by Marie Teather
In the summer of 1978 when David Green, along with his wife, first took a small group of ninth graders for a bike ride into the Chiba countryside, little did they know he was embarking on a business venture which would span three decades, he was destined to become the proprietor of two country lodges, principal to yearly recreational camps, and a respected figure in the expat community. And yet, as his success and facilities continue to grow to date, David still modestly denies himself of any entrepreneurial activity, insisting instead on his mission; to take children and adults out of Tokyo, and for them to discover the countryside for themselves.
“I am not a businessman; I am an educator,” David explained as we met to discuss the developments of his newest and most recent lodge, 200 meters from the scenic white-sand beach, Setohama, in Minami Boso Shi. A teacher with a passion for marine biology and nature, David recognized that there were other significant ways to be involved with the development of a child besides that of the classroom. David and his wife Yoshiko’s bike-rides were simply a means to introduce otherwise cooped-up children and their families to the great outdoors, providing an opportunity to learn, discover, and make new friends.
A teacher with a passion for marine biology and nature,
David recognized that there were other significant ways
to be involved with the development of a child
besides that of the classroom.
Popularity of the excursions spread throughout the foreign community and the increasingly frequent trips saw a need to store the bikes he was now also providing. At the same time, aware of some mothers who were unsure of what to do with their children during the sticky Japanese summers and who were paying extortionate prices to send their kids back to US summer camps, he saw an untapped niche in the Tokyo market. With greater aspirations than simple bike storage, David built a lodge to sleep 23 people, and in 1991, complete with a hotel and restaurant license, the Nanbo Discovery Camp was born.
The summer schools, which are still run based on David’s core teachings of science, water activities and language study, are a continued success, evident in the annual full-house at Hakkakuso lodge in the scenic Minami Boso Peninsula, and the many children wanting to attended the Discovery Camps. To add even more credit, the continued popularity of the camps have over the years run purely on word-of-mouth recommendations, and only very recently have David and his fully certified team needed to rely on expensive advertising tactics.
With the different expectations of today’s children and also the change in the foreign community’s recreational habits, David admits that his own marketing techniques must change somewhat. He understands that potential visitors are attracted by cheaper flights to Asian destinations and are stifled by an all too demanding economy. Plus the heyday of those expats owning country-retreats and weekends spent partying on company expense sheets has all but ended. David explains that the chatter of fun-filled days in Chiba’s lowlands seems to have fallen away and the old “scene” has moved on. Encouraging people back to the countryside in surrounding Tokyo requires a new momentum. Yet again David sees new opportunities.
His new venture, a larger and more modern facility built on five acres of land, allows Nanbo’s capacity to climb. The facility sleeps 32 people and provides visitors with more during their stay, such as the second floor bar. This time around however, apart from the yearly influx of wide-eyed school children wanting to escape the city, Nanbo Kokkusai Mura will also exist as a venue for sayonara parties, company training weekends, sporting teams, or just stressed out families and groups of friends in need of some retreat and rural exposure.
Building, however, has not always run smoothly and in the winter of 2006 construction almost came to a standstill. As advice to fellow entrepreneurs, or perhaps just lacking the bravado of other smooth talking marketing gurus, David confesses he should have consorted the advice of those more experienced than himself in areas of business development. Never-the-less, work on the second lodge is due to be completed in May 2007, which David hopes will appeal to a broader network and not just that of the foreign community. For that cause a new bilingual website has also been launched.
Ironically though, and testament to the community teaching principles on which David Green has built his business, the first group to stay at the all new lodge will be from Nishimachi International School; the school at which he taught at for 27 years. Proof positive that good guys always prosper.