, we'll enjoy skiing in natural surroundings, and in summer we'll have BBQs. The air is clean and healthy, too.
I suspect I'll also use this as a GLOBIS guest house-cum-seminar facility, something akin to Camp David for the U.S. President, although not in the same league. When important guests come from overseas I can invite them out to the mountains. We'll become close in no time, sitting around the fire and having heart-to-heart conversations. Once construction is completed, the first guest I intend to invite is the founder of Apax Patricof Group, Mr. Alan Patricof. I also plan to use it for the GLOBIS training retreat scheduled for April.
The dream gets larger and larger.
I think that when you put yourself in the midst of nature, you might start to see the world in a new way.
And like this column, it will not be just about business and economics; there will be a sense of balance. This may be a good thing for someone turning 40.
Construction was completed on March 28, 2002; the very day I turned 40. Rather than seeing this as a birthday present for myself, I felt it was something that society had extended to me, for which I was most grateful.
Since then we have had another child, for a total of four. I make a point of taking the kids to the mountains twice a month. They enjoy playing soccer and baseball in the garden and can safely ride their bikes and rollerblade on the road outside the house, since there is virtually no traffic. In the winter the snow will settle, and we'll be able to go skiing or ride sleds. When it rains or after the sun goes down, we'll stay indoors playing Go and reviewing their homework. I've ended up spending a lot of time out in the mountains on my own. I wrote many columns in the mountains as well. In a good way, I feel I've started to strike a better balance in my life.