the nagano heritage team
Maiko Morgan – CEO
Maiky is in charge of finding kominka (period Japanese farmhouse) and other properties, and managing their renovation and utilization. “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” is her Edward Abby motto, and saving kominka for the benefit of Japan’s heritage, environment, and the prosperity of local communities is her mission. Having spent ten years in search of the ideal kominka for her family, Maiky ultimately found it in Nagano prefecture, and then spent several years restoring it to its former glory. Inspired by this first success, she began property hunting on behalf of others interested in these historic houses, and now has wide experience in both residential and commercial renovation projects. When not sourcing vintage furniture or skiing the myriad black slopes of her region, she enjoys playing the drums in music projects with husband Richard and spoiling her cat, Chibi.
Yosuke Katsuyama : Master Heritage Architect
Our senior advisor on all elements of restoration, Katsuyama-san has been admired for his woodwork skills ever since childhood. He has worked in the trade his entire life, and is today respected as one of the world’s foremost experts in Japanese carpentry. After founding Katsuyama Construction Co., Ltd. when he was only twenty-one, he painstakingly honed his craft, not merely refining but perfecting traditional joinery. While this extraordinary art seemed for a time to be in decline, Katsuyama-san’s reputation has revived it. Now with more than fifty years of experience in kominka renovation projects, he attracts many superb young carpenters with a passion for these historic houses to seek his tutelage, and enjoys imparting his knowledge to them. The inheritor of craft wisdom dating back to the Edo period, Katsuyama-san is a member of the Japan Private House Regeneration Association. As such, he was delighted when David approached him with Nagano Heritage’s first kura project, for no carpenter in the world was better suited to preserving all of the structure’s original features. Indeed, it is sometimes only by the age of the wood that one can distinguish his work from that of his greatest carpenter forebears.
Isamu Ozasa : Project Architect
Everyone at Nagano Heritage thinks of each other as family, but Isamu is Katsuyama-san’s real son-in-law. Born in Kyoto, he studied architecture at university before taking a job at a home building company where he developed his love for reconstructing old folk houses. After marrying his wife Kaori, he joined Katsuyama Construction, eventually taking over as managing director in 2015. While he oversees all aspects of company work from design through sales, Isamu also brings a personal originality and playfulness to every project, with a flexible aesthetic that stands in sharp contrast to most “straight-line” architects. This helps him motivate and nurture the creativity of younger members of the Katsuyama team. “Many people want to restore kominka,” he says, “but they need to do so with craftsmen who use traditional techniques. That’s why we’re here—to preserve the hand-carved quality of historic Japanese architecture.” Isamu enjoys the year-round outdoor activities Nagano has to offer, especially camping, mountain trekking and snowboarding, as well as having a barbeque at his home—beautifully built by himself, of course—on holidays.
david lee - founder
David made his first trip to Japan after graduating from Cambridge University in 1992, and soon understood that his calling lay in opening the wonders of his adoptive country to the world. And so he founded his first travel company, Into Japan Specialist Tours, which became known both as a premier inbound tour operator and, in the wake of the Great Tōhoku Earthquake of 2011, a company committed to relief and renewal. Then, while on a stop in the Nagano town of Togari, David had his eureka moment. Here was a place that had everything in the way of authentic culture to offer a foreign guest: it just needed the right kind of traffic and investment. By attracting like-minded people to visit and move to the region, David knew he could generate the finances necessary to fund local preservation, with a particular focus on kominka and kura. Thus, Nagano Heritage was born, and it wasn’t long before fate brought he, Maiky, Katsuyama-san and Isamu together. “I wouldn’t work with anyone else,” he says. “They are the very best at what they do and inspire absolute confidence in all of our projects.” Liaising between craftsmen and clients, David ensures each property is renovated to spec with a perfect balance of past and present, classical charms blending seamlessly with all the comforts of postmodern life. This is how local sustainability and growth are achieved: one architectural masterpiece at a time. David invites you to come and experience the magic for yourself.